Dante Higgins, Doughbeezy, The Monster, Delo, O.N.E., Overdose, Leo Solomon Midtown Lounge February 16, 2011
10:11 p.m.: Walking in, Doughbeezy and The Monster are out front saying things into a video camera. Those two run together apparently, which is pretty much a perfect pairing. You've got the diminutive motor-mouth little brother and the What, Mother Fucker!? big brother. Things rarely work out so poetically.
10:23: Rapper O.N.E. is wandering around touching hands with people. He's performing tonight. The last time we saw him live he was tough stuff.
10:32: If your legs look like oak tree stumps, maybe you leave that mini-skirt on the rack? And maybe you get some better friends?
10:34: The show tonight is being hosted tonight by a local comedian named Ken 2 the Fool. It appears that he is sponsored by Adidas.
10:41: "Make some noise if you ain't got AIDS!" Cool, cool.
10:46: Ken 2 enjoys hearing himself talk. He introduces the first act, a singer named Jason Walker who goes by Leo Solomon (that might be the first time someone adopted a stage name that was equally as innocuous as the original), then continues to chat it up for a good two minutes. Solomon shrugs after several seconds then walks off stage and waits 'til Ken 2 is finished.
10:51: Whoa. Leo Solomon Who's Really Jason Walker is good. He's a bit of that poppy R&B. One of the songs he does flips a sample from television show Living Single and references Trae and Z-Ro. Several people with brightly colored drinks sway in the air in approval.
10:51:04: By the way, why is there such a preponderance of red and pink drinks at mostly black events? Has that ever been addressed?
10:57: O.N.E. is next up. He opens with an a cappella, which is one of his go-to moves. He's especially tough to corral when he's allowed to roam without any form of predestined iambic pentameter. Tonight is no different.
10:59: The guy from R.I.S.E. DVD is here. He's cool because he wears a mechanic's shirt and church shoes.
11:07: Despite some issues with the microphone cutting out, O.N.E. gives a solid performance. His reward: Ken 2 the Fool making fun of his track jacket.
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11:09: Ken 2 introduces Doughbeezy as the next performer and a gaggle of girls rush the stage screaming. Cool stuff. Except the next act is a rapper named Overdose, not Beezy. Whoops.
The conundrum is immediately clear: Will the girls who clearly came to see Beezy stay at their post at the front of the stage (they're currently the only ones there), or will they retreat back to their table and leave poor Mr. Dose to fend for himself?
11:09:04: So, the girls are back the table...
11:15: Overdose is a serviceable rapper, but he had quite a bit of his wind sapped by the mistaken identity. These are the perils of being booked around The Beez. Rap is a tough job.
11:21: Doughbeezy's up now for real, and he brought a drummer, keyboardist and bass player with him. The tables that were near the stage have been moved to the back and the onlookers have mostly all pushed their way forward. What the shit is going on right now? The energy is already palpable.
11:25: Holy Christ. The band is floating in and out of songs as they please with no breaks in between, the crowd is going yo-yo, The Beez is going yo-yo; he is not dicking around. He hits a couple of songs from his EP and more than a few people know the words.
His star has really shot up towards the cosmos since we first saw him perform at Kickback Sunday in January. This is kind of bananas. It's official: Doughbeezy is the baddest man in Houston wearing a size 6 and a half shoe.
11:29: And there's the first New Houston/Old Houston mention of the evening. It took longer than we were anticipating.
For the unaware, there are multiple brewing subplots that have followed the sudden influx of talented local rappers. A quick summation: There have been two main complaints lobbed towards the new guys, and they've both somehow been leeched from the fact that they have unofficially been dubbed "New Houston."
The first issue is that since there is a name, some people have erroneously concluded that there's an implied exclusionary aspect to the designation, which is entirely incorrect. And the second issue is that if they're "new," then the ones that came before them are, by transitive logic, "old," which would imply that they're defunct and irrelevant and unhip.
This, as it is, is entirely incorrect too. Still, you'll hear plenty more about this in the future, for certain. This debate is going nowhere.
11:31: Oh shit. The Monster has just come sauntering onstage to join Beezy. You have to love guys that saunter.
11:31:04: Man, The Monster's hands are huge; nay, they're HUGE. He holds the microphone like it's a tiny breadstick. He might break your wrists clean in two if he ever decided to high-five you.
11:32: Set's over. Even the sarcastic Ken 2 the Fool is left without words, he simply grabs Beezy's hand and raises it in the air like a prize fighter. Great show. Fuck it, that's it, we're getting a ball fade.
11:38: Oh snap. Delo, one of the upper echelon New Houston sirs, is doing an impromptu two-song set. He starts off with that boom-bap track he favors, stalking around the stage with uncommon rage in his eyes, periodically shouting "AHHHHH!!!!" at nothing in particular. He has a proper set coming up when he opens for Nipsey Hussle in March. Go to that show.
11:44: Propain is here. The three times that we've seen him out he's been wearing one of those puffy bubble vests. There has to be something to that. It can't be coincidence. Nobody likes those vests that much, right? Propain is a paradox.
11:48: There's a black girl dressed in all red at the bar near the restroom. She looks like a chocolate covered strawberry. Awesome.
11:54: Why would anyone ever want to work out that muscle that's in between your shoulder and your neck so that it's all big and bulging? Gross. That shit looks like a mountain range.
12:00: Dante Higgins is up. If you've yet to hear him, please do so. He is wonderful, preternaturally gifted at narration. And he works at a remarkable clip. Rhymes For Weeks is, like, the fifth mixtape he's released this week.
12:04: He's just pulled femme rapper Tawn P. up on stage to perform a song with him from the new tape. They make an interesting duo. Curious to see if she can keep up.
12:06: Okay, Tawn P kinda just lost her mind on her verse. Well done, ma'am. You are officially on the radar.
10:08: A day or so ago Higgins and Doughbeezy sent out their joint take on Kanye and Jay's "H.A.M." and their fan bases went crazy for it. They're doing it now. And the crowd is not displeased.
12:14: Hig's slowed it down some, stepping into the storyteller mode he almost always crushes. He's talking about a woman that broke his heart. The only things he talks about more earnestly are his mother (whom he adores) and his father (whom he doesn't know). It's hard to listen to him when he's absolutely focused and not think that he's marvelous.
12:19: He finishes with his swing at J. Cole's "Blow Up," which is a clever (and auspicious) way to end things. Save the two hashmark lines ("Cause after that, I swear it's goin' down; prom night," etc.), it's a furious three minutes of rap.
Towards the end of the song, the crowd catches onto the cadence and fills in the end of each bar with that "UUUHHHHH!!!" sound that crowds make at rap shows when someone's grabbed their attention fully. The room is throbbing. The music stops and the cheers start.
Ken 2, again allowing the positivity of the moment to completely develop, simply grabs Higgins and hugs him. He's probably about to sell a shit-ton of his CDs. Good stuff. Somebody's probably on Twitter right now saying something about how history was just made. Hyperbole is fun.
Personal Bias: Higgins is one of maybe two or three Houston rappers who can always make a skit on album entertaining. It's to the point now where we almost hope they're on there.
The Crowd: Enjoyed themselves.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "Buy me one, buy me one," said the girl to the guy in re: Higgins' CD immediately after the show.
Random Notebook Dump: If you can get yourself fat enough, the back of your head can take on a profile just as distinct as the front.