Trae Day Northwest Mall July 22, 2010
3:36 p.m.: Some dark, menacing clouds are off in the horizon. After everything that's happened this past year - the ban, the last-minute venue cancellation, etc - is there any way that it won't rain today? It sort of has to, right? Maybe it represents some sort of figurative cleansing, a washing away of all of the dirty things that have happened. Or maybe Trae just has terrible luck? Let's go with the first one.
3:48: In addition to the Ferris wheel, jumpy houses, inflatable rock-climbing wall and train available for free today, they're also doing immunizations. Nice. Hey, son. You wanna ride a ferris wheel today?! "YEAH!" And then bounce in a jumpy house?! "YEAH!" And then climb a rock wall?! "YEAH!" And then ride a train?! "YEAH!" And then get your annual immunizations?! "YEAH! Wait. What? Fuck."
3:48:04: By the way, have you ever looked at a Ferris wheel that was set up in a parking lot and thought, "Yeah, that looks safe, that looks like something I want to get in"?
4:01: Ewww. There's a guy here who has a tattoo on his neck of what appear to be lips, only it's not a very good tattoo, so it looks more like ringworm. Tattoos are one of those things where you should probably just fork over the money to make sure it's right.
4:18: The two most interesting subplots for the day:
1. Given the way last year's Trae Day ended, people are going to measure the success of this one by whether or not somebody gets shot. And that's totally weird. Imagine dating a really attractive girl that just got out of an abusive relationship. It's kind of like that. As long as you don't bash her face in, she's gonna think you're great. You don't have to open doors for her or tell her nice things, you just have to not beat the shit out of her. "Did Somebody Get Shot?" is an extremely low success indicator for an event with such grand potential. We're not sure the gap between the two has ever been so wide.
2. This absolutely can not end in any sort of violence. If it does, it very well will alter not only the future of all the forthcoming Trae Days, but also Trae's career. He's still feeling the effect of the fallout from last year. Double that, and it's an unenviable amount of dirt to shovel away.
4:21: Kuntry Boy DJ is performing. He's a very screamy fellow.
4:30: Another opening act is on stage now. He's a tiny, tiny fellow with long, long braids (or dreads). It's probably not a good sign for your Tough Rapper Credibility if the first thing we think about when we see you get on stage is how we need to make sure and re-enroll our sons in their Gymboree class.
4:32: He gets to performing some song about girls hopping up on his dick like a bunny and one of the guys that's been playing MC cuts it off immediately. He tells everyone that if they don't have any clean songs, or presumably at least songs that don't involve dicks and bunnies, that they can't perform. Great move. Love to see that.
4:53: And there's the rain.
4:53:04: You know what's funny about rain in this situation? Since the event is being held in a parking lot, there is absolutely nowhere to go (other than a small media tent behind the stage) to shelter yourself when it starts. As soon as the rain starts coming down, people get this panicked look, do a quick look around, realize there's nothing to be done, then just stand there defeated. It's like when your girlfriend walks in on you looking at porn.
4:57: J. Prince Jr. is back in the media tent. What do you think it's like to be the son of J. Prince, arguably the most intimidating figure in Houston? Could you ever step out of line? How many times growing up do you think Jr.'s friends were trying to get him to cut class or get high and Jr. was like, "Nah, no thanks. My dad'll kill me. No, no, no. You don't understand. He will literally kill me."
5:01: When we were out at Paul Wall's meet-and-greet about a week or two ago, we met Sama'an Ashrawi, a UT student who's been put in charge of reviving their hip-hop TV show. He's here too. And his hair is glamorous.
5:31: Okay, so there's this girl walking around in a tiny vest, but it's kind of confusing because she's overweight, so maybe it's a normal-sized vest? It's like an optical illusion or something.
5:44: Horseman Records is one of the sponsors today. The guy that runs it is nicknamed "Horse." Is there any way that a guy that can be introduced to you as "Horse" and you not automatically think about his penis?
