How Two White New Yorkers Created the Ultimate Portrait of Houston Rap

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"Growing up outside of Houston in the early '90s, I was really attracted or mystified by a lot of the early Rap-A-Lot artists, like the Geto Boys and Ganksta N-I-P, Point Blank and people like that," Beste says. "And then years later, I started photography at St. Edwards University in Austin, and they had a strong emphasis on documentary photography. And that's really what spoke to me in terms of photography; I guess my interest in Houston rap came back up in those years, and it just seemed like the perfect documentary project."

Beste began working on the book in 2004, beginning with pictures of H-town O.G.s K-Rino and Street Military. The more he shot, the more stories he heard. A rich narrative began to emerge of the evolution of Houston hip-hop, and that's when Beste gave Walker a call.

"Maybe six months in, he came to me and he said, 'Hey, this is more than just pictures. You need to come in, you need to write this, you need to interview people, you need to create a narrative,'" Walker says. "It was always going to be a book; that was always his idea. That was what we began to pursue early on: not really knowing, narrative-wise, exactly what direction it would take, but knowing there was a lot of story there."

Though they grew up on different sides of the city -- Beste on the area's northern edge and Walker down in Galveston -- their introduction to Houston rap came the same way as it did for most young people in the early '90s: through the Geto Boys.

"I was in 7th grade in 1991; I remember vividly," says Beste. "I was kicked out of the classroom for acting up; I can't remember what I did. There was another kid out there in the hallway; we were both acting up. And he took out the Geto Boys tape. This was in '91, the tape with the four mugshots on the front. He said, 'Hey, you gotta check this out.'"

"At the time, I was into N.W.A. and Eazy-E and other stuff, but here are guys from my own town doing this, and it seemed like the real deal," he continues. "I wasn't necessarily a hip-hop head; I listened to all kinds of music, mostly punk rock and hardcore at that time. But for some reason, was really attracted by these local artists who had a sound that was really original and were taking it to a whole new level."

For Walker, the story is much the same.

"I remember people in Galveston were listening to the Geto Boys in 1987-88, whenever the song 'Assassins' came out with that early lineup of the Ghetto Boys," he says. "That was the first thing that I remember hearing. I was listening to Kurtis Blow, UTFO and the Fat Boys and all that early stuff, but then I got into punk rock and kind of would just listen to rap here and there. So, my introduction to the deeper part of it really didn't come until Peter introduced me to the project and I started really looking into stuff."

Story continues on the next page.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith