Lil Keke reflects of his career with the release of and new album and a new book.Photo by Skip The Designer
Tobe Nwigwe closed out his sold-out tour at 713 Music Hall in December inviting out artists like Royce Da 5’9”, Cyhi The Prince, Mumu Fresh, and a string of Houston musicians. Standing in the back of the crowd, leaning against a wall, was a father looking on as his son danced to the music. The boy kept looking back asking if he could go get something to drink from the concession stand.
“We can go get something in a second,” responded the father. “But not before Lil Keke does South Side.”
It’s been 25 years since Marcus Lakee Edwards released his seminal album, Don’t Mess Wit Texas, and in that time he has influenced an entire genre of music. His flow can be heard as the foundation for rappers coming after him in Houston and beyond. He helped to solidify the city’s place in the music world and became an elder statesman in the local community.
When the city was still dealing with the aftermath of tension between the north side and the south side, Edwards, who had built his southside following alongside DJ Screw, signed and released and album with north side imprint Swishahouse. The move showed that he was able to put what was expected aside and do what he believed was best for the Hip Hop community and the city. It’s that type of thinking along with his work with the people that led to the Screwed Up Click member receiving a lifetime achievement award from President Obama in 2016.
Now, in 2022, Lil Keke continues to move forward, expanding his role as a teacher by dolling out advice based on the positive and negative choices he’s made in his lifetime on social platforms like Instagram. The practice of reflection online has led him to putting his pen to paper once again, releasing a new album, LGND, as well as preparing to release the first of a series of books.
“At first I didn’t know what to do,” sighs Edwards as he thinks back to first deciding to get into the literary world. “I didn’t know how to attack it because this is not going to be the life story of Lil Keke. That story is coming but it is coming later. I wanted this to be different. I think it’s going to be called LGND Talk. I wanted to write about life and what everyone out there is going through. You can be from any walk of life. Even I’m included because I’m not perfect. This is advice and talk for everyone.”
While the author world is new to Lil Keke the world of writing is still his home. This is the same MC who took center stage on DJ Screw’s Pimp Tha Pen where he rapped about how easily the rhymes came to him. The biggest obstacle to writing was whether the words would flow without the music, a skill Keke had to ease into.
“As I got deeper into it the writing it started giving me the same feeling as if I’m creating an album. I started catching a groove creating each chapter the same way I catch a grove creating tracks for an album. So, I’m excited for my people to read it. I’m going to let my album do what it does first and then I’m going to give people the book soon.”
The album he speaks about is Lil Keke’s latest offering, a 16-track showcase featuring Juicy J, Jack Freeman, Z-Ro, DJ Chose, Slim Thug, Propain, Bun B Tobe Nwigwe, Big Krit, Devin the Dude, Al-D*300, Coline Creuzot, Chucky Trill, J-Dawg, Yung Necro, J Traxx, Paul Wall, Lil Flip, Trae Tha Truth, Big Tony, Lil ‘O, and more. Much in the same manner that Keke was able to offer a bridge between the north side and the south side a few years ago, LGND highlights the bridge between veterans in the music and newcomers. The music, like his career, showcases the 25 years of connections he’s made in the industry and has him sounding at home with newcomers like Martina Marie, established artists like Sauce Walka, and veterans like Big Pokey. That connection to the new and the old is by design and something that Lil Keke regularly works to maintain.
“Well, the important part is I keep myself and make sure I stay looking young,” he laughs. “But for real, I’ve always been an advocate of keeping up with what’s going on with the younger generation. No matter how much I love my roots I like to see what new is flourishing. I’m not afraid to tap into what new because I’ve been a part of everything and seen as things change. I’ve seen vinyl go to cassette go to CD go to streaming. I want the younger generation to know that I’m willing to give my talent to them just like they’re willing to give to me.”
He has been connecting to the younger generation and more using platforms like Instagram. Much in the same way that fans can follow the thoughts of K-Rino, Willie D, and Scarface, Lil Keke has also moved to creating an online presence to project his philosophies. You can see him online giving his insight on health, relationships, religion, music, life, and occasionally trading barbs with Big Pokey on who is the better cook. It may seem like a new role but for Lil Keke it’s basically business as usual.
Lil Keke continues to drop new material helping to bridge the gap between veterans in the Houston Hip Hop scene and the new class.
“Its funny to think about. I’ve always let my fans see me. They followed me when I told them to do drugs all day, or drive this car, or chase this woman. They were enthused and they didn’t have to do any of that. This is how they know I’m not just preaching. I make mistakes just like them. Now I’m just showing another side. I want them to see the father, the entrepreneur, as a role model. They can see me as someone going through the same things that they go through.”
Over the next few months fans will be able to see all sides of Lil Keke as he continues to expand his reach in media. There’s no better example of his bridge between the young and the old than watching a father teach his son how to do the South Side at the Tobe Nwigwe homecoming. Lil Keke performing a song in front of a sold-out arena and having more than 5,000 people move along with his signature dance shows his presence in this industry. It’s a place Edwards is able to appreciate looking back on his accomplishments while still moving forward with new projects in the future.
“This is all a blessing. I’m grateful to be here 25 years later and still be getting recognized and given opportunities. I have 16- and 17-year-old kids listening to me when I have a teenager myself. For me to still get the response I’m getting for songs I put out almost 30 years ago is nothing but a blessing. I’m just very appreciative for what my city, this state, and this culture has done for me.”
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)