Dante Higgins, Undergravity, etc. Warehouse Live January 3, 2013
New Year's resolutions are all about making a point to do something your lazy ass should have been doing for years already. For me, that means digging into some of the "New Houston" rap artists that I've been mostly ignoring since the movement's emergence. After reading plenty about the city's youngest generation of rappers on Rocks Off and elsewhere, I was starting to feel like I was seriously missing out.
But with a new year come new opportunities, and I didn't have to wait long to get my feet wet. Dante Higgins released Rhymes for Months: Trillogy, one of Houston's best mixtapes of the year, back in November, and Thursday night brought the new songs with him to the Warehouse Live studio.
Higgins brought plenty of friends with him, too. Not just the gaggle of young Texas rappers who shared the stage with him -- which included Young Scotty, Roy O, Fly Boy OT and C-Stone -- but enough dedicated fans of the distinctly modern hip-hop on display to fill the room nicely.
Looking at the crowd, it wasn't clear that Higgins and pals have entirely broken out of Third Ward and the city's other traditional rap hotbeds just yet. The audience was nearly all African-American, quite a bit less diverse than the crowds at shows by many of the more established local rap veterans. Not that there's anything wrong with that, naturally, but it stood out, especially compared to the Devin the Dude audience at Warehouse a few weeks back.
Of all the acts on the undercard, Undergravity seemed to have the best chance to break through. Perhaps not coincidentally, the duo favors a throwback style of Houston rap that would fit right in alongside the Southside superstars of yore. The highlight of their set was "Some Moe Funk" from last year's Underdawgs From Undergravity EP.
I happen to be in favor of any and all attempts to insert Big Moe into new music, so it was nice to hear the late rapper's familiar baritone on the song's hook. Some of us will never tire of tunes about stackin' green and sippin' codeine, and we can evidently count Undergravity among our number. More, please.
Undergravity received the most enthusiastic crowd response of any of the openers, but the love was oddly muted all night. Rappers would get onstage and pound out witty, lyrical, well-rehearsed verses to an apparently rapt audience, but when each song ended, nobody clapped.
No whistling, no "shyeahs," no nothing. Somebody would sort of start to half-clap and then quit immediately when nobody joined in. Applauding is apparently really, incredibly square now, so be sure not to accidentally clap at the next show you attend unless you want to look like a total simp. You're welcome.
Each of the night's acts ran through short, sharp sets with very little space in between them, and Dante Higgins was no different. The athletic rapper wasted precious little of his stage time on chit-chat, preferring instead to keep the crowd's collective heart rate up by burning through bar after bar.
The best bits of his performance came from Rhymes for Months, including a triple stack of the title track, "Hell Yeah" and "Hennessey." "Hell" had the Hig Headz up front shouting along to every word as Higgins himself bounded from one side of the stage to the other.
"Hennessy" was a bit more to my taste. (Pretty sure that's a first.) Over a relaxed, bouncy beat, Higgins spat out an amusing, laid-back tale of a day off ruined by drink that managed to honor the style of his Houston rap forebears without emulating it. He also managed to shout-out Skip Bayless on the track, which would have been pretty great even if the song sucked.
After "Hennessey" pricked my ears up, the rest of relatively short set seemed to fly by far too quickly. Higgins celebrated his own apparent ascendency with "Blow Up" from his Rhymes for Weeks mixtape, thanked the crowd and bounced. Once again, the audience didn't really clap or holler or make any other outward display of appreciation. We all just sort of looked at one another and started shuffling towards the door or the bar.
Maybe it only seemed weird because I hadn't known what to expect. "New Houston" is still new to me. Dante Higgins' clever, nimble flow has me feeling pretty good about that resolution, though. Sure beats quitting smoking.
Personal Bias: Curious outsider.
The Crowd: Third Ward in the building. Lot of snapbacks.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Schaub done got us fucked up, mayne. I mean... what?"
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Random Notebook Dump: Fly Boy OT and friends made it drizzle in the club by tossing out a bunch of $1 bills. Some of us were too cool to pick them up. Some of us weren't.