August in Houston rap contained a heavy shadow looming over it. That shadow? Doughbeezy's Footprints On The Moon. It was supposed to land early on, swallow up every project moving and then laugh with a bald fade ball of fury and lyrics mostly celebrating success. Only it didn't happen and everything got shifted around. Propain's Ridin' Slab might still own the mental of plenty but so far it exists in its own stratosphere of emotion and thought. Somebody has to challenge it before it gets crowned the best rap tape of the year though.
This week, a litany of mixtapes from various Houston entities were released on the interwebs, some carrying a bit of Boss Hogg preference and others attempting to find the balance between pop growth & hardened individuality. Twenty Eleven's 20 Summers manages to pull the feat off, all without sacrificing any of their evolutionary progress at all.
Renewable Energy attempted to be a straight forward rap effort that hinged heavily on Tre Yancy & Brad James rapping ability and Dallas Jones' light vocals. Their follow-up self-titled EP started the shred of their pop-hop image with harder production from AVE11 and subject matter. But 20 Summers combines a bit of both, James' vocal cadence starting to slip away from being so much like many others and into his own and Yancy ably stretching at times from a hum to an airy anecdotal tone on "Go Ask Alice".
The band has dug deeper into musicianship as opposed to just random jam sessions at a flop house in the Montrose area and it pays off in spades, highlighted on 20 Summers on the snapping funk of "You Got It" and a live show favorite cover of Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good". "Bed, Bath & Beyond" might seem like a diet version of "Blurred Lines", despite the song being in existence for nearly a year now and "When She Home" is single worthy for beaches and dim light house parties. Does it make all the sense in the world to have James and Yancy try to go toe to toe with five of Houston's best on the closer "Adderall"? Not really but after the quixotic guitars, they at least openly take swing at every critic, "...that one dude trying to sound like 3 Stacks, that white dude, he just trying to be black". Their own "Chonky Fire" it would seem. Download 20 Summers here.
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OTHER NOTABLE TAPES
Young Von - 'Snob University' For Young Von's Snob University mixtape, it boils down to how easy you can quick avoid the fact he's a second generation Boss Hogg Outlaw member. The faster you let it go and let him be his own man, you get his entire feel -- anthemic and clever. SU clocks in at 16 tracks and calls itself an EP when it's just one giant zero-to-60 mixtape of boasts and trap-like bro raps like the "UP" remix and Von snatching Frank Ocean's down south homage on "Acura Integurl" for "Purple Cups". Download here.
hasHBrown - 'I Had A Moment' EP The soulful nature of hasHBrown's latest quick tape before The Last Casette Playa is far too easy to note. So we'll dig into something far more indelible to your mind, the fact he's actually singing along with some of the samples on record. It sounds exactly like you would trying to glide along with Charlie Wilson on "Yearning For Your Love" or something. From the bombast of "Unofficial Theme to The Groove" to his always on point relationship thoughts on "Wake Up Sweetheart, Pts 1 & 2", I Had A Moment does indeed feel like a collection of at the time ramblings and thoughts. Oh, there's a Rob Gullatte feature about how life is truly fucked up at times ("I wrote this rap on the back on a job app...") that is must listen. Download here.
D-Risha - 'Gauntlet' EP As Houston rap's version of a vocal yo-yo, D-Risha already knows how to pack enough of his feelings and rapping for the sake of rapping ethos into a project. The same applies here with Gauntlet where "Coolin" refocuses laid back party rhymes over an amplified glaze created by That Purple Bastard. They're like a far more lyrics only version of Juicy J and DJ Paul in that regard, purposefully letting the producer be barbaric behind the boards while the rapper totes on about physicality towards invisible bullies. There's tons of that on Gauntlet, even when he compares himself to Magneto -- despite Killa Kyleon having the best Magneto bar in Houston rap back on Big K.R.I.T.'s "Moon & Stars" remix. Download here.