Screwston, Texas

Getting "Passed" Up OK with Houston's Latino Rappers... Well, Not Really

There's no doubt that Corporate America knows how to enter a market, break down consumer attitudes and needs, and sell them a product they're going to buy. Pepsi's been around for a minute so you know they know what's up.

But in an effort to sell the urban community more of their product (trust us - Rocks Off has a seasoned marketer on its team), Pepsi decided to produce hip-hop videos in major cities across the country, featuring top markets' most popular rappers as they spit freestyle bars on a beat with "Pepsi" mentioned throughout the hook. Clever marketing. They're calling it the "Houston Mic Pass: Pepsi Exclusive on Yahoo Music."

The universe of Latino hip-hop artists in Houston think maybe Pepsi should stick to what they know: soda.

Last week Rocks Off introduced to H-Town a fast-rising independent hip-hop artist named Lucky Luciano, Texas Latin Rap Awards' 2009 Artist of the Year and leader of a movement of scrappy, cash-collecting underground Latino artists, who aren't so underground if you ask the 13-30 segment of the city's Hispanic population, which is pushing 40 percent of all Harris County residents. How about that for a consumer stat? Probably a segment Pepsi wants to capture in their marketing.

"Deep underground; way below the mainstream music land of Top 40 Billboard Charts and MTV countdowns, thrives another existence entirely, made up of independent, Houston Latino hip-hop artists who didn't get the memo. You know the one. It reads: "All aspiring artists must plead big record companies for the four jewels of rap - money, hoes, cars and clothes."

By the looks of it, Latino rappers in Houston didn't get the corporate Mic Pass memo, either. Credit Pepsi - we guess - that in the two Mic Passes done in Houston, they squeezed in Chingo Bling in the first, and let Rob G share eight bars with Billy Cook in the second, also throwing him a small acting debut bone. But that didn't sit too well with you know who.

"I was like 'hell no,' that shit ain't cool," Dat Boi T, another fast-rising independent rap artist and the first and only Latino to be affiliated with the legendary Screwed Up Click, told Rocks Off. "I called Lucky (Luciano) up and said 'I got the Southside on lock and you got the Northside on lock. We gonna put them together and do the Latin Mic Pass.'"

And that's what they did: The Texas Latin Mic Pass. Never mind Dat Boi T had never produced or directed a video in his life and that he didn't know how to edit the footage once it was shot either, but that's the type of hustle and improvising you can expect from this group in Houston, especially when you piss them off.

In a week's time, Dat Boi T and Lucky Luciano helped coordinate 16 different rappers in 16 different locations. Lucky put out the cash for the beat produced by Houston-based Cy Fyre and Northside rider, Coast, got on the hook, setting the stage for Houston's underground talent show.

Pepsi and Yahoo may argue they were looking to affiliate their brands with artists who have national stature, but Latino artists in Houston argue that if the company was looking to appeal to the local scene, status shouldn't matter as much as local following - which they have lots of in a city that will be half-Latino within the next decade. They want the same shot still-emerging artists Short Dawg and Magno got in the first version of the Pepsi Mic Pass.

Hey, Yahoo Music, you have a cousin named Yahoo Search Engine, don't you? Here's some search terms for you put in your system next time you and Pepsi come to H-Town for the third version of your Mic Pass. In order of appearance:

Lucky Luciano, Northwest; Dat Boi T, 2nd Ward; Lil Young, Southeast; Bunz, Rosenberg; Lil Villain, Southeast; Stunta, Northside; Sen, Southeast; Flatline, Houston transplant from Corpus Christi; Low G, Southeast; Grade A, Southeast; Chingo Bling, Southeast; Trails, Northwest; Coast, Northside; Cease, Houston transplant from Dallas; GT Garza, Southwest; Filero, Southeast.

If that doesn't work, use Google and have a Coke and a smile.

Rolando Rodriguez is managing editor of Email him at [email protected]om.

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Contributor Rolando Rodriguez is the co-founder of Trill Multicultural.