The Houston Hip Hop sound has always been felt throughout pop culture but the results of that influence aren’t always reflected in the city. The fingerprints of DJ Screw, UGK, Swishahouse, Rap-A-Lot, and countless others have left an indelible mark on rap and, to a greater extent, music in general.
New rappers point to Houston as their influence and pop music borrows heavily from the legacy of DJ Screw, but rappers that actually reside in the city often have their talents overlooked by nationwide audiences. That is hopefully changing. Travis Scott released Astroworld to critical acclaim. Sauce Walka's "Ghetto Gospel" was picked as one of Jay-Z's favorite songs of 2018. Rap-A-Lot's J. Prince spent most of the year doing press for his best selling memoir.
Other Houston artists, some veterans and some rookies, are beginning to gain traction on a level greater than regional. This is by no means a complete list of all the talent that Houston Hip Hop has to offer but, the artists on this list are something to keep an eye on in the upcoming years.
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Megan Thee Stallion
Megan’s rise this year has felt inevitable, but the Houston MC has been laying the groundwork for her success for years. Arguably one of the hottest up and coming artists of 2019, the MC has been building up a cult following by supplying rap fans with lyrical freestyles, laced with unwavering confidence and sex appeal. The Stallion has been releasing music but the infectious flow on her 2017 “Stalli Freestyle” ignited a spark that has fueled fans to look for more freestyles, more videos, and more Megan.
Rumored to be a part of a possible tour with Cardi B and The City Girls, she’s also managed to sidestep a lot of the music world’s need to pit female artists against each other. The anticipation that her hit single “Big Ole Freak” built up over the past year is also paying off with her latest album, Fever, debuting in the top ten on Apple Music. If her Spotify album release party is any indication, this will continue to be the year of Thee Stallion.
Maxo released his debut album Punken last year on the buzz of the single “5200”, a song counting the many ways that he would hustle to get money. Since then Maxo’s bouncy flow has garnered him recording contract with RCA, the release of the single “Still”, and much deserved anticipation for his next project. His straightforward matter-of-fact flow allows him to rap about the street life while still maintaining an air of charisma. Songs like “Grannies”, “Meet Again”, and “Roaches” highlight the MC’s ability to paint pictures of his life growing up in Alief. At this rate expect to hear a lot more from Maxo in the upcoming year.
Get Twisted Sundays started with Tobe Nwigwe sitting between his, then fiancé’s (Lovingly nicknamed by Tobe as “Fat”), legs as she braided his hair and he freestyled to a beat. Fast forward today where Tobe and his wife, Fat, just finished a 22-city tour ending with a sold out show at White Oak Music Hall. Mayor Sylvester Turner gave them a key to the city. The two also capped off the end of the tour by welcoming their first child. Tobe has put out his Originals series and continues to put out freestyles and well produced, thought provoking videos via Instagram. Plus, his freestyles on Sway in the Morning are impeccable. Look for more projects coming from him this year.
In 2018 Deji dropped the mixtape 13 Reasons Why. The tape had the rapper delivering his sing-song flow and featured a video for the single “Heat Man”, where the young Alief rapper danced into a local corner store. The MC gained popularity via Instagram and Youtube rapping and performing dances, in particular The Woah (if you don’t know what that is google it. It’s the dance that every kid does every time they do…well anything. You’ve seen it. Now you know what it’s called). Since 13 Reasons Why Deji has released Fun Plex which features Maxo Kream, Tisakorean, and Wiz Khalifa. Young Deji is Alief through and through, choosing to bring out the neighborhood and shoot the video for the Wiz Khalifa assisted “Snapchat” at the Popeyes on Bellaire and Dairy Ashford. Deji has hinted at a project name “Genesis” to be released soon so keep an eye out for more from him.
Alexandra Nicks better known as OMB Bloodbath was involved in controversy late last year after the president of the Houston Police Union criticized her performing at a local area school. Her moniker, taken from Taye Diggs' character in Malibu’s Most Wanted, might raise some eyebrows (Until you reread that and realize her name comes from the comedy Malibu’s Most Wanted) but the MC is heavily involved with bringing people together. She’s currently putting on the second iteration of her Everybody Eats Festival, a family friendly event which brings out food trucks and local performers. She also recently released the third installment of her Nothing but the Moon mixtape series.
Beatking is definitely not a new artist, as he’s been releasing music for almost a decade. The self-described Texas-Uncle-Luke continues to release new installments of his Club God series, most recently dropping Club God 6, featuring well known collaborators like Z-Ro and Project Pat and the introspective "Beatking Gotta Leave Houston". On the track Beatking speaks on his successes in the city but also wonders does he need to leave to obtain more. He also re-teamed with Memphis legend, Gangsta Boo for their second venture, Underground Cassette Tape Music, Vol. 2. The Houston producer is multifaceted. A follow on Instagram will show him creating beats from random sounds, buying loads of produce like cucumbers for his shows (everything you think could happen with a cucumber is happening with a cucumber at a Beatking a.k.a "Disgustin Justin" show), or just being a family man. (He is regularly getting made fun of by his two daughters on his second Instagram). He should be a national artist and probably have his own reality show but while we wait for that follow his Instagram stories, buy some albums, and enjoy the show.
