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Houston Rap: Kicked to the Curb?

It hasn’t exactly been a banner year anywhere in hip-hop nation, and Houston is no exception. The Class of 2005’s lackluster sales have spurred every hip-hop rag and blog from here to Brooklyn to bust out its own unique variation on the evergreen “Houston, we have a problem” headline. Chingo Bling is being raked over the coals everywhere from Idolator to Fox News. Lil’ Flip had to tell a judge why he bought a plane ticket to Baltimore with someone else’s credit card – luckily, a grand jury declined to indict him, but apparently he still can’t stop running his mouth about T.I. And poor Paul Wall has to stare at his multiple Astros tattoos every single day.

Mike Jones kicks it MLS-style.

Now comes what may be the saddest news of all: Mike Jones (who?) has signed up to be part of “MLS Represent,” a new marketing venture MLS and Adidas hope will help raise the league’s visibility. That was supposed to be David Beckham’s job, but they might be onto something – if there’s anything more anemic than record sales, it’s pro soccer attendance, which routinely struggles to outdraw bridal expos and tractor pulls.

Each artist – others include OK Go, Rose Hill Drive and anything-for-a-buck hardcore legends Bad Brains – will be paired with an MLS franchise and create original music for their team. According to Adweek, the only musical requirement is that their creation be “chantable,” so at least Jones shouldn’t have too much trouble with that. He’ll presumably be matched with the Houston Dynamo, but sadly not in time to inspire them to victory in Tuesday’s SuperLiga semifinal against Pachuca. Jones better hurry and turn something in, because our boys in orange have also let FC Dallas take over the Western Conference lead.

It could always be worse, though: You could be Foxy Brown, who still can’t get her temper under control. Or 50 Cent, who has sworn to retire if next month’s Curtis doesn’t outsell Kanye West’s Graduation, which comes out the same day: Sept. 11. Wait, maybe not. Looks like the terrorists really have won.

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Now, if only Kanye would make the same vow.

On the bright side, UGK’s double album Underground Kingz sold almost 160,000 copies last week to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Granted, the mighty tween vote was split between NOW! 25 and Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus, but you just know some of these supposed High School Musical maniacs couldn’t wait to start bumping “Two Type of Bitches” and “Take the Hood Back.”

Enjoy it while it lasts, guys. You earned it, and it’s probably the last No. 1 record – or No. 1 anything – Houston will see for a while. -- Chris Gray

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