Three key things have occurred in the past week that you need pay attention to.
*** First, DeLorean not only made a guest appearance on Big K.R.I.T.'s really good new “album,” It’s Better This Way, he also dropped a surprise mixtape, Perfect Black. This is not to be confused with Perfect Dark, a Nintendo 64 game that was a futuristic clone of another great Nintendo 64 game, Goldeneye 007. Let’s start there.
If you recall, DeLorean won Best Rap Artist at the 2015 Houston Press Music Awards. Meaning, once you’ve won an award that hails you as the cream of the crop for a calendar year, it doesn’t matter where you step; you’re going to be associated with that title for at least a year. Those are the rules. So it was rather imperative that DeLorean — all Caesar haircut, waves and beard of him — follow his tradition of releasing something on October 21 for his fan base. The last thing he released on October 21 was Look Alive, a rather stoic tape that also features his best “this definitely should be on radio” single in “Lately” (sorry, “Breathe,” you wore that title so well). It also features the song that actually did break through to radio, “Picture Me Swangin’,” a blaxploitation-like cut from Cory Mo that deserved some addition to the Superfly sound track. Both of those things are good and are canon to who Marcus Delorean Roberts is — not just as a rapper but as an overall decent human being and father. When he succeeds, a lot of people succeed.
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Perfect Black is a rather big deal, because unlike Grace or even brief bits of Look Alive, there’s a scarcity of other Houston acts on it. Look Alive had Doughbeezy and Fat Pimp discussing the various levels of car culture, and Boston George showed up to be the toughest guy on the whole thing. Mookie Jones took his Joinzeee persona and skated for his two appearances. Perfect Black has none of that, save for a Short Dawg appearance on “Bacon.” It’s the tenth track on Perfect Black, and it’s a moment where DeLorean admits that his haters are just as salty as bacon grease and he can now throw $20 at Babe-Os. He also admits that he could teach somebody an entirely different language because he has Rosetta Stone on his phone. That, while as helpful and mid-level narcissistic as one can be, also proves DeLorean is in such a groove that he could translate a whole episode of Narcos without even blinking.
Other people deliver a lot of the melodies on Perfect Black. Jack Freeman, Bam Rogers and Bruce Bang all contribute guest vocals to add even more emotional center to DeLorean. The most emotional DeLo gets comes on penultimate track “Magna Cum Laude," where he plays the proud father who wants so much for his daughter that he’ll be there on graduation day with a tear in his eye. It’s almost an extension of that happiness Andre 3000 dropped in spite of the shit that went wrong on “Ms. Jackson." DeLorean is good for this, and he definitely will deliver more honesty about his daughter, Khloe, than anything else. He swaps personas for a bit on "Jesus Shuttlesworth," the name of the character Ray Allen played in He Got Game, and takes a very lo-fi, Fauntleroy approach on the boards. On “Time Heals Wounds," he capably deals with the same kind of bullshit you deal with whenever you reach somewhere new. The opening line is murderous — “I’m the realest nigga you fucked over, you sick ‘bout it” — and the rest of it plays around a woozy bassline like a finger through soft hair.
Since its release on Wednesday, Perfect Black has been heard more than 7,000 times. That could be attributed to the fact it was premiered by prominent New York based hip-hop blog Nah Right. It could also be due to the fact that “Got Me Thru” also appears on Big K.R.I.T.’s new album. There, DeLorean bats leadoff and he readily admits where shit went wrong: losing his No. 1 girl in high school and where his head is at now. You know how Kevin Garnett creates moments before every game where he’s pissed off and wants to kill everyone in order to succeed? DeLorean does that. He may not bang his head against a stanchion, but he commonly bangs his head in the studio, trying to make it all work so that he has a new level to look around from. That’s a rather amazing feeling.
*** The second key thing that occurred within the past week actually took place hours after DeLorean released Perfect Black. Lyric Michelle, the Chicago-born poet and MC, officially reached her idea of graduation. Three years ago, she was the lone woman among a pack of hungry wolves willing to succeed under SF2’s Raw Talent banner. She packed out an art warehouse with some of her friends, people she’s collaborated with in some areas and grown with in others. Third World TV provided the sounds, rappers and vocalists such as Bobby Earth and LeeLonn debuted new material, Kyle Hubbard performed tracks from his recently released “welcome back” album, and the general atmosphere was love.
