New Houston Rap

The Twin Poles of KDOGG's Trap and Rap Lives

KDOGG in the trailer for Commissary and Obituaries
KDOGG in the trailer for Commissary and Obituaries YouTube
KDOGG in the trailer for Commissary and Obituaries - YOUTUBE
KDOGG in the trailer for Commissary and Obituaries
The greatest Houston-centric “hood” film is called The Dirty 3rd. Released and dedicated to the memory of Fat Pat, the film can be seen on YouTube and features E.S.G., the Screwed Up Click, DJ Screw, South Park Mexican and more. If it feels like a movie that came out between 1998 and ’99, thanks to everything from the cinematography to E.S.G. single-handedly telling the camera he would switch hands while on a phone conversation to slap someone, then that would be correct. It’s an oft-forgotten classic in the land of Houston-related movies, created in a vein similar to Cash Money’s Baller Blockin’, while not nearly as impactful as Master P’s I’m Bout It, probably the best film financed directly by a rapper.

Where those stories are in part fabricated for the big screen, KDOGG’s unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your need for the truth) matches up with reality. He’s the skinny hard-head from the Headwreckas camp that for some reason or another finds himself moving in silence. To think, it's been almost five full years since we've discussed KDOGG as something close to a rapper on the verge. Even if the Headwreckas have adjusted to life roles and different scenarios, KDOGG still presses forward. He's like a starved animal in that way, the small patch of gray in his hair a symbol of both stress and wisdom.

For every day he spent in a college classroom, very little of it matters when it comes to survival — or out-rapping people.“I am too Houston to go Hollywood,” he says often. The Northside is too buried in his blood to change course. His demeanor is often stoic, a unlit cigarette nearby as his eyes constantly dart around looking for the right thing to say. Or better yet, the most appropriate thing to not set anybody off. “I ain't bullshittin’,” he’ll often tell you. “I got a team of the best rappers in the city with me. I gotta win, too.”

Winning for KDOGG means separation. There are plenty of street rappers in Houston, on both sides of the gender spectrum. Only KDOGG, who could be a mirror image of a young Bobby Brown if he wanted to, contains the thin razor-wire rasp and kleptomaniac personality type to bowl people over. His "Alias" series has decidedly traded pun-filled names of celebrities for punch lines about street hardships, petty gang bullshit and stomps of bravado. “These rappers give me a headache, I need a Tylenol,” he raps on Alias 2’s “Bredrick Douglass 3.” “I ain’t the Champ but I carry the title, on the same arm I carry my rifle. I only fuck with niggas that be killin’ that shit.”

Commissary and Obituaries attempts not only to accomplish what The Dirty 3rd did nearly 18 years ago as a short film, it tries to pull off a more linear narrative than Doughbeezy & Q.Guyton’s Cold Summer project of a year ago. While Q’s film did its absolute best to make everyone part of a wild-ass action flick, Commissary and Obituaries settles for a simple plot. KDOGG is pushing merchandise, CDs, T-shirts and more. Police officers, as in every hood noir flick, believe KDOGG is selling drugs (which he is, but that's beside the point). Associates get pulled over, harassed and more. KDOGG and his crew have to outsmart not only the cops but everyone trying to bring him down. Tying together the narrative are five records from the EP itself, one featuring Doughbeezy, another with Rob Gullatte and two with KAB Tha Don, the lone Headwreckas member whose physical measurements carry the same feel as KDOGG’s raps.

“We in the trap and I don't know what to do,” KDOGG sings near the end of the film. One last re-up keeps both men up at night before KAB’s voice sums it all up: “The trap keep a nigga trapped and it never fail.”

There is no happy ending to the film, directed by Lil Justin. Whether it was dreamt about in Beaumont or under the starry skies near 45, Commissary and Obituaries ends with KDOGG twisting his voice in mourning. "Everybody gon' stick around for the steak and champagne/ But nowhere to be found for the sandwiches and Kool-Aid, you know?" he says. "Some of this shit is unavoidable. Some of this shit is unafforable."  Traumatic and stressed, “Trap Paranoia” is the fitting conclusion to all of this. If KDOGG doesn't make it, he has an even more troublesome life to fall back on. He doesn't want it to go that far, yet it never feels like he's too certain if it won't.


Dante Higgins, “Screw You”
“I’m more original than a true story,” Dante Higgins says on “Screw You,” with the same line of poetic questioning that made his “Black Lives Matter” a launching point for a wide number of socially aware rap songs (and recently) tapes. “Screw You” is pointed again at Houston, both for allowing the city to have its culture hijacked while also leeching off of others. Pissed-off Dante Higgins is probably the second-best Dante Higgins following Storytelling Dante Higgins.

Envy Hunter feat. C-Struggs and Mayalino, “Still On It”
Max Romero’s “Chase the Devil” got flipped into Jay Z’s “Lucifer,” a tale about testing the possibility of death. Envy Hunter, the Northsider who bets big on the Cowboys, gets one of Dallas’s heaviest rhymers in C-Struggs and Mayalino to double cup it up to take the edge off. The pianos and woodwinds make holding a pistol in your lap feel like an island night on Kemah. Envy Hunter’s general deposition? Nowhere near as relaxed.

Fat Tony, “Drive-Thru”

See, a much happier Fat Tony can tell you about his favorite fast food, Whataburger, while putting down all other pretenders. Viral stars such as Brandon Wardell dance and show off for “Drive-Thru,” the best Fat Tony-related song about food since “U Ain’t Fat.” Give us a Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich, please, and thanks.

Lil Rarri, “Pepsi”
While the cola company is not having one of the greatest months in recent PR history, Lil Rarri is going against the grain. “Pepsi” winds up with an avalanche of xylophones and swamped-out drums for Lil Rarri to sound sleepy, yet engaged as can be. Regardless of how aggressive the second verse is, he remains focused on maximizing on the minimal. “Busta Rhyme like I’m Flipmode,” he says with a clever readiness in his voice. “Used to pull up Chevy now its foreign like Andretti.”

Mike Checc feat. King Khayno and YGN Tadoe, “Recollect”
A catchy melody and murderous bass drums make any record feel bigger than King Kong. Mike Checc’s “Recollect” tries to feel like a warning, but its door-chime template, combined with hard threats, makes it appear far warmer than usual.

Trakksounds feat. Maxo Kream & Xavier Wulf, “Bout It”
This was over the moment Trakksounds sampled those long-ass strings from Master P’s “Bout It” and Maxo jumped on it as if he were about to pilot the No Limit Tank his damn self. By the way, everything Maxo does here, from sleeping with your woman to his usual marauding with drugs, guns and mayhem, is touch-perfect. We cannot wait for The Other Side to land on Tuesday.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell