Screwston, Texas

Is O.N.E. Becoming a Houston Rap Folk Hero?

There's a scene in 1997's Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon is talking to Robin Williams about getting beaten as a child. He tells Williams that his foster dad used to lay out things on a table (wrench, belt, etc) and ask which one he wanted to be hit with. Damon said he always chose the wrench. When Williams asked him why, Damon responded, "Because fuck him, that's why." It was an exercise against tyranny.

O.N.E. has received no shortage of compliments here at Rocks Off. He has been billed as "smart" (occasionally too smart for his own good) and "clever" (also occasionally too much for his own good), compared to scientists (John Holland) and championed for his unwavering dedication to extrapolating rap material from semi-bizarre inspirations (socioeconomic constructs, agathist paradigms, etc). It's a tactic that has earned him more respect than fans, a fact that he's seemed to embrace -- or, at the very least, accept.

So when he started promo-ing last year, saying that his forthcoming album was going to be his most substantial to date, everyone understood that it could only mean one of two things: He was either a) going to abandon his traditionally brainy premise, flex his wit less and his libido more, and try and score a single that might gain traction outside of his small circle of devoted fans; or b) turn everything that he was already doing up, appeasing his fans and potentially alienating new listeners.

O.N.E. chose the wrench.

On Spirit Driven, the aforementioned forthcoming album, he pushes each of the latter attributes to louder volumes, unwavering in his refusal to amuse anyone or anything other than his own brain.

There are no sing-song tracks, no ready-made club hits, no please-pay-attention-to-me pleas; in fact, he spends the entirety of the tape doing nearly the exact opposite. Which is why it's time to legitimately a premise: Is O.N.E. becoming a Houston rap folk hero?


Folk Hero Characteristic: "Although some folk heroes are historical public figures, they generally are not."

O.N.E. Characteristic: O.N.E., rapper and brother to prominent promoter Kane, can obliquely be considered a public figure but generally he is not. Easy enough.

Folk Hero Characteristic: "Because the lives of folk heroes are generally not based on historical documents, the characteristics and deeds of a folk hero are often exaggerated to mythic proportions."

O.N.E. Characteristic: In performance, O.N.E.'s emotions are exaggerated and extra grandiose, built for stage plays and mass consumption. "Did you see him at the end of that one song? HE LOOKED LIKE HE WAS ABOUT TO CRY," people probably say at his shows.

I saw him stare at stage lights for a good thirty seconds after he performed a song once. I thought about that moment for two days, telling anyone who would listen about it. By the end of the second, the time length grew to four minutes and included him breaking down onstage in front of everyone. That's how that shit works, man.

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Shea Serrano