Screwston, Texas

The 12 Best Houston Rap Songs of 2014

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12. Kirko Bangz feat. August Alsina, "Rich" For those who have been taking notes about Kirko Bangz, they know his more introspective and fulfilling stuff like "Vent 3" off of Progression V somehow gets buried beneath the narrative that he's a playboy who only wants life's excesses and nary of the vices. He did a lot of revealing in 2014, namely falling in and out of love with a stripper and how he's more focused than ever; but he also found a balance with "Rich," utilizing August Alsina's boy-on-the-corner croons to prove a point about his own songwriting capabilities.

Trying to ease his mom's concerns and making sure he keeps the family satisfied, "Rich" became the first record in Bangz's catalog presented to a national audience that proved it indeed was "bigger than him" in regards to his own success. Kirk Randle can run and prove things, but it'll never be enough if everybody around him can't win either. That's "Rich" in a nutshell.

11. D Boss feat. J-Dawg, Slim Thug, Paul Wall & M.U.G., "Big Ballin 2K14" For a time, the most memorable freestyles from Houston hailed from the Northside. Yes, "June 27th" owns much of the city's freestyle lexicon; same for Z-Ro's "Mo City Don," but those Swishahouse freestyles -- namely "Drank In My Cup" and "Big Ballin" -- owned a chunk of attention for years, decades even.

D Boss was yet another trap artist who saw room to eat in 2014. Updating a Swishahouse classic with three key ingredients that made the House what it was in its heyday was essential. Getting a verse from the late M.U.G., whose death remains maybe the one truly bleak moment about Houston rap in 2014, was icing on the cake. Plus, there's no getting away from that "Ball of Confusion"-style production flip.

10. Slim Thug feat. Sauce Twinz & 5th Ward JP, "Errrbody" Maybe in October, when my non-music-critic friends usually get ahold of whatever is buzzing in the city, is when I had my first actual conversation about Slim Thug's "Errrbody". The first quotes, of course, came in regard to Sauce Walka's ad-libs, 5th Ward JP's blatant announcement of what set he bangs and why people hate him regardless, and whether or not the song even belonged to Slim in the first place.

It's a Slim record, definitely, an alley-oop that not only shows he's capable of working with younger acts; see him reverting back to almost peak Slim mode on his "0 to 100" freebie with DeLorean & Doughbeezy. There's a few life lessons to get out of "Errrbody," including how to address someone as sweet ("chocolate cookie"), why people won't combine to make money and the fight-or-flight idea of feeling froggy.

9. BeatKing feat. DJ Chose, "Stand Behind Her" We would be remiss if there was not a single selection from BeatKing on this list. Namely because as an entity, performer, social-media giant and parent that we all can trust, BeatKing gets one thing right about MCing better than almost anybody else in the city: presence and command. He's made strip club records before. He's commanded radio for far longer stretches than what "Stand Behind Her" has. He works with DJ Chose in a realm where the both of them just vibe off one another like Penny & Shaq in the mid-'90s.

The Ray Rice punchline may stick to being something we only remember in 2014, but the rest is standard BeatKing. Now if only he taught us how to deal with a certain woman in front of us to begin with.

List continues on the next page.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell