Sunday, Rocks Off crept down Little York on the "Nawf" side of H-Town to scope out Northside rider Big Cease's video production of "So Off the Chain," featuring Dat Boy X of Dallas and Houston's Lucky Luciano (above). Sure enough, Houston's underground scene was in full effect to provide support - and, of course, to get their cameo on. Dat Boi T, Bunz, Trails, GT Garza and Stunta were all there showing love to the camera. As the decade winds down, it was a good opportunity to huddle with this close fraternity of underground rap artists to take a trip down memory lane. One thing for certain is that there were more valleys than peaks for Latino rap in Houston, with some damn unfortunate themes: incarceration, death and murder. There were some bright sides, but unfortunately, regardless of what ethnic lens you look through, Houston hip-hop in the 2000s will be defined by loss of life and talent. We saved the worst for first... November 16, 2000: The godfather of rap in Houston, Robert Earl Davis, better known as DJ Screw, passes away of respiratory failure due to the lethal combination of codeine cough syrup and alcohol. His death would inspire artists across Texas from the household name down to the MySpace rapper to carry his legacy on every track. DJ Screw's music and culture would leak into Houston's Latino urban communities across the city and spur a new movement of brown artists carrying the Screw heritage into the hearts and souls of Latino youth and inspiring a new hybrid of Hispanic youth who emulate the Black urban influence of the Dirty South. South Park Misery... May 18, 2002: Carlos Coy, a.k.a. South Park Mexican, is convicted by a Houston jury of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Coy was sentenced to 45 years in prison, grounding a never-before-seen rise by a Texas Latino rapper. At the time, Coy was breaking into the mainstream with a burgeoning Latino youth market in heavily Hispanic markets across the country. South Park Mexican is now the DJ Screw of the Latino rap scene, as he's viewed by the Latino rap underground as anything from a martyr of the white judicial establishment to a victim of a conspiracy theory devised by his victims. Going into 2010, Latino rap artists carry a "Free SPM" flag in rap videos, mix tapes and apparel and it'll grow stronger as their movement does. The loss of SPM, though, has sent the Latino rap movement into a major recovery mode. Jaime "Pain" Ortiz, who is Dope House Records' chief engineer and producer, tells Rocks Off, "Unfortunately, our industry wasn't healthy enough to take the hit. We weren't saturated in the industry yet. We had lots of street credit, but we didn't have people making big strides in the corporate arena." Bing Gets Life and Finds a Way to Live On... April 2003: Hot underground artist Raymond Ayala, known as Lil Bing in the streets of Houston, begins a life term for a 2002 murder. Rocks Off talked to Bing's wife, Raquel Ayala, who didn't know him prior to his incarceration and married him while he was in prison on Valentine's Day 2008. Bing maintains his innocence in the case and plans an appeal. However, he will release an album from prison, called "Underground's Most Wanted" early next year. "[His fans] miss him and they want more and they want new," says Mrs. Ayala. Pressed on how he made an album from prison she says, "I can not disclose that information." Now that's a way to end the decade, Bing. Another Brother Lost... May 1, 2006: Rosenberg-based rapper, Bunz, knew John Edward Hawkins, a.k.a. Big Hawk, and he was excited to have him featured on his first mix-tape. Little did Bunz know that the brother to the murdered Fat Pat (1998), whose lyrics would bless the up-and-coming rapper's mix-tape debut, would be brutally murdered, shot multiple times by unknown assailants. It would be the second of three major blows to the Screwed Up Click. Adding salt to the wound, the murder case of Hawk has still not been resolved. There's a nasty trend of unsolved murders in the hip-hop community, and Houston's rap scene can be added to the victim list. "I still have a Hawk verse that I'm going to drop on a future album and it's a style different from what anyone's heard from Hawk," Bunz confided to Rocks Off. Please, No Moe Death... October 14, 2007: Kenneth Moore, or Big Moe, another founding member of the Screwed Up Click, dies of a heart attack and codeine cough syrup is suspected to have played a role in his death. After the death of DJ Screw, we all knew sipping syrup was extremely risky, but time healed wounds and apparently erased memory. But the mascot of Houston rap - that thick syrupy purple puddle of mud - reared its ugly head and took Big Moe from this earth. If that didn't send a message to the black and brown hip-hop following of Houston who actually act out common Texas rap lyrics of swiggin' Texas tea, the death following Moe's would. We Lost Him Twice, The Second Time for Good December 4, 2007: You want to talk about a death that transcended race and left Black and brown hip-hop followers in Houston breathless and in disbelief; it was the death of Chad Lamont Butler, better known as Pimp C - the incredibly creative half of the legendary UGK duo. We lost him to jail time after violating probation in the early part of the decade, and when we finally got him back, we lost him again, but this time for good. You guessed it, codeine cough syrup played a part in Pimp C's death, along with his sleep apnea condition. "I still hear songs, and think 'man, Pimp C could've wrecked that hoe,'" says Bunz. We agree. When we hear a Bun B solo album, it's like eating the cheeseburger without the meat. It's just bun. Looking Forward We asked Dope House's Ortiz what needs to happen to turn the tide as the beginning of a new decade is on the horizon. "When a person dies in the music industry...you've almost invested part of your life in that person," says Ortiz. "People listen to their music and think 'I feel like this is the beat of my life.' Fans are hurt and they rely on this music. "We need to stick together and work closely together. We do need each other and we need to let the world know that we love ourselves, we don't hate ourselves, and we don't want to kill ourselves." Action speaks louder than words. We have a whole new decade to prove it. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. You can email him at Rolando@redbrownandblue.com.
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