Welcome back to Five Spot. Every Friday, we'll examine a recent bit of music news and, albeit sometimes awkwardly, tie it to a bit of Houston rap. We'll incorporate the number five in there somewhere. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have to love Rap-A-Lot records. News leaked this week that the Houston label, celebrating its 25th year of existence this year, inked an exclusive distribution deal with Fontana, the independent-distribution arm of Universal Music Group. Now, given Rap-A-Lot's still mostly unsubstantiated reputation for nefarious dealings and immoral business practices, Five Spot had intentions of culling together a list of the five best Rap-A-Lot rumors that were floating around out there. We sent word to 13 different in-the-know journalists/rappers/PR people/shady individuals, as well as text messages to a handful of other people who somehow still aren't regular practitioners of email. We'd hoped to get back juicy bits of insider info, but instead, mostly got one uniform response: No comment. Even on the condition of anonymity, nobody would say anything. Rap-A-Lot's reputation is so drenched in mystery that nobody would even joke about it. Seriously. So in light of the apparent "Nobody Is To Ever, Ever, Ever Talk About Rap-A-Lot Records" embargo, we combed through RAL's massive discography and plucked out five records that Fontana should consider re-releasing - in part for posterity's sake, but mostly because Rap-A-Lot is absolutely terrible at promoting its product, even if we're all supposed to pretend like it's not. Ganksta N.I.P., Psychotic Genius (1996): This gets the nod because it was the second greatest album cover of NIP's career (Psychic Thoughts is the best). It looks like straight prison artwork. And it might imply that the Devil is black guy with a high and tight fade that wears a white suit and a single silvery ring, which is exactly how we picture him.
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Seagram, Souls on Ice (1997): We've just now begun listening to Seagram's discography. He's a lot better to listen to now than he was when he first started, though that may have something to do with his legacy having been polished up nice and pretty these past 13 years; dying while protecting one of your friend's tends to earn you a lot of "I totally underappreciated this guy" points. Ghetto Twiinz, No Pain No Gain (1998): You know what's funny? Looking back through all of these old records, it seems like nine out of ten times we're looking at the cover saying, "Man, this shit looks terrible. How could anybody ever think this was good?" Same thing here. Just looking at this cover, you'd assume these two were awful. And you know what? We listened to this and still thought they were bad. Of course, that's because they're from Louisiana. Had they been from Houston, we would've probably written 1,400 words on how they magnanimously represented rapping black female twins, a maligned and often completely ignored section of the population.
Facemob, Silence* (2002): Is it ironic that the tagline for this album is, "The most sacred thing to the Mob is... Silence" and that's probably how you'd classify Rap-A-Lot's promotion of it? Dirty, Hood Stories** (2005): Dirty is Alabama's version of UGK. This is their fifth LP. Looking at them, it's hard to imagine they were anywhere near as loveable as Bun and Pimp. Then again, our own sons aren't near as loveable as Bun and Pimp. *This is the Facemob album that Devin the Dude did not participate in. You should know that going in if you plan on buying it. **2005 was a remarkable year for Rap-A-Lot. The label released Lil' Flip and Z-Ro's Kings of the South (still Flip's best album), Z-Ro's Let The Truth Be Told (still 'Ro's best album), both Bun and Pimp's first solo albums and The Foundation, the final Geto Boys album.