Note: Houston Press style is to abbreviate "microphone" as "mike" instead of "mic."
Donnie Houston has an ear for things. The 29-year old Sam Houston State and Madison High School graduate loves picking through samples and setting off emotions left and right with his production. He's half of the tandem behind Propain's "Father's Day," the best rap song released in Houston so far this year. He and Jett I. Masstyr have proposed a Soul Brothers production duo that hasn't manifested anything on wax yet, but the idea of them together is just too tantalizing.
As a DJ and a brand, he's just a step ahead of a few others. Now his "Mike Check" series has become a bit of a thing in Houston, a YouTube corner for lyrics and personality above anything else. Roosh Williams was the last one to step in and cause a bit of damage, but if you ask Donnie himself, he can't place that one in his personal Top 5 due to how nubile it is.
"It's hard to pick just five," Houston tells Rocks Off. "I like them all, but if I had to and this is in no particular order: Propain, Rob Gullatte, Easy Yves Saint, Express, Baby Ace" he tells us. That wasn't quite enough, so we prodded him a little further about his five favorites.
RO: Okay, Propain is an easy choice. Came before "Ridin Slab" so it made sense to bring him in. What separates him from everybody else? Donnie Houston: I like his because it's a dope rhyme first ... and it sounds believable. By that I mean, sometimes an MC can have nice lyrics but if it's not delivered well, it'll come across corny. I like the way everything sounds together, his flow on top of the track. This is also a good one because it was one of the first Mike Checks I did. I actually shot Young Marqus' and Pro's the same day.
RO: Baby Ace is an interesting choice over UZOY and, say, Roosh. What made his stand out so much compared to the others? DH: Funny you said those two because I went and forth trying to decide who it would be out them and Ace. I think Baby Ace's Mike Check was slept on. It could be because people may not know who he is but he's been in music for a minute. I like his Mike Check because his flow went perfect with the track. His subject matter was on point. The visual, yet simple, matched perfectly with the vibe of everything.
Roosh and Uzoy both killed it. It was also a dope session when I filmed with them. Both are dope MCs and cool people.
RO: That's the thing about Ace. After watching him turn into a damn tornado there, we haven't heard zilch from him. He's not trapped in some distant universe with Jay Electronica* is he? DH: [Laughs] We're just working on his first solo project right now, it's coming out pretty good. You may hear something before the year is over.
*Jay Electronica is a rap nomad from New Orleans who currently lives with one of the Rothschilds in England. His album, Act II: Patents Of Nobility has a tentative release date of Nevuary 32, 2018.
RO: Is there any reason why people call Rob DMX circa '98 when he raps? Or is it because he's the only guy who's done one of these shirtless? DH: [Laughs] That was Rob being Rob. Anyone who's ever been to his shows knows how he gets down. I think it's clear that he came to rap that day.
More checks on the next page.
RO: His might be the most jarring. You kind of know what you're getting with everybody else -- Yves' haughty wordplay, Express being a forward thinking unapologist but Rob kind of combines both of them.
DH: Yeah, Rob is one of the best in the city, in my opinion. I think he gets slept on for whatever reason but lyrically, he's serious and I think his Mike Check is a great example of how good he is.
RO: OK, so is there any addition to the series? Anybody you'd definitely want part of the next installments?
DH: Yeah, I have a few episodes in the stash that will be out soon and I'm still shooting new segments. It would be cool to get some of the OGs in the city to do some Mike Checks. I'm actually working on a few other things to expand the series. I'm just thankful that people are tuned into it, because it started as an experiment and the reception has been positive for the most part.
Follow Donnie Houston on Twitter -- @imDonnieHouston
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