One year ago, a cat named Diamond Dave got at Rocks Off about a fresh new voice in Houston's hip-hop underground, and it was because of that interaction that we wrote a Behind The Lyrics piece on an Alief rapper named Harkore.
We're still not sure what Diamond Dave's place in the world is but we can tell you he's also the reason we wrote on another fresh voice in Houston's music scene: This time it was Rel The Chosen. It hit us over the weekend, the first and real reason we took notice of Rel was because Diamond Dave introduced us at DJ Premier's show at Numbers last November.
Moral of the story: A Diamond is a hip-hop writer's best friend.
We reconnected with Diamond Dave at Rel The Chosen's Beautiful Music listening party at downtown's Doshi House Studios on Dowling last Thursday. In our write up on Rel's banging mixtape, we joked about the presentation of the CD he gave us being plain. His listening party was nothing of that sort.
An intimate and quaint space with African-American art draping the walls, Doshi House Studios, owned by Deepak Doshi, was dramatically lit up in blue light and filled with a beautiful diversity of good-looking hip-hop lovers of all backgrounds dressed like they were heading to a hip Washington Avenue nightspot. Not what we expected.
"We chose the Doshi House because we wanted to set the standard for real hip hop," Rel's publicist Taia Smith told Rocks Off. "Being that the CD is titled Beautiful Music, what a great way to set the vibe, merging the love of the hip-hop culture with live art."
Upon entrance, a lovely local painter, Anu Srivastav, was giving her artistic interpretation of Beautiful Music on canvas. Call it a musical review in paint.
"Anu Srivastav paints the majority of her pieces to music, so it was a great way to get her interpretation of Beautiful Music," Smith said.
DJ GoodGrief spun Beautiful Music on the turntables and the gospel and soulful samples that drove the beats of Rel's mixtape married with the blue light gave the room a heavenly effect, while Rel's head-bopping lyrical delivery gave it the right amount of crunk.
And about DJ GoodGrief (above): Good grief, that boy is good.
Hanif Jainlett, who identified himself as a representative of Hevlar Records, who according to Smith, the label also manages the music career of actor Idris Elba - you've seen him on The Office, HBO's The Wire and the hit flicks Obsessed and Takers - was in the house and gave a short speech that hinted to the label signing Rel.
"They are interested in signing Rel to a deal with their label," Smith confirmed.
Elba, who got to make out with Beyonce in Obsessed, will be on Rel's next project, Beautiful Music II: The Prequel to the ZaZa, Smith said. Did we say he made out with Beyonce? We just want to touch his hand.
But the highlight of the evening was the open bar of beer and wine. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this was a listening party done right - but for the record, we wrote about Rel before knowing about the free beer.
Rel gave us a preview of what's to come in Beautiful Music II. He performed this track,
in a British accent. It's fly, literally the vice-versa of Estelle's "American Boy."
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Next for Rel isn't the UK, though, at least not immediately. Rel has been invited to perform at the reunion of the Super Bowl XXXI Champion Green Bay Packers in Dallas this weekend.
Rel, do Rocks Off a favor. Make sure you let them know you're from the H. We would, um, like It a lot.
Email Rolando Rodriguez at rolandorodriguezjr22 (at) gmail (dot) com.