New Houston Rap

#NewHoustonRap: The Gospel According to BeatKing's '3 Weeks'

In the beginning, there was a drum, an instrument that created a loud thunk when hit hard. After that beginning, there was a man begot from the heavens to carry on the legacy of Juicy J, DJ Paul, Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo and other affiliates of Memphis-based rap pioneers Three 6 Mafia. His name was Justin, but he adopted a stronger moniker, one that would shake speakers and large spaces where people decided to part with their money in exchange for favors, mostly clothed and/or nude patrons. This is where the man who christened himself BeatKing would spread most of his gospel. It has been translated into multiple passages and audiobooks and whatever vessel any transferred message would take. He stated that his latest work, a lesson he had been crafting for some time now, had been finished in a matter of 21 days'  time. And he christened it 3 Weeks because it was so.

Other men who condition themselves as rappers attempt to do the very minimal to move their flock. They, however, do not possess the same talents that BeatKing does. They do not portray themselves as lovable family men in one moment and gregarious polymaths in another. They do not package a lesson with strippers-can-be-loved-and-saved-too messages like “Keisha” while also believing that the alignment of two other parties and him equals anime greatness, such as Trunks returning to Earth and killing Frieza and his father, King Cold, with little to no exertion of stress. They are not BeatKing, for only BeatKing can do these things.

I think you get the basics now. There’s plenty of biblical tie-ins with BeatKing’s brand-new 3 Weeks album, released last Friday, that you can make yourself. However, you can also realize that BeatKing does a lot of things with minimal effort. If Kanye West rode his maximalist nature into a disturbed yet gorgeous second career arc, BeatKing can ride the simplest approach to Texas rap to a similar path.

The general path of 3 Weeks revolves around BeatKing and a multitude of thoughts. Most are at center (sex, money, the ability to use brute force to secure respect); some are off-center (his own refusal to do drugs or drink, inability to mourn, current discomfort with friendship); and some are completely foreign to BeatKing’s normal universe (his going a cappella for 24 full minutes to break down his path to 3 Weeks). All of it, however, matters. All of it.

BeatKing occasionally raps in a buttery coo, a mix of his gruff actual voice and a sing-song flow of absurdity. It shines hard on “Billie Jean,” where he crudely turns Michael Jackson’s 1983 original about refusing the love of one woman into a sex opera. It nimbly exists on “Save Us,” where he affirms that he was once the kid who bought his first gun in Studewood, never graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and procrastinated more often than focused.

His normal rap voice is short, punchy and dismissive. He comfortably allows it to be blanketed by a massive arsenal of kick drums and thundering 808s until it ultimately becomes the most trustworthy thing available. He can make “Fall,” with DJ Chose, feel like a nursery rhyme that’s better suited for a stripper before she hits the stage or make incredible run-through-wall music such as “Heavy On a Check” with Dallas rapper G.U.N. and Rizzoo Rizzoo of the Sauce Factory.

All 3 Weeks represents is BeatKing throwing every space of his personality onto a 12-track rap album. It takes different turns working around synths and stabs fit for a horror movie (“Heavy On a Check”) or punch-drunk strings aimed to disarm you (“Keisha”). It may not be his outright best project, because it’s hard to top an unstoppable behemoth like Underground Cassette Tape Music, but 3 Weeks is the most seamless BeatKing project imaginable. There are no shortcuts, because BeatKing wouldn’t allow them to exist. He’s already learned how to trick a single into existing as a radio-ready track (see “Hammer,” “Crush,” “Smile,” “Throw Dat Ahh”), so all that's left is for the rest of the world to get it. BeatKing can and will pull you into his gravity and sink you into his world with a single trap-worthy Spirit Bomb. Deal with it.

Slim Thug, Hogg Life Vol. 3: Hustler of the Year
Slim Thug’s third Hogg Life tape of the year also came out Friday, outfitted with the secondary title of Hustler of the Year. This is a good thing, and also an even better thing. Here’s why.

Good: Slim has managed not only to stick to his word — without any holdups or problems, he's released three albums in a single calendar year. He’s got one more to load up before the end, and it may presumably arrive before January comes.

