What does a day in the life of a typical Houston rapper look like? Don’t answer — it’s a trick question. Anyone who’s been paying attention already knows there’s no such thing as a “typical Houston rapper” in 2017. But just in case your thoughts strayed straight to doubled-up Styrofoam cups and candy cars, you should check out the new video by Houston’s own Fullmetal. It premieres today, and the artist has been kind enough to share some exclusive insight on it with the Houston Press.
The video is for his track “Fadeaway,” also available today anywhere music is streamed or purchased, and part of a three-song EP due next month. Fullmetal says it was shot in a day and was directed by Gilliano The Creative, one of Houston’s newest artists, by way of Los Angeles. They were introduced by a mutual friend, Mark Drew, whom some consider the hardest-working man in the present-day Houston rap game.
“I think creatively we have fantastic chemistry and he is incredibly enthusiastic and easy to work with…that dude is gonna blow up for sure. I just hope I can still afford him when I'm ready to shoot the next one,” Fullmetal laughs.
“The initial concept of the video was mine, and all I really wanted to do was not overthink it and come up with something I could shoot and release quickly because I feel like I just need to get more music out,“ he continues. “I thought the idea of shooting a pretty typical rap video that ends with the reveal that none of the stuff I'm showing off is mine would be pretty funny. There really wasn't much else to it until Gilli kicked it up a notch and really dove into the idea of it being this sort of pseudo-parody of a rap video with a bunch of remarks from the perspective of the director. I think his additions really made it something far more significant and special than it would have been if I'd put it together on my own.”
Houston is a city that has long had a very established rap profile — chopped and screwed, the City of Syrup. Fullmetal's video turns the entire concept of Houston rap on its head, which is exactly what he and a whole host of young rappers here are doing in their music. We asked if the video was expressly a statement about this recent shift in style for Houston rappers.
“Yeah, I'm totally that profound and forward-thinking,” he laughs. “Nah, I really just thought a video of me running mundane errands in a fancy car I borrowed would be funny.”
That, in a nutshell, is Fullmetal’s modus operandi. He’s a Houston native who grew up in Alief and has a healthy respect for Houston's rap pioneers; but his rap influences are primarily Lupe Fiasco and early Cash Money acts. He’s got an Adult Swim-themed mixtape and loves video games and comics but abhors “nerdcore” rap. In short, he’s staying true to himself in his rhymes and, with the new video, on film.
“I'm not trying to make this my shtick; it's just who I am, so inevitably some of that trickles into the music," he says. "Nothing I rap about, or wear, or show in a video is my attempt at creating a gimmick. Nothing against anyone who goes that route, but it's not my style. I take a lot of pride in the music I write and, in turn, rap my ass off. That's why I want people to listen to my music. Not because I wore a Zelda shirt in my music video.”
People who follow the genre locally, particularly other rappers, give Fullmetal kudos. But, we noted, it seems like listeners at large and even some local promoters are sleeping on him.
“The fact that anyone, fellow rapper or otherwise, listens to my music, much less goes out of their way to be vocal about it, is incredible and still surreal," offers Fullmetal. "There are a lot of really talented artists in this city and I'm beyond grateful that any of them ever mention my name.
"As far as folks getting gigs over me, realistically, they deserve it," he adds. "It's not that I think they're better, but for the sheer fact that they've done more. I know I don't currently have the catalog that most in Houston have, but mark my words, that is changing drastically this year.
“My biggest goal of 2017 is to simply release more music. Exponentially more,” he explains. “Friend or foe, I want to make rappers here nervous. That's not a diss to anyone at all. I'm all for peace and harmony and supporting the local arts, but I don't rap to be second best and I feel like anyone seriously honing their craft should feel the same way. Houston is absolutely sleeping on me, but they won't be for much longer.”
The new EP should help change that. It’s titled For 3. It’s loosely basketball-themed and produced entirely by Djay Cas. The tracks are titled "Pull Up," "Pivot" and "Fadeaway.” Fullmetal laughs and says none of the tracks “have anything to do with basketball.” He hopes the EP will keep listeners engaged until he can complete Avoid the Lava, which he calls “the full-length I've been working on for longer than I care to admit.” He said working with producer Jay Abdul, who lives in London, has been gratifying but also has delayed the project.
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“I'm planning to drop a video for a record from Lava sometime early in the spring," Fullmetal says. "I've got a few more things in the works, but the only other one I'll mention for now is the Extra Regular project. Kyle Hubbard, DJ Discipline and I are Extra Regular and we will be dropping something this year. I can't say for sure when, nor exactly what it will be, but it will be something and it will be glorious.”
Glorious, just like the day portrayed in the “Fadeaway” video. Fullmetal recalls the shoot as relaxed, except for one thing.
“I think the only challenge for me was the fact that the guy who owned the Range Rover I drove in the video was sitting in the back seat the whole time, which was nerve-wracking," he says. "I think I drove like shit the whole day because all I kept thinking about was how there was no way I could afford to pay for the damages if I wrecked it. It's hard to look cool rapping with that kind of stress on your brain.”
Fullmetal, Kyle Hubbard and Delayed Therapy perform this Saturday at Revolution Café in College Station. Extra Regular’s next show is March 2 at Satellite Bar.