5:50: Brandi Garcia is milling around backstage. She's more popular than you'd expect. A lot of people ask to take pictures with her.
5:52: Yuck. That energy drink Venom is disgusting. That probably shouldn't have been a surprise, though.
6:08: The crowd is starting to get a little restless with the opening acts. Have you ever gone on a date with a girl you didn't really like but you went because you were 100 percent sure the night was going to end in sex? She might've been a nice enough person, but really you just wanted to get to the end when all of the good stuff is going to happen? But she kept taking her sweet time through dinner so you started huffing and puffing a bit and making that, "Come On, Just Finish Your Arby's Already So We Can Get To The House" face. That's the face the crowd is making right now.
6:16: Yung Quis has resuscitated the crowd a bit. He's good. He should maybe consider putting out some new music soon.
6:19: There's this line of candy-painted cars towards the rear of the parking lot all lined up next to each other. They all have their trunks open so as to display their speakers and whatnot. One car has a florescent light hanging in there that reads, "Stop Hattin'." He either meant for it say to "Stop Hatin'," or he feels really strongly about people placing hats on other people's heads. Either way, he comes out a winner in the Unintentionally Funny contest.
6:21: There's a hippie painter (white guy, dreadlocks) on stage right now. He appears to be painting a large portrait of someone. Cool, cool.
6:26: Johnny Dang is on the stage. They're playing that song from Paul Wall's new album that he has a verse on. The universe is spinning out of control right now.
6:26:04: By the way, did you know that Johnny came here from Vietnam in the '90s? And that his now famous jewelry business started as a watch repair shop at a flea market. Respect.
6:28: Troublesum is performing. Why is nobody talking about how Houston all of sudden has four or five female MCs worth paying attention to?
6:30: You know how thugs like to bring their pitbulls to these types of events? There's a white guy here with a labrador retriever. We might have to have a recount the votes for the Unintentionally Funny award.
6:36: The rain is really, really heavy right now. Still on stage though: the hippie painter. Hippie painters are fuckin' weather thugs.
6:40: Trae is here.
6:50: Kind of a contradiction: Thugs with umbrellas. You're either a tough guy, or you're a guy concerned about getting your hair wet. You can't be both.
6:57: Possibly the best moment of the day: two kids absolutely geeked over the new pull string Jordan brand backpacks they just got. They're all smiles. It's like they were filled with money or something.
7:00: Trae is onstage now. The crowd is amped. He gets to talking about how Trae Day is for the kids and that people need to respect that. He breaks into his verse from the "O' Let's Do It" remix, the crowd goes yo-yo, then the sound cuts off. Somehow the power cord got unplugged. Is J-Mac running around backstage?
7:15: Some of the guys from Young Money are on stage. They're tiny too. Maybe Young Money has a junior department or something? Younger Money, perhaps?
7:23: Trae's performing "Still Throwed" from ABN's It Is What It Is album. You know, "No Help" is the default answer for the "What's the best song Trae and Ro ever did together?" question, but what about this song? It's pretty excellent. The hook is airtight. It pays homage to UGK. And both guys deliver "I Can't Let This Guy Steal This Song" verses. "Miss My Dawg" gets a ton of love. And "Still Gets No Love" is a classic. But "Still Throwed," that might be the most underrated Trae and Ro song of all time.
7:41: There were a ton of reasons why Trae Day 2010 should have either 1) never happened; or 2) been a disaster. But hope prevailed. There was no violence. No disrespect. Lots of smiles. And an endless amount of goodwill. Good showing.
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Personal Bias: My wife, who is as much a fan of rap as Chris Hansen is of child predators, said of Trae after meeting him once at SHAPE Community Center: "It seems like he has really sincere intentions."
The Crowd: Didn't seem concerned at all about what happened last year at Trae Day.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I don't eat pork. Just bacon."
Random Notebook Dump: Trae and his camp had what appeared to be a few thousand copies of the recent Houston Press cover story on him printed up and distributed.