iMix Studios is a bunker nestled across a near-endless strand of apartment complexes on the southwest side of town. After pulling open the main door, the first big "wow" moment was a plaque given to house engineer Stephan Townsend for his work on 2 Chainz's Based On a True Story album. The second was the suffocating crowd huddled around Doughbeezy for Footprints On the Moon, his first big release since 2012's Blue Magic and one of the more eagerly anticipated tapes in recent memory.
It goes without saying that nothing "private" in Houston is truly private, so even if this particular listening session was invitation-only, it turned into a minor family reunion anyway. Doughbeezy seemed joyous and relaxed, clad in a black sweater and framed glasses. Every song was introduced with a story, from the already-released "I'm From Texas" single and definite ladies favorite "She's On Top."
Every guest who made an appearance on the mixtape spoke, offering well-wishes as if they were sending The Southeast Beast on his way to rap college or a different level. Collectively, Houston is behind Dough more than any other rapper in the city at this time. Everybody believes he is going to crack the ceiling.
How Footprints wound up getting scratched and reworked from its original release date some months ago is beyond me, yet the tape now is much more realized. Its cast of familiar suspects, such as Propain, all build off their natural rapport with Dough. Everyone unanimously believes that this tape, with its varied production from TrakkSounds, Donnie Houston and more, will skyrocket Dough into a different stratosphere where the air is a bit thinner.
As a whole, Footprints understands its nature. It's a showcase for Dough's lyricism and wit without attempting to create an even more potent syrupy mix. It's not sweet like Actavis going down, but unlike the punchline-heavy Reggie Bush & Kool Aid and even Blue Magic's darker moments, Footprints understands that the songs, not just the couple of quotably hot lines, will stand out harder.
Dough's outlook has changed considerably from when I first spotted him at a Kickback Sundays event some four years ago. Then he could slouch around and enjoy the scene without being second-guessed, here to merely destroy you on the microphone and shake hands afterwards.
Now? Doughbeezy is a brand -- one of Houston's more legitimized ones to come along in the past two years, one with charm and easily discernible skill.
Footprints On the Moon is out today.
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