Houston's history is dotted with albums that, fairly or un, have been swept aside. We'll examine them here. Have an album that you think nobody knows about but should? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lil O Grind Hard, Pray Harder (Bar None Ent, 2011)
A decade ago, the ageless Lil O released Da Fat Rat Wit Da Cheeze, a very-nearly classic album that featured an absolutely classic song ("Back, Back"). Here, on Grind Hard, Pray Harder, he works fervently to create that same hyper-syrupy, shit-talking atmosphere.
It says a lot that O is still making music (his first album came out before the aughts!!!), but it says more that GH,PH is perhaps the most well-rounded, most complete project he has ever released.
Y'allmustaforgotability: 88 percent
Best Song on the Album: Were you to pick some nits, the only thing this album is missing an obvious Best Song, of negligible importance when you're discussing enjoyable albums, but massively important when you're discussing whether or not an album will rate in coming years.
In lieu of that though, O has offered an army of winners, including the aggressive pop of "None of Ya Bizness," which feels a lot like his 2011 swing at "Back, Back"; the cathartic, Chamillionaire-aided "In Da Wind"; the funk swing of "What Iz Ya Talkin' Bout," where Devin the Dude floats from vine to vine in that way that only he can; and the booty-bounce of "Betcha Can't Do It." Best song? Pick one of those. You're good.
Best Verse on the Album: Lots of guys show up here; Slim, Cham, Devin, Chalie Boy, Wonderus, J-Dawg and Big K.R.I.T. among them. Slim, who is as motivated to hurt your feelings on "None of Ya Bizness" as he's ever been, and the aforementioned Devin verse, are near the tip of the spire, but the back-the-fuck-up-ness of J-Dawg's work on the otherwise forgettable "Alright" is unassailable. That guy wakes up mad, it seems. If he's ever sent an email, it's been in Times New Roman font with the size set at about 72. The best part:
I BEEN TRYING TO WALK STRAIGHT, BUT IT'S BEEN A WEEK AND I AIN'T ATE!!!! THESE PUSSY NIGGAS WALKING PAST ME, FULL BELLIES AND THEY LAUGHIN', LIKE I WON'T TAKE THEY PLATE!!!!
Nobody - NOBODY - can muster the sort of unhinged, about-to-break-free fury that J-Dawg can.
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Most Unexpectedly Enjoyable Moment on the Album: Chamillionaire has always been a bit reclusive. And it seems like forever since he's been around. So when he pops up singing the chorus on "In Da Wind" (the title here is extra-applicable for obvious reasons), it is to great effect.
Songs You Wish Hadn't Made The Cut: As it were, Grind Hard, Pray Harder is currently one of the 10 best Houston rap albums made this year. That said, there are a few songs that could've been left, including the repetitive "Fresh Up Out The Cleaners" and the uncompelling "It's Whateva." Go ahead and delete those two from your iTunes before you upload the album.
Moment on the Album When You're Mostly Likely To Wince Because It's Playing While Your Children Are In The Car: "Betcha Can't Do It" is arguably the most fun song on the album; O shines his metallic sound here better than any other song. And it's the kind of earworm 1-2-3-4 production that gets in everyone's ears immediately (even a four-year-old's). It's tailor-made to be played in the car. But the spine of the chorus: "Betcha can't do it, on the dick she poppin'." There's no way you're getting that cleared by Mama.
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There are three guys in Houston who's aural aesthetic has not been roughed up and altered by time: Lil' O, ESG and Keke. Take any song from any tape before 1995-2002 and compare it to any song any of the three have released in the past year. Minus a VCR reference or two, it will be impossible to tell which is from when. Coincidentally, all three of them were part of the early SUC, back when it was at its most powerful. Something is going on there. Mysticism and whatnot.
On "What Iz Ya Talkin' Bout," O turns The Originator's name into a verb, proclaiming, "I'm trying to Robert Earl the pussy, Screw tape, tap, tap."