Screwston, Texas

Happy Birthday, Michael Watts: Revisiting SwishaHouse's Best Tape

Actually, that might not be totally true. It might be a falsity to call 1999's The Day Hell Broke Loose SwishaHouse's best tape. I'm sure arguments could be made for something from their Before da Kappa series or After da Kappa series.

Someone who's especially sexy might even try and campaign for something for from their Fuck Action collection. It's probably be more accurate to call The Day Hell Broke Loose SwishaHouse's MOST INFLUENTIAL tape, maybe even MOST IMPORTANT.

Here's why:

Last year, while working on a cover story about the new crop of rappers in Houston, I borrowed some insight from Jayson Rodriguez, talented editor/writer at XXL. He explained the process by which a rapper (or rappers) move from City Hero to Nationally Recognized Artist by saying, "Most regional movements start off just about nonexistent to out-of-towners. [It stays that way] until the point it saturates its local market, then bursts onto the next city, then the following, etc., till it feels like it exploded overnight."

For the entirety of their existence, SwishaHouse has operated as the midpoint between the beginning and the end of that process. And The Day Hell Broke Loose is the first real, hard copy example of that.

To wit: the emergence of Slim Thug.

Among the many acts on the TDHBL (SPM, Lil' Mario, J-Dawg, C-Note, +100 more), the most prominently featured was a young, braggadocios, bosshoggin' rapper named Slim Thug. There were sixteen tracks on the tape. Thugga had been enlisted for eight of them.

"My first real release," remembers Slim Thug when asked how it felt to so highly displayed by the one of the region's premiere tastemaker labels. "It was scary because it was transforming from being an underground freestyle rapper to a song maker."

Examining everything now (i.e. knowing that Slim eventually became one of the country's most clamored for rappers five or so years later), it seems clear that Watts and OG Ron C, SwishaHouse's gregarious founding duo, possessed a keen ability to a) measure the pulse of the underground scene; and b) market what they deemed a commodity until it became such.

That particular time, Watts and Ron used their label to multiply Slim Thug's growing buzz, cosigning his impending stardom to their vast listenership. And after that, they'd do it again and again and again*.

It's beyond likely that Thugga and his cohorts would've eventually settled into proper rapper status on their own, but SwishaHouse's involvement -and the The Day Hell Broke Loose series-- surely didn't hinder their cause.

So, happy birthday to King Watts. Purchase The Day Hell Broke Loose here. Send him a nice message on Twitter. And then drive to the barbershop and get a bald fade.

*The most obvious example: On 2004's TDHBL Vol. 2, Watts and Ron C placed Jones on 11 of that CD's 15 tracks. In 2005, Jones's Who Is Mike Jones? went platinum.

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Shea Serrano