A few months ago a meme was floating around titled “What Old Heads Hear When New Rappers Spit”. In it a young man jogged down the street of a suburban neighborhood toward the camera, spit a nonsensical flow, and started jigging. The post picked up steam as people clowned the new school and questioned the abilities of younger artists. The artist in question, Tisokorean, reposted the video, laughed, and went about his day. The Southwest rapper has plenty of videos out there and appears to have no interest in fitting in anybody’s box. His beats are minimalist. His flow is rambling. His style of dress is eclectic. His out of place persona is the thing that makes him stand out in a sea of artists clamoring for attention. His latest album, A Guide to Being A Partying Freshman has people in the industry noticing his influence, most recently resulting in a collaboration with Chance The Rapper.
If you like Tisakorean then try these Houston artists: I got no one. Kid is in a class of his own.
Bigg Fatts is the true embodiment by his rap name. His voice and personality are both large and fill whatever track he chooses to rap. For his last two albums he’s chosen to rap over the soulful soundscapes provided by Mo City producer Pugtunes. The two have released Memoirs of the Kitchen Staff and most recently Fatty’s Food Truck, both projects displaying Pug’s superior ear for melodies and Fatt’s witty wordplay. Fatt’s baritone voice and wordplay pairs well with Pug’s soul samples. His albums have an emphasis on wordplay so if you like his style look to anyone that’s featured because they are pretty much vetted for their lyricism. Keep an eye on Pugtunes as well because a sound like his shouldn’t be contained to just Houston. Plus, the rappers that he works with (Rob Gullatte, Delorean, Show Louis, etc) are putting out consistently hard-hitting music.
If you like Big Fatts then try these Houston artists: The already mentioned Rob Gullatte, Delorean, and Show Louis as well as Doughbeezy and Propain. (There’s a lot more that could have fit here but that’s for another time).
His “Dawg Azz” challenge had everyone in Houston dropping a freestyle, capturing the attention of artists like Yo Gotti, and eventually landing Boosie on the remix. His name is a combination of his label, Off the Block, and a nickname given to him by his neighborhood. The northside native is living up to his moniker and not slowing and resting on his laurels. His 2018 projects, Metro Mart Baby and Don’t Miss The Bus, started to break the ceiling that many artists face when trying to establish themselves and expand beyond regional success. Now Fastlane is releasing Busville which will hopefully do more of the same.
Hueston Independent Spit District (H.I.S.D) gained some traction with the release of their debut album, The District, in 2007 and the followup, The Weakend, in 2011. In 2016 the trio joined with Radio Galaxy (not the cosmic radiating entity but rather the Houston group that’s a mix of Soul, Funk, Rock, and Hip Hop) to form Hue and released Auora. Now Scottie Spitten, one third of HISD, releases his debut album S.C.O.T.T.I.E., a lyrical solo exercise produced by Radio Galaxy. The album sports an eye-catching space/tron themed cover and the MC's musings on his career. Scottie moves confidently of the Radio Galaxy supplied beats, which have elements of old school Hip Hop and futuristic pop.
Trilly Polk is a mix of country, Zydeco, and rap, three influences that shouldn’t be a stretch when considering he comes from Houston. In 2017 ESG released a video for “Southside Still Holdin (Remix)"which featured Trilly Polk walking out of Carrington’s sporting a shiny suit and a bow tie while spitting his cadence, which is equal rap and equal chorus. It’s a combination that is great for radio play. He is as exciting and entertaining as he is humble, often dropping freestyles while performing as an Uber driver. Last year her released the project Bow-Tie & Shiny Shoes 2 and this year he returns with The Legacy of Bow-Tie & Shiny Shoes.
If you like Trilly Polk then try these Houston artists: Like Tisakorean his style is a class of its own
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If you follow Houston rap, then you know Chico. He changed his name from LE$ to Chico due to the logistical confusion of finding his music on search engines and streaming services (Go type in Le$ and you can see how it could be a problem) but his unmistakable sound can’t be changed. The rapper, who has been signed with Slim Thug and Curren$y, is on a run right now, releasing high quality, laid back mixtapes that offer the perfect soundtrack for riding around the city during the summer nights. Last year he toured in Japan. He also released Steak and Shrimp Vol. 3, Lost in Japan, Trouble in Paradise and Texas Rattlesnake. Since January he’s dropped Expansion Pack 2.0 (which opens up with a great Stevie Wonder flip) and the Marvel inspired Infinity. Chico has the work ethic of Curren$y so expect much more from him in the upcoming year.