If we had to pick one song to define the decade, we'd have to choose "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," by Three 6 Mafia.
It was a hard decade for the people of this country. You had September 11, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis. We even think Obama might want to throw his presidential election into the mix, considering the unexpected rage that came with the change you were supposed to believe in.
This Rocks Off writer saw one of those turning points up close in 9/11, and we feel the elections of George W. Bush should probably be thrown into the bag of tragedy, since we had to live through one-and-a-half of those presidential terms in our nation's capitol as a die-hard Democrat. Oh, and don't forget the Washington, DC sniper who picked off people at random while they filled up their gas tanks.
Ever seen a person pump gas while under his car? We called it "sniper yoga."
It was definitely hard out there for this Rocks Off pimp. The one thing that gave us some refuge from the stressful times was Houston gangsta rap, courtesy of those Nawfside and Ingrando Park villains, who love to spit gutter music that make small children cry.
It sure scared the hell out of those stuffy Capitol Hill staffers as we crept along Constitution Avenue in our Toyota Corolla on ridiculous chrome rims worth more than the vehicle we were driving. Imagine a congressional chief of staff about to walk into the halls of Congress being interrupted by a speaker blaring Lucky Luciano declaring, "Bitch, I'm out tha' Nawf!"
The other day we were sitting in our car, daydreaming about those fond memories. We gazed at our car radio's six-CD changer, thinking about the early days of the decade that defined our twenties. And we came up with an interesting experiment. We wondered what we'd do if we had to pick six mix-tapes and/or albums from the decade's Latino rap catalog to hold our CD player hostage for the rest of our life.
We have a six-part answer to the hypothetical question:
Tango Blast, Lil Bing
Tango Blast by Southeast's Lil Bing, currently serving a life-sentence for murder, personified the shirtless, tatted-up, lean-sippin', grilled-up Meskin from the hardest streets of H-Town. Bing had a nut-grabbin', mean-muggin' swagger that came through in his lyrical delivery. Tango Blast goes hard as hell and is also serving somewhat of a life-sentence, convicted of a being a street classic forever. Memorable tracks: seriously, all of them. But we warn you; "Actin Bad" featuring Grimm and Shadow and "I-45" are two tracks you'll put on repeat. Don't get incarcerated by them.
Never Change, SPM
The consummate cultural chronicler, SPM softened the hard, sharp edges of Latino life in the Houston ghetto, as he captured in words the struggles of Mexican-American youth in Hustle Town. He brought sympathy and understanding to a community trapped between two cultures but not valued by either. Memorable Tracks: In Never Change, "Bloody War" is something of a beautiful musical contradiction as he sings about ending someone's life. You usually rap that kind of stuff. "Mexican Radio" and "I Must Be High" - do we really have to write it - will forever live in the trunks of SPM fans.
Reppin' My Block - The Mix Tape, Rob G
This was a refreshing, crisp and high-quality production by Rob G. If this is the future of Houston's Latino rap, hand us some sunglasses because the future is bright. You can't leave the decade without Reppin'. Here are some featured reasons: Chamillionare, Killa Kyleon, ESG and Big Pokey. Memorable tracks: "How Ya Like Me Now" featuring Big Pokey and "Road to Success"- yeah, Rob G's on it.
Pimps Up Hoez Down, Lucky Luciano
For a Meskin rolling in a run-down Corolla, bumpin' chest-poundin' flow about lavish habits, like second-floor swimming pools, is a must; otherwise, what do you have to work toward? Pimps Up Hoez Down is classic Lucky packaging and repackaging money, hoes, cars, clothes, hoes, money, clothes and cars over and over on some sick beats. Get us a get-well-soon card, Lucky, "'cuz you know we sick." True Lucky fans know what we are referring to.
NAWF II, Stunta Man, Coast, Lucky Luciano
NAWF II is the definition of plastic crack -- CDs fans are addicted to listening. All over Houston you've got plastic crack fiends going through withdrawal because they need to inhale more of that NAWF mix-tape series. We don't blame them. NAWF II with Stunta, Coast and Lucky Luciano is that CD you pop in on a sluggish Monday in order to send you into the week feeling like a world champion. It'll literally flip-flop your mood. The three northside rap artists are legendary together. Their styles complement each other beautifully. We haven't seen a more perfect trio since Three's Company. Yo, Stunta, Coast and Lucky, what are ya'll waiting for? You got us singing Amy Winehouse in the hood... "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'" Memorable tracks: see Tango Blast. Just pop it in and let the CD player do the rest.
When Devils Strike, SPM
This one makes it on pure principle. How could we not include When Devils Strike, the most anticipated album of 2006 among Latino rap fans, which was released while SPM was in the infancy of his 45-year prison sentence? More than proving to be a classic, it demonstrated the strength of the Latino rap consumer market. It debuted on Billboard's Top Selling Rap Albums at No. 6, above Outcast, Unk, Young Joc and Daz. It was No. 2 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums list. "In My Hood" holds down the whole album, and the song has become an anthem that holds down an entire city of Meskins.
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Looking back at the decade, two of the six Latino rappers spearheading this list are locked up for practically forever. Go ahead and drop that fact into our bag of tragedy.
Now put the seat back and hit "shuffle." Let's remember, but let's also move on. A bright future in the form of a new decade is ahead of us. Let's get out of here. We're no longer riding dirty in a Corolla. In 2010, we are looking clean in an Infiniti G35 that's blacker than sin.
On your mark... get set... Coast!
Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. You can email him at Rolando@redbrownandblue.com.