Houston Music

Lil Keke: Loved by Few, Hated by Many

Lil Keke is a Houston legend; that point is inarguable. But, despite perfectly capturing the late '90s zeitgeist on geographically charged 1997 hit "Southside," he has never had anything the mainstream could really latch onto. He's never been seen as a novelty (Paul Wall, "Sittin' Sideways"), just plain lucky (Lil' Flip, "Game Over") or possessed of a goofy catchphrase that, while originally used to help gain notoriety, could ultimately be used to destroy his career (Mike Jones, "Back Then"). Keke's nonfulfillment of his potential, though, has backwardly empowered him in the eyes of the streets; "Keke didn't fail, Keke kept it real." Unfortunately, Keke keeps it a little too real on Loved by Few, Hated by Many. There are obvious winners — "I'm A G," nearly two years old, paints Keke as an aesthete, while the punchy "Scholarships 2 The Pen" is an ethos-laden track redolent of his "Don't Mess Wit Texas." Still, his normally complicated and bathetic flow, characterized by a fuzzy self-­assertiveness, is canonized too often, swapped out for a radio-friendly over-the-counter version ("Act a Fool With It," "Phenomenal"). He even seems oddly intent on re-creating those far less visceral than himself, such as the Rick Ross-like "Boss" and clichéd R&B of "Money In The City." In sum, Loved is right in line with the trajectory of Keke's career — it won't be received by many outside of the South as anything more than typical. This time, though, that bias appears justified.

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Shea Serrano