Houston's Rap Scene & The Great Podcast Renaissance

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How often have you discussed your local music scene with your friends? Casually? Frequently? Enough so that all parties involved can literally want to punch and scream and attempt to shake up the establishment one segment at a time? It’s going to happen. In the type of mind enlightening / reducing thing that has already occurred with traditional radio and more. The way certain genres are starting to slide into obscurity (hello, rock music), how the album itself is dying in favor of playlists, the conversations are only supposed to grow. We’re more concerned with predicting the doom of things rather than the seeds constantly growing around us.

Plain and simple, we’ve reached a point where certain artists are picketed and loathed because of what they refuse to listen to or acknowledge. Atlanta’s Lil Yachty, a kid nowhere near drinking age has spurned enough rap talking head debates over who he chooses not to listen to. The typical legends that appear on rap lists like Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G. and others are obscured in favor of Drake and Soulja Boy.

There’s no need in trying to “fix” Lil Yachty’s listening habits, he’s too willfully ignorant and unwilling to change. Or any of the Lil Yachty's you may know on a daily basis. The same sort of goes for any of us. A decade, maybe even fifteen years ago, we were championing our own acts to our parents who quickly dismissed them in favor of Rakim, KRS-One and so on. The only difference? We actually decided to give their heroes a shot to see whether or not they were right.

The same conversations have translated into the podcast game, where the easiest of thoughts and ideas seem to translate out. It’s no longer just bar conversation or talking with your friends. Instead it’s sitting back for a couple of hours with your friends, hammering things out. Podcasts like T.H.E.M.’s Virtual Reality Caravan and F.L.A.G. Radio or even the review based Bayou City Reviews have made it their purpose to further conversations about the music, the scene and beyond. It’s not the rappers who wave this flag the hardest, they’ve got a separate battle to fight. Instead it’s the fans, the passionate bunch who’ll kick, scream, pay for tickets and show up front and center to root their friends and burgeoning local heroes on.

A little over a month ago, T.H.E.M. begun bringing on people from the local scene who continually questioned the status quo. It led to a monthly dialogue on what could change in Houston and why things hadn’t changed. Traditional radio still dominates the city, almost in ways that they don’t in other large markets. With the constant shift towards what’s on the playlist versus who’s actually making waves, traditional radio continues to rely on brief moments of change. There’s always discussion yet no action afterwards.

Podcasts have essentially eaten away at what traditional radio started. For them, it’s not necessarily about the music, the playlist that routinely plays four different Drake songs within an hour or Kevin Gates’ “Really Really”. Instead, its about the people who make the music. The musicians, the DJs and other parts that make Houston special. Even if the outsiders decide to play the city as a locale that is short-sighted and held back to a “sound” from a decade ago, there are those within who will forever challenge that notion. The conversations about Houston’s music scene, from those in positions of perceived power to those striving to reach those perches are going to still happen.

Instead of happening on Twitter or Facebook, they’re inching closer to being heard on a daily basis to a point where you can’t ignore them for much longer.


DANTE HIGGINS, “Netflix & Chill”

On the title alone, you’d think “Netflix & Chill” would be Dante Higgins slowing down his supernova rap style to what he gave us on “Prom Dress”. Instead he and Charity EVaughn revisit some of the King Pen soul for even more bars from his recently released Three IV Three EP. “I don’t wanna die while throwin’ ones at a big butt,” Higgins says on the record featuring M.A.C. of Undergravity. In other words, Hig’s idea of chill is making it from one day to the next.

DELOREAN, “Better Stay Local”

Even if DeLo finds his way to money dance in certain cities in the Deep South, he still recognizes home. And loves what home represents. “Better Stay Local” is a middle finger to the crowd that jumps away from Houston’s tried and true gumbo of funk and instead parlay in a world where being from everywhere ultimately means you’re from nowhere.

LIL KEKE, “Brett Favre”

“I been here since day one, niggas know me,” should be written on Lil Keke’s tombstone. The man who literally gave Houston some 58 percent of its slang has another Album Before The Album coming. Hearing him sound energized as hell for even a loosie like “Brett Favre” is a victory for the old Screw heads & the generation that came after.

SVN’s Second Sunday is a pretty excellent tape and we’ll dig into it more next week. After “9000 Bissonnet”, it was clear he sought middle ground between the streets and a little sunshine. “All My Life” is the strongest representation of this with Mustafa Enzor creating a drowned out wash of riding music for SVN and his crew from Amaru TMN to Julian Outlaw to reflect and coast out. Also, it may have the year’s most perfect chorus.

YVES, “The Spook Who Sat By The Door”

Keep reminding people Yves can rap, more people will recognize and love it. Based on Sam Greenlee’s book of the same name, Yves discusses black disenfranchisement and the fear of a knowable black man on “The Spook Who Sat By The Door”. In less than three minutes, Yves ties himself and the plight of the black man, whether it be by association with certain leaders or even believed. He’s no longer Helen Keller to the bullshit.

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