Saturday Night: ABN Reunion at House of Blues

Trae, Z-Ro House of Blues November 24, 2012

They are big. They are menacing. Their voices are akin to what a Tyrannosaurus Rex may have sounded like before biting you in half. They lurk constantly in the shadows, waiting for the perfect time to strike you down. Parents invoke their names in order to scare kids into eating their vegetables. Bigfoot, Bloody Mary, and the Boogeyman are scared of them.

They are.... Assholes By Nature.

The rap duo consisting of Trae Tha Truth and Z-Ro are also legends of H-Town Rap, joining forces and voices off and on for the last ten years since the first Assholes By Nature album in 2003. They followed up in 2008 with It Is What It Is, and a third one is rumored to be in the works.

The soundtrack of the mean streets of Houston is incomplete without ABN. Every part of the city's rap culture is epitomized in their lyrics: The cars, the women, the drugs, and the violence. They speak the truth and the realest of the real. Trill, even.

This monstrosity of a rap group sauntered onto the House of Blues stage with a determined force this past Saturday night, much to the adoration and praise of the fortunate few in attendance. Truth be told, there were almost as many people on the stage than in the crowd (grrrr!). But ABN doesn't care about attendance; they pour their combined heart and efforts into every show, big or small.

Non-ABN fanatics may find it difficult to name more than one or two Trae & Z-Ro tracks. Ro's unofficial H-Town anthem "Mo City Don Freestyle" is definitely one of them, and Trae has had recent successful collaborations with Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross. But Saturday, hardcore fans were treated to favorites like "I Really Miss My Dawg" and "No Help." The crowd rapped along with the duo at the top of their smoke-filled lungs, basking in the glory of gangsta poetry and the hustle mentality.

Their deep, rumbling baritones not only rap verses, but also sing the hooks. Only Trae and 'Ro can make the lines "All you hoes still get no love, all you get is a fuck you, get mad if you want to, kiss my black ass!" sound infinitely sweeter than they look on paper. The whole set swung back and forth between smooth, cruising tracks and frenzied club bangers, keeping the fans and security on their toes.

Slim Thug made a cameo with Z-Ro for "Summertime (In My City)", and for a brief moment made us forget about Thanksgiving leftovers and Christmas music, dreaming instead of a mid-July BBQs and fireworks. Slim also had time to drop "Associates."

There is an understood loneliness to many of ABN's songs. "No Help," "No Love" and "One Deep" are tracks that imply the unwillingness or inability to trust or rely on anyone but yourself. That sentiment is the underlying factor that endears ABN's fans to their music. It is at once desperate and hopeful, and always entertaining.

Still hood. Still paid. Still throwed. Still gangsta.

Personal Bias: Some of my favorite experiences in covering Houston rap have been at Trae & Z-Ro shows.

The Crowd: Gritty, glitzy, and gangsta.

Overheard In the Crowd (about opener Snow Tha Product): "I can't understand her even when she's not rapping!"

Random Notebook Dump: I'm thankful for the usual suspects that I see at every rap show. You guys love Houston rap as much as I do, and that inspires me to keep working hard every day.

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