Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Z-Ro Warehouse Live May 5, 2012
If you've been staying up nights worrying that Houston's rap legacy will be lost on the city's current crop of teens and young adults, go ahead and sleep soundly tonight. The crowd for Friday night's concert featuring local all-stars Chamillionaire, Z-Ro and Paul Wall was as young as any I've seen in the past year.
As I was waiting in line to get inside, in fact, a pretty blond girl in front of me that looked to be all of 16 years old was busted for her fake ID. Evidently, H-Town rap still goes hard in high-school parking lots.
DJ Matt Murdoch, a youngster himself, warmed up the crowd by playing classic Dirty South rap records. The show didn't get started for real until after 10 p.m. Local up-and-comers Thurogood Wordsmith, the Niceguys and Cool Dre comprised the first half of the bill.
Each turned in an energetic set that probably won them some new fans, but the audience was obviously hungry for the H-Town superstars.
The crowd began buzzing noticeably when Swishahouse DJ Michael "5000" Watts was introduced. Watts spun a few local classics like Yungstar's "Knockin' Pictures Off the Wall" to whip the audience into a frenzy before Paul Wall took the stage.
Half the fun of these shows is hearing the needle drop on cuts like Big Hawk's "You Already Know," inspiring a collective "Ohhhhhh!" from the assembled fans. Half the crowd Friday must have been in elementary school during the S.U.C.'s heyday, but they still went off hard for the good stuff.
Paul Wall didn't tease any special guests for his set Friday night. Instead, he cut right to the chase and brought out Bun B (surprise!) right away for his first song of the night, "I'm Real, You Fake." The Trill OG stuck around for "They Don't Know," too, a major highlight of the night that had every hand in the air. As usual, Paul was repping H-Town hard.
The guests didn't end there, however. The crowd really exploded when Slim Thug appeared to turn in his verse from "Houston," the tribute track released during the Texans' playoff run last season. Judging by the fans' response, the Texans 100 percent own the city right now -- let's hope Matt Schaub can stay healthy.
Slim Thugga returned later in the set for his career-making verse on "Still Tippin'," the track that shot both Paul and Slim to national prominence in 2004. Mike Jones apparently didn't get an invite; maybe he was busy Friday.
Next up was Z-Ro. The King of the Ghetto was dressed down considerably from his appearance at Lil' Keke's All-Star Birthday Bash at House of Blues in a white tee and aviator shades. Beginning with the opening strains of "Get Throwed," the crowd was completely in his pocket. On "Never Had Love" and "Respect Something," the Mo City Don poured out his miseries and frustrations in rhyme, and the young audience reveled in his authenticity.
After the hypnotic flow of "Can't Leave Drank Alone," an astounding thing happened. A young lady actually threw her panties onto the stage. Z-Ro is a magnetic performer and all, but I didn't realize he inspired that kind of appreciation from his fans. Shit, he's scary!
Somewhere, one thinks, this girl's father must have suffered a sudden and inexplicable heart attack. Rother appeared just as dumbfounded as the rest of us, pausing to take a photo of the undergarment lying on the Warehouse Live stage to post on Twitter.
"Your drawers are now famous," he growled. He did not smile.
With that, Z-Ro rolled through a string of regional smashes, including "Gangsta," "One Deep," "I Hate U Bitch" and "From the South." It was a pretty incredible run of tunes that showed off the rapper's wicked, inimitable flow.
The horny teens in the crowd responded with some of the most horrific and hilarious freak dancing that I've had the misfortune to witness live and in person. I took note of all the exits just in case a denim fire flared up.
Z-Ro finished them off with his "Mo City Don" freestyle, which drew the biggest cheers of his set. He ended the track a cappella, displaying the rapid-fire sing-rapping that has made him a local legend. Good stuff.
By the time Z-Ro left the stage, it was well after midnight and the exodus began. No one has ever come up with a legitimate answer as to why rap shows must always start so late and drag on into the following morning, but the practice is especially silly when a large portion of your crowd is on a curfew.
By the time DJ Rapid Ric was set up for Chamillionaire's portion of the show, the youngest members of the crowd had already filed out and gone home, leaving the room half full.
If there were a few yawns in the audience when he hit the stage, King Koopa livened things up in a hurry. Cham had the highest energy level of any of the night's performers; perhaps not coincidentally, he was also in the best shape.
Over the next hour and a half, he burned through verses from no less than 21 tracks, beginning with "Hip-Hop Police" from his Ultimate Victory album. If you blinked, you might miss songs like "Batter Up," "My Money Gets Jealous" and "This Is My World."
In a cool moment, Chamillionaire asked for two volunteers from the crowd with the balls to spit 16 bars of freestyle rhymes. It was an opportunity he'd often hoped for when he was starting out, he explained -- one that never came.
"I need two people up here who know how to rap," he said. "Don't come up here if you can't rap. Don't make me embarrass you on YouTube!"
Nick from 1960 and a Mr. Martin from Acres Homes didn't hesitate to jump onstage. Refreshingly, neither one humiliated himself, either.
Both the crowd and Cham himself cheered them on. Martin, who requested to flow without a beat, probably won the mock battle, but both of them had to be pretty stoked. It was a nice gesture by the multiplatinum recording star to pass the mike to a couple of amateurs, and the audience responded.
Cham finished his set with the smash hit "Ridin'" and "Turn It Up" from 2005's The Sound of Revenge. These were the tunes everybody came to hear, and Koopa's slick and supple flow was nearly lost in the shouted sing-along.
When he was finished, Chamillionaire promised that his new album was coming soon. "Perfection takes time," he said. The sharp wit and nimble rhymes on display during his set solidified the conviction that a great deal of thought and effort goes into writing his raps. Guess we'll keep waiting.
In the meantime, it'd be nice to see him perform in his hometown more often -- the earlier the better.
Personal Bias: Still tippin' on fo-fos.
The Crowd: Very young. Very white.
Overseen in the Crowd: The dirtiest, sex-simulating "dancing" that I've ever seen. These kids' sexual frustration was palpable.
Random Notebook Dump: Glammy electronicrunk band Blood on the Dance Floor played the Warehouse Live lounge the same night. Somehow, their crowd was older than the H-Town all-stars'.
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