Better: Slim isn’t trying to outdo the best song he’s made in a long while; he’s just making a ton of music that suits him and his current lifestyle. That lifestyle? It’s basically what Hugh Hefner’s life was before he announced there wouldn’t be any more nudity in Playboy.

He’s literally freewheeling on every single track. No wonky hooks, no unlikely guests, just Slim and a ton of Northside friends. Except Z-Ro, a rap game Galactus.

Better: Any Slim Thug tape that feels like a mixtape and does little to refute the notion usually is the absolute best Slim Thug. When he does that, he plays for moments and preys on your internal belief system. In other words, what Joel Osteen is to his congregation, Slim Thug is to the people in Houston: a 35-year-old former teen rap star who literally lives out his raps.

Good: Hustler of the Year, without question, is the most club-heavy, punch-you-in-the-face-with-zero-regard music out of the three albums Slim has released so far.

Better: BeatKing plays Ghostface to Slim Thug’s Raekwon on Hustler of the Year. Don’t read into that believing that Hustler of the Year is the same as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, because it isn’t. It’s because BeatKing acts like the part of Slim’s conscience that really and truly does not give a fuck about anything except whatever pleasures Slim.

Good: We’re so close to Joel Osteen popping up in the official video for “Chuuch.”

Better: That video cannot be filmed anywhere other than Lakewood Church and Acres Homes. There’s no way around it.

Le$, Free Game
I hypothesized that Le$ and Happy Perez were cooking up something special given the bulk of material they’ve dropped together over the past two months. Most of the sublime stuff ended up on Steak X Shrimp Vol. 2, and that’s technically been done since April. The stuff that didn’t end up on SXS2? It wound up spread out over 15-plus tracks for a brand spanking new mixtape.

That’s right, Free Game arrived Sunday night and Le$ fans, the one group of Houston rap fans who would probably stab you if you say anything bad about him or feel a bit left out, even though he’s given them now 16 (!) mixtapes of free music over the past four years, were delighted. We’ve discussed plenty of the loosies that Le$ and Happy have given us over the past two months, but the added kick of Chase N. Cashe’s “Goin’ Dine” neatly wraps things up. Know what that means? It means that Le$ basically gave you an appetizer to hold you over for 20 days until you get hit with something new. It’s almost like Le$ is the Houston Rap Meal Plan. Run out of points once you heard “Elegant” or “Real Shit”? You just get a whole new batch with even more solid meals in a couple of weeks.

Brice Blanco, “Get Back”
Sometimes those hard rap tracks get lost under the bluster of shit talk and celebrating excess. A hard rap track doesn’t necessarily have to call out names, but it does have to have a purpose. Brice Blanco’s “Get Back” is just that — a hard-ass rap track that samples Lil O’s “Back Back” while busting salvos at a cluttered rap scene that seems unwilling at times to trim the fat. Brice knows you do drugs and knows you embody a life you don’t really live. And he’s sick and tired of it.

DeLorean, “Jesse Jackson"
Didn’t DeLorean just drop a full tape of gems? How did “Jesse Jackson” end up away from it? Here’s why. “Jesse Jackson,” the rare rap track that attempts to make a Jesse Jackson vocal clip feel powerful, is going to appear on Jett I. Masstyr’s Decorative Pillows project. Still, it’s an angry, in-your-face rap moment from DeLo that we all can appreciate. We’re getting close to asking for a Jett I. Masstyr/DeLorean full-length tape. Remember “Ps & Qs” from Hood Politics 3? Yeah, that good.

Tim Woods, “H2O”
Houston rap has its super-gangsters. It has its weed-loving weirdos and codeine connoisseurs, and also its flower children who could turn up at a moment's notice. Tim Woods factors in being a fun-loving weed lover like Devin the Dude and a bit of a turn-up anarchist. One got him to the dance, the other creates a track like “H2O,” where anything to chase away the pain of a breakup is noted and needed. I’ll leave it to you to factor which one can be attributed to Woods here.

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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