New Houston Rap

#NewHoustonRap: Drake/Meek Mill Is Over, Time to Move On

Quick, do a quick scan of Houston Rap Twitter and see who comes down on either side of the whole Drake vs. Meek Mill kerfuffle. Things are going to be conflicting because on one side, you want actual rappers who write their rhymes to treat Drake the same way they do Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds, with an asterisk. Others are merely looking at it from a battle perspective, noting how Meek not only started the feud but stumbled out of the gate in his followup response.

There’s the business aspect of what Drake stands for, a hip-hop monolith who, unlike former kings of the genre such as Jay Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne, seems to hold secondary aspirations — brand ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, a shoe deal with Jordan Brand, his Sprite endorsement — as just that: accessories to his long-term plan of being the most revealing yet narcissistic rapper around. Scarface gets shit off of his chest in regards to lost friends and his own demons, a similar path set forth by DMX. Z-Ro does it to a point where he’s misunderstood and surly when in fact he merely narrates the day-to-day bullshit he goes through. Drake is a much different animal: King Overshare for a generation predisposed to share everything via social media. All to determine just what exactly matters. Meek comes from a sensitive spot, not Drake’s idea of sensitive but the one built upon street code and ethos. Authenticity is all you have and Meek, albeit via a foolish rant on Twitter, decided to question the authenticity of hip-hop’s biggest name of the moment.

In Houston for example, authenticity is the biggest thing some of our legends and future stars have. Whether it be by neighborhood, prior criminal history or driving around in cars with your name on the note, it's almost the main thing people want. That may be a '90s type of appreciation for core beliefs but it's true. If you're from the city and rap nursery rhymes, you had better have evidence you came up with those nursery rhymes. Or evidence you did anything you do or did exactly what you rap about, otherwise nobody is going to give a shit.

After the initial tweet, lack of planning is what got Meek into this predicament. Even when trying to circumnavigate the issue by bringing it back to the focal point of ghostwriting, his response seemed to fall on deaf ears. “Wanna Know” fell flat despite sticking to the original argument in question. Drake countered by crowdsourcing the responses of fans to Meek’s claims and proudly displayed them at his own personal music festival. Drake didn’t just use his own words to proclaim victory; he used the ideas and thoughts of hundreds of people and corporate brands such as Whataburger to do so — irony at its finest. Where Meek failed at was to realize that it’s not just possible non-writing allegations that makes Drake feel non-genuine, it’s everything that composes it.

There’s the usage of waves and rappers to feed into a “taste-making” label, or why else would Makonnen be thrust into an awkward performing space where he’s only served up a platinum single and a Grammy nom but nothing else? Or the various “remixes” where Drake effectively outpositions the original artist like boxing out for a rebound in basketball? Or how the world wanted to shit on the Sauce Twinz for defending themselves when they were put in a defensive position because of Drake (which has led to some pretty hilarious Sauce Walka videos on Instagram). The actual grounds for a proper rebuttal were there – laid as bare as any of those creepy recorded conversations between Drake and his now-exes. But Meek didn’t use the material. He's resorted to rapping lines about how "Caitlyn Jenners turn into Drizzy Drakes" at recent shows on Nicki Minaj's "The Pinkprint" tour to save face, but it's falling on ears that don't care anymore.

Meek dug at Drake like he was staring directly at an open-book test, and still got all of the answers wrong. Somehow we’ve gotten to a point where a rap machine has been deemed “too big to fail." The real question is, if correctional-officer bios didn’t cancel off Rick Ross or ballerina photos only made Mobb Deep's Prodigy stumble and not fall, why would any non-purist of hip-hop give a damn about a Toronto rapper who may mine other people's words, personalities and identities to form his own standing brand? Until something else happens, that's where I stand with the issue. Dr. Dre just put out a brand-new album that is sonically fucking marvelous and plays upon the literal swing that is Compton, Calif.. Everybody sounds energized, it upon the initial four or five spins feels like a proper swan song that can only be made by an appreciated 50-year-old rap billionaire. Anyway, time to head back home to the best #NewHoustonRap tracks of the week.

