Houston Music

Le$ Might Have Made a Classic With 'Steak X Shrimp Vol. 2'

Sometime around E36, Le$ found his groove. Rap critics had long lobbed his style to be something close to “cloud rap” when it was really him running with a lifestyle. An authentic one. He may have rapped with a light rasp, but he was tough and he could be comically relatable talking about Whataburger, Zebra cakes, loving certain cars, the best strains of weed and beautiful women. Le$ rapped as if he were the most ideal, dream-like rap fantasy on your bedroom wall.

Only instead of caviar and four-course meals with French cooks, it was eating the same food and doing the same things you do. For all the super-gangsters who exist in Houston rap (Maxo Kream, Sauce Twinz, etc.), Le$ is just calmly outside that ecosystem. He's' the one who knows all the gangsters and their moves but is just fine being at home or enjoying life behind the wheel of his Caddy.

Le$’s team is rather astute; they know his game and appeal to a mass audience. There’s Jorgey Films, the absolute perfect director to handle the visual aspect. There’s also Curren$y, who’s a literal master of being relatable and successful as a figurehead and label boss. He can still lean on Slim Thug from time to time to drop Joel Osteen-ready gems. But all that was missing without was a signature sound, one that mixed together that synth-heavy, elbow-you-out-the-way, drum-populist sound of Houston yesterday and today, plus the occasional pimpstastic soul sample.

That’s where Happy Perez comes in. A noted veteran du jour, Perez adds to Le$ what DJ Mr. Rogers already started and has remained — another innovative voice who can sonically annotate what Le$ is rapping. A slew of loosies from Perez and Le$ eventually led to the Free Game tape, which became an appetizer for Steak X Shrimp Vol. 2. SXS2 arrived on the second to last Sunday in November, Le$’ 30th birthday at that; once more, it combines all the strengths of each individual player to create something greater.

The genius of Le$ is how careful and precise he is with select words and phrases. Most of them are short, punctual sentences with nothing sloppy trailing behind. “Born in that swamp, should I say New Orleans/ H-Town to N-O, rolling then we chase green,” is what follows the opening lines of his first verse from “UGK’z." What follows is an urgent rush before settling back in, “Now let me set some shit straight, cause I think they confused/ I done gave too much game, no more blessing these fools.” While it’s neither a stumble nor a moment where Le$ loses focus, it’s a much bolder, louder statement.

On the surface, its Le$ making one of his more profound Twitter moments in song – on how there are very few rappers, much less human beings, who love being themselves as opposed to chasing someone else’s ideas. The other way to take it is as a shift of Le$’ mindset in regards to releasing material. He’s quite proud of releasing 16 free tapes of music, a business model built off the surge of mixtape releases in the early part of this decade. However, Steak X Shrimp Vol. 2 first went up on iTunes before the DJ Drama-hosted and amplified shit-talking version hit mixtape platforms. Le$ is out to be legit, regardless of what his merchandise brand does.

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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