Screwston, Texas

Five Spot: J-Dawg, Z-Ro's Lyrical Match (Seriously)

Welcome back to Five Spot. Every Friday, we'll examine a recent bit of music news and, sometimes awkwardly, tie it to a bit of Houston rap. It's five videos and occasional cussing. Send tips to [email protected].

You know, prior to the three seconds of gunshots that unwound all the good will, Trae Day was actually a solid event.

As expected, there were the usual concert-day shenanigans that kept us entertained before Trae, Bun, Ross, and Shawty Lo (finally) took the stage - seriously, the "Ricky Bobby" guy performed for about three hours. But J-Dawg, the one guy not named Trae that we were most excited about seeing, did a well enough job that we're legitimately sad that it will be largely forgotten.

J is arguably the second best rapper in the Boss Hogg Outlawz crew. At times, he's certainly more visceral than head honcho Slim Thug, but he lacks the overall marketability that Slim's packaging provides. He's got this unmistakable bottom-of-the-mouth stage whisper for a flow that, when at its most imposing, feels almost skeletal. It gives his songs an immediate sense of weight (most of the time). On more than one occasion we've heard him described as "the Trae of the North," but we're not quite ready to co-sign that statement just yet.

After the jump, listen to a few of his songs and decide for yourself.

"Ride On 4's": This is unquestionably J's best song to date. It's the exact kind of beat that he was built to destroy. And you know you've done a bang-up job when Bun, Trae, Slim, Pokey and Keke come knocking to get on the remix. We're quite certain Cham would've murdered this. Fingers crossed it's on Mixtape Messiah 7.

"Never": As far as content goes, J isn't exactly groundbreaking - I'm from this place, I'll stab you if you're not polite, so on and so forth - but he's very, very convincing in his thuggery. And you can always tell when he gets all riled up because his voice gets even thinner, and the words almost trip over themselves trying to get out.

"Gutta Man Flow": Though occasionally overrated, Swisha House's Classic Flows series has provided a few gems; Slim Thug's "Wanna Be A Baller" remix from Vol. 2 is a clear standout.) On the other hand, you've got the "Monday Night Football" flow. Yipes. What happened there, Cham?

"Dry Your Eyes Freestyle": You'll notice that J is most appealing when the beat - sub-par or not, which it is here - is supplemental to his bawl. It's the opposite of all of those D-Town boogie tracks that the clubs love so much. Mark our words: J-Dawg will be one of the city's most beloved rappers (at least in the North) in a few years.

Slim Thug, "Associates": The fact that J wasn't completely overshadowed by Z-Ro's monster verse is reason enough to look forward to his full-length debut, which is supposed to drop in the next few months. By the by, Z-Ro has to be among the league leaders in the I Totally Just Outshined You On Your Own Song category. Slim managed to stave him off here, but 'Ro owned the "I Run" remix.

Ooh, remember when Trae did that same thing to Z-Ro on "M-16"? That was raw. Z-Ro even busted out that Jamaican-accent thing he periodically does, and it didn't help.

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Shea Serrano