We've been writing about Houston rap for nearly three years now, and have yet to hear someone - ANYONE - say a bad thing about Cory Mo. Not once. That's remarkable. Given the sometimes irritable nature of Houston's rap scene, that's like saying he stood in the middle of a hurricane and didn't get wet. Or that he ran into Z-Ro in a dark alley and didn't get his legs lopped off.
Seriously, did anyone not see a Z-Ro Is intimidating joke coming? And it's not one of those "This Guy Will Come Back On Me With Some Seriously Gangster Shit If I Say A Word About Him" situations like when you try to get people to talk about J. Prince's legend. People appear to genuinely enjoy Mo.
So when he let loose word recently that he was releasing the mixtape It's Been About Time, it was no surprise at all that it was going to be stuffed with guest appearances from some local heavyweights including Bun B (who hosts the tape), Slim Thug, Killa Kyleon, Devin and Ro, as well as out-of-town notables Talib Kweli, Big K.R.I.T., B.o.B and more.
Some notes from the album:
• Mo got on the phone for a few minutes to talk about the tape. When he called, we answered and heard the confusion immediately: "Uhhh, is Shea there?" He, like so many before him, thought Shea was a girl's name. His remedy for the situation: "You need to put a 'Mr.' in front of it or something to let people know you're a guy. Mr. Shea." Let it be.
• When asked why he picked Bun to host the tape, Mo responded simply: "Other times you'll have a DJ do it, but DJs talk too much." Also, Bun is the one who came up with the title. When asked by Mo what he thought the title should be, Bun responded, "Well, it's been about time. Let's call it that." Bun B is insightful even when he's really not trying all that hard to be.
• As noted, Slim guests on the tape. He remains to be an ideal accomplice, regardless of the main act. He's always content to sit back and let the other guy drive, but manages to do so without completely removing himself from the equation. That's a hard thing to pull off. If the Heat had signed him, there's no way they'd be 8-6 right now.
• By the way, how many of you all out there are absolutely loving the implosion that's taking place right now in Miami? Crazy, right? It's almost enough to make you forget that the Rockets are two losses away from getting kicked out of the NBA.
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• Killa Kyleon shows up on the tape for some work on "I Live It." Since his move over to AMG, he has sounded revitalized. Good to see. What are the odds you see something similar happen with J-Dawg soon?
• Great, completely appropriate, representative-of-his-entire-career Cory Mo line: "Gangsters move in silence, I don't talk much/ But when I do, niggas listen, no ifs, ands or buts."
• "Rollin'," the Z-Ro record on this tape that everyone has been gaga for, was recorded in 2005. Mo was sitting on it just because. Let that sink in for a bit. There's no telling what other treasures he has at his hands.
• We assumed that, in light of the title of the album and the beckoning of Bun B, this is Mo's initial "I've Been Toiling Around In The Background For A While, But Here I Am" move. We asked Mo about this and he confirmed, saying that he will have at least one big project next year, complete with all of his flurry and fury: "This is just the beginning. You haven't even seen what I have in store." Go ahead and mark 2011 one point to the good before it even gets started.
• Some of the songs on It's Been About Time (namely "Where It's At) invoke Pimp C's memory in a big way. The tape oozes Southern funk at points, all dreary horns and squishy bass lines. But at the same time, it's not entirely penned in by those fences ("It's Been About Time," "I'm Wit It," "Get Out The Way"). Of the things that this tape does right, that duality is the most impressive.
• When asked about how he's managed to cultivate the "Everybody's Buddy" reputation he has, Mo responded, "I guess I have more of a brother friendship with the artists." We'd just like to point out that in 2009 we wrote a small post on Mo that was titled "Big Brother Cory Mo."
• To that last bullet, Mo extended his point by saying, "I'll sit in the studio with Willie or with Bun or Z-Ro or Killa Kyleon for hours, days, weeks. People don't get to see Z-Ro smile. I'll kick it with Z-Ro for a month in the studio and we'll be joking and laughing. It's just a comfort level with these guys." Mark that down, it is official: Z-Ro is capable of smiling. The rumors about him having had the muscles in his mouth that are responsible for smiling surgically removed are untrue.
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• Two samples we weren't entirely surprised to hear: the pimp lady from Harlem Nights talking about her number one girl's vag, and Cheech and Chong doing the "Hey, man, am I driving okay?" bit from Up In Smoke. Naturally, an easy Devin the Dude makes his appearance immediately after the latter on the R&B-ish "Getting' High." He'd do well to release an entire album of him just singing over some soul samples, wouldn't he?
• B.o.B., by the by, makes an appearance on "Gettin' High," and manages to keep pace with both Devin and an inspired Mo. He's one guest feature on a Houston rapper song away from becoming the new Lupe Fiasco.
• Per the gracious Mr. Mo, you can download the tape for free here.