Helping Hands

Though Elbert "Pops" Stewart has never headlined a show, the versatile bassist is well known on certain Houston bandstands. Playing behind a variety of blues, R&B and zydeco front men, he has been a reliable source of funky riffs, good humor and rock-solid musical knowledge. A former trumpeter in the U.S. Army band, Stewart is also a competent keyboardist and soulful singer. But it's his cool work on bass guitar that has made him the anchor of choice for many a fine rhythm section.

At almost every gig Stewart has played since getting married a few years ago, his wife and biggest fan has been there, applauding, calling out requests and radiating an infectious good-time party vibe. But last month Shirley Stewart was killed in a car crash that also left Stewart with a fractured pelvis. Her wake and funeral services were attended by a virtual who's who of the local blues and zydeco communities, some of whom have organized benefit concerts for her surviving husband.

The first such show is scheduled for one of the most storied venues in the old Frenchtown district, the Silver Slipper. Originally known as Alfred's Place, this down-home club once featured the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins and Clifton Chenier. A lot has changed since those days, but folk still dance to live music there every Friday through Sunday night. This week, however, the doors open on Thursday as musicians gather to raise money to help Stewart. Among those expected to jam are Willie T and the Zydeco Posse, blues guitarist Ashton Savoy, Wilfred Chevis and the Texas Zydeco Band and numerous others.

And on Sunday at Rocking Rena's, soul singer extraordinaire Bobby Lewis will perform with his group The Mighty Invaders (of which Stewart is a regular member), plus various special guests. Look for internationally traveled blues recording artist Sherman Robertson on guitar, as well as a set featuring the timeless R&B vocal stylings of Lady Tica. Aches and pains permitting, Stewart might even strap on the bass for this one.

Either show will be mighty fine and for a damn good cause, too. (Roger Wood)

Fund-raising concerts for Elbert "Pops" Stewart will take place Thursday, December 9, at the Silver Slipper, 3717 Crane, at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, December 12, at Rocking Rena's, 8402 Homestead, at 3 p.m. For information on the Silver Slipper event, call (713)673-9004; for the Rena's event, call (713)635-5510.

DJ Rap -- It's safe to say that American audiences now getting DJ Rap aren't really getting her. The Singapore-born, England-bred DJ Rap, a.k.a. Charissa Saverio, 30, is a gal of Nordic good looks (she's actually of Italian/Irish/Malaysian descent) who could appear on both MTV's 120 Minutes and House of Style without so much as one touch-up.

More than anything, Rap could be acknowledged as one of the breakout dynamos of the UK jungle scene, if it weren't for the fact that she is primarily acknowledged -- first in Britain, now over here -- as one of the sexiest women in the world. And her past work experience as a topless underage British-tabloid model is a fact she uses well to her advantage. ("Pussy rules the world," she bluntly yet astutely observed in a recent magazine interview.) But in a biz in which an artist's appearance is practically a non-issue, techno enthusiasts can't help but skeptically snicker whether or not this skirt has skills.

DJ Rap has spent most of the decade proving her chops, working the turntables of London clubs and at raves, all while co-producing and performing her music on a number of 12-inchers. She launched her own labels in the mid-'90s, Proper Talent and Low Key Recordings, and shortly afterward released her 1995 debut album, Intelligence. Her follow-up, the recently released Learning Curve (Higher Ground/ Columbia), has her supposedly coasting between the genres of techno and pop, though it still sounds like the kind of ambient, heavy-duty drum-and-bass that flows out of many of today's acid house raves. The pop brunt of this record comes from Rap's newest contribution to her music: her singing voice. The former rapper pours caressing vocals over her own compositions, making her that most unique of techno performers, a dance diva that can also break a good beat.

However you perceive DJ Rap, be it a ballsy broad, a bodacious beauty or both, the consensus is that you respect her music first, then you ogle. As she says on one of her tracks, "I wanna get inside your head / Just f-f-f-fuck with your brain." She may work in a predominantly manly field, but dammit, she still thinks like a woman. (Craig D. Lindsey)

DJ Rap performs with Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child and Amber as a part of the KRBE Jingle Jam, Monday, December 13, at Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Tickets are $12.50 and $40. Show starts at 7 p.m. Call (713)629-3700 for more information.

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