Doeman, “The Man”
Joseph Gonzales is planning something big. Even if he decides to rap inside of the same pathways that a litany of others before him have, he’ll forever be seen as different thanks to his growing fan base. “The Man” is another one of those Doeman is about to purposely beat you over the head with a singular theme like he does so well. When he makes things squarely about his impending rise, he’s like a leveled up hero surrounded by the most basic of foes. What usually takes three punches, he accomplishes in one. He’s got an album coming down the way but first there’s the tour. And he’ll keep giving a fuck until you declare him the best.

Dice SoHo feat. Dougie F, “Do The Most”
What can you get from Dice SoHo that separates him from any number Moe Gang/Sauce Factory member? There’s little tics that make him bumping around on trap beats feel fresh and fun. He’s a blue-hared rapper who wants the best for himself through the conventional means of a twenty-something raised off television and commercialism. That’s the base of “Do The Most” with he & Dougie F. The lyrics aren’t crafted to blow you away, they’re there to put you in the same position as Dice SoHo. Making money to show everyone else how you react after getting it isn’t a bad idea, you know.

GT Garza feat. Kap G, “Barrio”
If you haven’t heard, GT Garza has another album for you to digest. La Maquina (The Machine) does run for the immediacy that The Legend Of Ritchie Valens did, but it’s a slow rumbling piece of work. Speaking of singles, there’s “Barrio,” which is as ethnic and flavor heavy as you would expect. LIL Justin’s video for the skeletal track puts Atlanta (and DOPE star) Kap G occupying the same space as any Southside Houston hood playing dominos and wanting to be surrounded by fine women. Garza sips Coronas and offers a neighborhood play-by-play.

Scarface feat. Rush Davis, “Steer”
Brad Jordan on the microphone digging into some of the same existentialism that plagues Arian Foster on a daily basis is a win for all parties. “Steer” is another dive into the mind of the Madman, as he fetishizies about rather enjoying death as opposed to a trial and how he’s constantly trying to drive himself out of pain and misery only to be enclosed by it. Hey, Deeply Rooted drops September 4 and Nas (of all people) is on it. That should make you extremely happy. I mean, a new Scarface album by default should but hey, Nas & Face have never missed. Ever.

Show Louis, “Breakdown (Kilo)”
I’ve made no bones in the past about how much I think Show Louis is one of the city’s hardest rappers, regardless of position. There are few moments where he doesn’t show vulnerability, and even fewer where he doesn’t hop on a track after running through a cigarette and a mountain of stresses. “Breakdown (Kilo)” is a smutted-out love song with drugs involved. Show resorts to decent Autotune singing and PugTunes, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, adds a karate chop-like snare on top of a chop of an R&B-made synth wave.

Sosamann, “On My Grind”
The only type of living Sosamann knows is the type where regrets mean jack shit because the current spoils are far too good. There are no more crazy decisions that have the potential of time in the county jail, and no more moments where people can be skeptical of how he lives his life. “On My Grind” comes from February’s Trap’d Out 2 tape and features Sosamann committing deals like someone who can’t leave the game alone. This would be the antithesis to Sauce Walka’s “A Bag” video — while one was a spastic house party,”On My Grind” is a sleepy walk towards mixing and mastering a codeine sale.

T-Wayne feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Chedda Da Connect, “Nasty Freestyle (Remix)”
There’s still some life in “Nasty Freestyle." T-Wayne can be happy that the song he made solely to get his phone bill paid has catapulted him to a sense of stardom. He can also be happy that he’s doing it alongside his good friend and former roommate Chedda Da Connect. The two of them have joined up a lot lately, and “Nasty Freestyle (Remix)” is the crown jewel, with a Ty Dolla $ign guest appearance as mere gloss to take in.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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