This year’s 10 best Houston rap songs somehow couldn’t find space for a Sauce Twin but did find a way to honor a member of The Sauce Factory anyhow. It brought Scarface back to the fold and also gave gravity to the multitude of releases from Slim Thug, Paul Wall, BeatKing and others. Nas showed up on two prominent rap albums from the city. DeLorean managed to translate a verse from a Big K.R.I.T. tape into a brand new project and a year-ending tour that took him to 40 different cities in two months. Travi$ Scott may have the one Houston rap song attributed from someone from Houston that will carry well into 2016. There was G-Funk, hardscrabble, eye-opening moments of vulnerability from normally armor-plated superheroes, and a club record that transformed a rapper into a national thing – and it didn’t feel gimmicky.
Here are the 10 best Houston rap songs from 2015.
10. RODJI DIEGO, "Blue Cheese"
The Sauce Factory has its names and figures that aren’t as recognized as Sosamann, Sancho Saucy and of course, Sauce Walka. Rizzoo Rizzoo & Rodji Diego have not only found their respective niches, they’ve pushed their names even further than anyone would have previously predicted. “Blue Cheese” from Rodji Diego emerged from the beginning of the year as a trap anthem; a money getting movement where falling in love with your vices can lead to success. The most memorable TSF record from 2015 was Sauce Walka’s “Wack to Wack” diss. The best construction of a song from beat to longevity belonged to Rodji and his “holy shit, they’re playing this at 1OAK in LA” track.
9. PROPAIN, "2:45"
Every two years, Propain is good for at least one song that makes you immediately begin to ponder how hard could he carry that Hiram Clarke accent. People recognize his talents, and speak of him in a manner usually reserved for much larger contemporaries. “2:45” is all about a relationship, all about the ups and downs of avoiding arguments and exchanging conversations to solve things with outright passion and bare bone commitment. Real situations in Propain’s life make for some of his best records. “Father’s Day” owned 2012 as arguably the most pained yet beautiful rap record out of Houston. “2:45” offers similar feelings, mainly for the fact that it’s Propain thinking about his own messed-up actions and praying that they don’t come back around.
8. SCARFACE FEAT. JACK FREEMAN, "The Hot Seat"
When Scarface first showed back up on the scene with “Deep End” from Roosh Williams’ Unorthodox album, I immediately kept a place for it for when the year ended. Then the Geto Boy put out a proper album and I kept looking at “Deep End” as crawling track where Roosh and Facemob produce nothing but menace and wondering could it sit next to anything from Deeply Rooted. It fell short when sitting next to “The Hot Seat." Jack Freeman sings pained gospel, Face argues about the plight and bullshit that comes with fighting the legal system and the uncertainty of regaining his freedom.
7. PAUL WALL FEAT. DEVIN THE DUDE & CURREN$Y, “Crumblin’ The Satellite"
Paul Wall's Slab God album is a gorgeous piece of late-night cruising work. As an outright rap single, his “Swangin’ In the Rain” is arguably his best since “Bizzy Body” from 2009’s Fast Life. But that’s not the crispest thing to come from Slab God — that distinction belongs to this rather sleepy-eyed weed anthem with noted tokers Devin the Dude and Curren$y, “Crumblin’ the Satellite.” Wall stands at the pulpit with a roach still burning in the ashtray and delivers a verse so in-pocket you could follow it with your damn finger if it was in a book. Plus, nothing gets better than a Devin chorus or a verse where makes spaceship sounds drive a point home.
6. TRAVI$ SCOTT, “Antidote”
Toward the end of 2014, Travis $cott started moving more towards his debut album Rodeo. Days Before Rodeo was a spacious, baroque move for him because it was at times dark and so loaded that you couldn’t get away from it. “Antidote” combines two of his loves, Wondagurl production and slight mimics of Kanye West Autotune about partying, keeping the feds from busting up the party and celebrating his own sexual prowess. Scott's rapping may leave a few things to be desired, but some records are undeniable.
5. BEATKING, "4 A.M."
“BeatKing can’t actually rap" is a lie that’s been spread far as wide by those who come for HIS parody songs and twerk anthems and nothing else. On “4 A.M.,” from 3 Weeks, BeatKing strips away all of the bravado, money-chasing and wisecracks about strippers, boppers and more and focuses on internal struggle. "4 A.M." is about how he’s yet to really come to grips with the loss of his mother, or his best friend and how he deals with insomnia and being unable to flinch about any of it.
4. LE$, "Caddy"
The glossy synth wave and gloss that percolates through “Caddy” is sugary. Addictive. Like a large bag of Halloween candy 365 days of the year. If Virginia’s Pusha T has fun Mutumbo finger-wagging at other rappers' dumb decisions, then Le$ is right there with him, alleging that some rappers do better in 140 characters than in 16-bar verses. His best parts as a rapper come when he mixes cutting lyricism with any soundscape that mirrors that of what Houston’s idea of G-Funk is. Besides, the city has no better representative of such a sound than L-E-Dolla anyway.
3. TRAE THA TRUTH FEAT. J.COLE, “Children of Men”
If the second half of Trae Tha Truth’s Tha Truth series basks in the light, part one that came over the summer is seeped in autobiographical darkness. “Children of Men” weaves a story about a killer and drug dealer who literally goes through hell and sees no positive outcome. Five months later, it’s still the hardest take from Tha Truth.
2. DJ CHOSE FEAT. MC BEEZY, "Everywhere I Go"
Before he started guest-appearing on Akon singles, DJ Chose was still finding a way to move left and right. He enjoyed being a club purveyor and owner of multiple club classics, but needed one record to separate him from being one-dimensional. Then “Everywhere I Go” came along and not only took his message out of Houston, it made him a worldly known thing. DJ Chose & MC Beezy crafted “Everywhere I Go” as a form of self-love and solidarity. He’s good wherever he goes and if his raps reach all the way to France and Japan; he’s already done something that “Pop That” never did: become a global sensation.
SLIM THUG FEAT. JOEL OSTEEN, “Chuuch”
Slim Thug put out three albums this year. Hogg Life Vol. 2 is the best of the lot, as it takes him back to his early days in full. The “Drophead Freestyle” from Vol. 1 celebrates excess, as does much of Slim’s catalog, and “All I Know” is an adrenaline rush and lesson in overcoming. However, the legacy of the Hogg Life series is summed up simply by “Chuuch,” Mr. Lee’s organ use and Joel Osteen’s sermon spliced in between Slim’s verses. “I’m just trying to be all I can be,” Slim confesses. He doesn’t point fingers but he knows where he has to separate himself from failing and stumbling. He knows family and friends who chose to run him down, and Slim is in a very touched situation. "Chuuch" a full-on confessional from the Boss of the Nawf, without a single curse or anything of the sort. "Do for yourself" is what Slim and Joel preach. That particular sermon is also the best Houston rap song of the year.