Having seen Lyric Michelle perform on more than a few occasions, you kind of know what you get: a statuesque woman, powerful enough to understand how far to take her voice. You get her in front of you, either rocking a very blooming Afro or a ton of braids tightly pulled together, and then you get the fury. That equated to a mixture of rap metered the same way as a poem and the audience utterly stuck in a trance. This happens fairly often but Wednesday night, it happened in such a large-scale manner that everyone couldn’t help but notice.
Shows in Houston that don’t operate inside a known venue such as House of Blues or Warehouse Live have a different type of feeling. When The Hive Society parlayed their love of the culture into an art show, it happened at the same place where a Selena tribute had occurred a week earlier. Lyric Michelle held court in a warehouse, Aerosol Warfare to be exact, where tagging and graffiti isn’t seen with disgust but with love and even a bit of lust. Lyric has a project coming down the line, that I’m certain about, and it’s not going to waver a bit from what she’s already done before.
Also, I said all that without mentioning that she was a local woman who packed out a venue. That feat is a rarity given how small the ecosystem is of talented Houston rappers who also are female – and how Houston lacks a definitive female rapper. Surreal. Just Brittany, Troublesum, Carmen Sandiego, Tawn P, UZOY, the list goes on. All of them have, in small instances, made dents. Maybe Lyric Michelle will be that consistent piece.
*** The third thing that occurred didn’t actually occur, but feels more like a tremor leading to an eventual earthquake. BeatKing’s 3 Weeks album lands next Friday. I’ve heard it already, and it's absolutely massive. The one thing BeatKing wants out of 3 Weeks is to let you know that he is the king of minimalist Texas rap. Our friends The Outfit, TX currently hold that title from a group perspective, but solo-wise, nobody has an easier command of what he is as an artist than BeatKing.
I’ll offer more words on 3 Weeks before next Friday. Just know that it's a glorious combination of subwoofer madness, comedy, threats and verses that are the same size as the city of Memphis as a whole.
A supplementary third would be that Amerigo Gazaway crafted a monster mashup of B.B. King and UGK in The Trill Is Gone. I’d suggest you download it right now, because the tape is not only crisp, it is sonically beautiful. Hip-hop historian Sama’an Ashrawi helped contribute exclusive interviews to be spliced with 18 mixes of King classics and UGK classics. That’s right, a long player with B.B. King adding to the blues already laid down by Pimp C and Bun B. Glory, glory hallelujah.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
BeatKing feat. Bun B, “Show It”
One night last week, after the Astros were eliminated from the MLB postseason, Bun B had had enough. You'll recall he had crafted an Astros theme song for the playoffs that got a lot of run nationally. Bun easily had the greatest one-liner I’ve seen him deliver in quite some time. To paraphrase, “You in a banana suit, I’ll peel your pussy ass.” Holy shit, is that some ether. That kind of carries over into his feature on BeatKing’s album, “Show It." BeatKing keeps his threats simple; Bun goes for the jugular while also tipping his hat to Janis Joplin and Stephen Jackson, fellow Port Arthur legends.
Kirko Bangz, “30 For 30”
Right about now, Kirko Bangz is touring the country in support of his “Worry Bout It” single, not to mention his rather extensive catalog. That’s right, Kirko Bangz has enough hits to rock a 20-30-minute set, despite album woes out of this world. “Young boy got more Will than Uncle Phil,” he spits on “30 For 30," his take on the Drake-only track from What a Time to Be Alive. He’s contemplative, thinking of wanting a child but fearful he’ll never meet a woman worth it. That is some adulting for you.
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Maxo Kream feat. Fredo Santana, “Big Homies”
We’re nearing the point where Fredo Santana and Maxo Kream are going to drop a full track. Santana rules “Big Homies” with a gruff menace, while Maxo creeps right behind him with an elastic joy about serving up weed, acid and Molly. The video looks like one weird trip through a trap wonderland, including one white guy who looks completely out of place yet may be the most fearsome thing around.
Trill Sammy feat. Damo, “Martin”
These things come in waves. Youth culture kind of dictates what happens with rap, and it's no different coming in Houston. Some young acts, like WhyJae & Doeman, are holding it down for lyrics, bars and wit. Trill Sammy & Dice SoHo, for example, offer far more descriptive boasts than anything else. Trill Sammy has a video called “Martin” with Damo. It’s straightforward and heavy on living in the moment (drinking, women, wild partying). Which again is another facet of youth. Especially when you’re Trill Sammy and you’re pushing near 40,000 followers on Twitter.