Friday Night: K-Rino & Lil' Flip At Fitzgerald's

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Lil' Flip, K-Rino and More Fitzgerald's April 6, 2012

Lil' Flip and K-Rino are two of Houston's longest-reigning rap stars, and Fitzgerald's is one of the city's longest-running nightclubs. It seemed almost wrong that neither had performed onstage at the venerated live-music institution before Friday night, but that injustice was happily corrected by the Texas Massacre XII show in the venue's downstairs bar area.

The concert was a pretty great deal, offering up 12 local artists for $12. Maybe everybody was downtown at Minute Maid Park for Opening Day early in the evening, but a lot of ticket holders opted not to take full advantage of the bargain. Local acts including Southside rapper Big Mike and punks the Ballistics played to a mere handful of people. For a while there, things were looking a little grim.

Up-and-coming MCs Kyle Hubbard and D-Risha brought enough energy to their sets to entertain much larger crowds than the ones they performed in front of, but audience didn't fill out much until the OGs of the South Park Coalition arrived. Clearly, this was who people had paid to see.

Since the early 1980s, S.P.C. founder K-Rino has been one of Houston's most prolific artists and most engaging lyricists. Flanked by Coalition associates Wickett Crickett, Big Sniper and Rapper K, K-Rino delivered a set highlighted by cuts from last year's Alien Baby album, including "Representin'" and "Don't Leave Me."

Despite having more than 22 albums(!) to his name released since '93, K-Rino stuck to the present day with his tracks. The oldest songs he performed were the 2009 banger from Solitary Confinement, "I Got Stripes," and 2008 slab of sincerity "Holla at Me" from Triple Darkness Vol.1: Wreck Time.

More than 25 years into his career, K-Rino's lyrics still shame the competition. A slam against wack MCs "booty-poppin' like the the white girl in the Sun Drop commercial" had the crowd howling. Witty a cappella rhymes such as his "Ghetto ABCs" and an on-the-nose diss of KBXX 97.9 The Box proved that the underground hero needn't rely on hot beats to sell his songs.

K-Rino's sometimes-fearsome flow can be intimidating, but the man himself hung out in the crowd before and after his set, obliging anyone who approached with a word or a picture. His cult status notwithstanding, it was an object lesson to the younger rappers on the bill on how to survive a quarter-century in the game with no backing whatsoever from the mainstream music industry.

If K-Rino's unassuming attire of track pants and a t-shirt served to reinforce his role as Houston's champion of the real, headliner Lil' Flip's accessories left no doubt as to whom the rap star in the room was. Flip hit the stage dripping in diamonds, iced out thoroughly from his massive watch and pinky ring to his gleaming grill and spinning neckpiece.

While Clover Gs affiliate Sunny Red worked the crowd, Flip sipped on something or other from a double-stacked Styrofoam cup as he prepared to take the mike. The sweet smell of weed smoke began to fill the air as he lit into his "B.M.F." freestyle, and by the time he wrapped up his verse on "I Got 5 on It," the crowd was feeling pretty good about sticking around past 1 a.m. to check him out.

Lil' Flip is sometimes viewed as the H-Town rap star who peaked too early, but he reminded everyone on Friday that he's got a dense batch of regional hits under his belt. From the "I Look Good" and "Draped Up" remixes to "Like a Pimp" and "Screwed Up," Flip has contributed hot verses to some of the best singles to come out of the South over the last seven or eight years. He broke 'em all out at Fitzgerald's.

He wasn't stingy with his own hits, either. "Sunny Day," "I Can Do Dat," "Game Over" and "This is the Way We Ball" kept the crowd's hands in the air. Unfazed by a couple of glitches with the backing tracks, the self-styled Flip Gates displayed the skills that lead DJ Screw to dub him the "Freestyle King" on an extended a cappella riff that had heads nodding with no beat. Wickett Crickett even helped out with some old-school beatboxing.

In a city that's been criticized a time or two for too readily discarding its musical history, Texas Massacre XII's headliners (and venue) served as a reminder that perseverance has its privileges. Much like the battle-scarred stage at Fitz itself, K-Rino and Lil' Flip ain't going nowhere, even if fans sometimes forget to check in as often as they might. It was nice to take comfort in that fact--a Good Friday indeed.

Personal Bias: First time I've been downstairs at Fitz in a good while.

The Crowd: Mostly young white dudes, with some older heads and a few ladies mixed in.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Clover Gs in the buildinnnnn!'"

Random Notebook Dump: Lil' Flip knows how to accessorize for real. In addition to a change of both cap and chain during his set, he managed to produce a giant gold telephone handset from his pocket to illustrate his "Get it? Flip phone!" lyric on "Sunny Day."

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