The 2011 Houston Underground Rap Awards, Part 1

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Going in, everybody understood that, regarding underground rap in Houston, 2011 was going to be all sorts of reckless. There were just too many people doing interesting things for it not to be mayhem. And thus far, it's mostly lived up to the billing.

So rather than wait until the end of the year to hand out awards - which, at that point, would end up being a 37,000-word column - we're breaking the awards into fourths this year. This is the first installment. Have at it.   The "This Is The Best Mixtape of the Year Thus Far" Award: Delo's Hood Politics Vol. 2   And just like that, everybody is pissed.

When hasHBrown released his remarkable Relationsh*t in February, we were just about certain that it would hold onto this spot for several months. But then Delo, who had shown bits of wonderment on his impressive but not entirely fluid debut Hood Politics Vol. 1, released HP2 and that was that.

Where HP1 seemed to wander around some at times, HP2 was (mostly) focused and (mostly) driven. And what's more, it featured a new version of Delo: Angry Delo, a highly effective variation of himself that he didn't exercise on the original tape (see: "AAAGGGHHH" and "One Shot"). HP2 will no doubt rate among Houston's best come December.    Runners-Up Not Named Hash: Tawn-P's The Wake Up Kiss*; Yung Quis's 16 oz; UZOY's The [DEF]inition.   *Tawn-P's tape is the most relentless mixtape ANY female has released this year.

The "Has Anybody Noticed How Good Of A Year This Guy Has Been Having?" Award: Cy Fyre (producer)   You need little more than a list of a few of the songs he's recently produced: Travis Barker and Killa Kyleon, "Drum Roll Please"; Delo, "Go Crazy"; Killa Kyleon, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'"; Blaze Burna, "Hold Up." High-five, sir.

The "Man, That Guy Got Really Popular, Really Quickly" Award: The Beez   Doughbeezy exploded into prominence this year. He's twice won the monthly Best Rappers in Texas competition, recorded with a handful of prominent Houston Names, crushed countless impromptu appearances and had his hair cut 600 times.

If his diligence for showing up to events is repaid at his album release party, there will be 147,000 people in attendance. For certain, the guy shows up to everything. We heard he performed at the Holocaust Museum last week. 

The "Most Anticipated Tape" Award: Propain's Dangerous Minds   People are typically of two minds when it comes to the cryptic Propain; they either appreciate his combination of loyalty and hyper-insularity - if you were not a part of his inner circle prior to him building a fair amount of buzz these last several months, you likely never will be - or they think he's an asshole. Both of those options, however, lead to the same conclusion: He's smart.

Rather than rush out some material in an attempt to capitalize on his newfound regional acclaim, he's kept mostly to himself and his contemporaries, biding his time, hinting that major labels might be trying to sign him, showing up for an exciting guest feature or two, and rounding out the edges of his next project, Dangerous Minds.   Runners-Up: The tape that Eskabel is finishing; Young Sensation's C.H.I.L.L.; KAB's Tha KAB Route; Preemo's The Magic Bullet

The "Yeah, They Pretty Much Got That One Exactly Right (Best Collaboration)" Award: Dante Higgins and Doughbeezy on "H.A.M."   This was an instance where two rappers with distinct skill sets joined forces on a beat constructed to champion exactly what it is that they're good at, which is essentially the point of doing a collaboration. 

The "You Should Be Tuned In To These Guys Each Week Without Fail" Award: Young Zeak and Chopstar Jimmy

Zeak runs KPFT's Wednesday night Damage Control show and Jimmy is up at KTSU's Friday evening show. Try to find two people involved in underground music to say anything negative about either one of these guys. You can't. That shit is impossible. You've got a better chance of waking tomorrow and having solid gold legs. Or something.   The "Holy Shit, Nobody Saw That Coming" Award: Girl Rappers  

"Now I don't mean to be so blunt with it, but after I do this you gon' say a cunt did it." -Tawn-P   The most critical plot point overshadowed by the fact that the New Houston Collective has been gaining strength by the minute is that, seemingly overnight, there is a whole host of female rappers making music that does not make you want take a nap on 59 South.

Namely, it's Tawn-P, UZOY (like the gun), TroubleSum, Candi Redd, Just Brittany and the Gutta Mamis. What happened to Perseph? Is she still alive? Did she go back to her home planet? Come back, Perseph.

The "Are You For Real Still Not Paying Attention To This Guy?" Award: Scooby   His D. Coleman Mixtape last year was very good. The tracks he's leaked this year have been equally as enjoyable. Face facts, folks: Scooby is somehow better as a solo artist than he was a group one.

The "I'll Absolutely Tweet Some Profane Stuff In Your Direction If You Don't Write About Me And My Team" Award: Da Rolling Stoner


The "Iceberg Slim Swears By This Guy" Award: Jon Dope   Iceberg Slim runs the Screwheads Only MP3 site. He's participated in several discussions regarding Southern hip-hop here and in other places. His opinion is valued, especially when you consider the fact that he was one of (if not the) very first guys championing the now acclaimed Le$. He's been cosigning Jon Dope for a fair amount of time. He gets an award.

The "You Have To Stop What You're Doing And Pay Attention Whenever This Guy Starts Rapping" Award: Dante Higgins   One of the most naturally talented members of the New Houston Collective, Higgins has consistently shined since his name started bubbling up several months ago. We mean, the guy wrote an entire song about a goddamn bicycle. A BICYCLE. His debut album has the potential to be splendid.

The "Yep, He Crushed That" Award: Marcus Manchild on his redo of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now"

Yep, he crushed that.

The "If He Performed This Live With A Proper Live Band, The World Might Cave In On Itself From Amazingness" Award: Tha Centop's "Soul of a Hustla"

"Soul of a Hustla," produced by Big Boy, is a musician's rap song, featuring nearly all of the important parts of instrumentation. It was built to be performed live. Sadly, it was also built to be fully underappreciated, an opinion Tha Centop cemented into fact when he said he'd never perform it live. Dang.

The "Incidentally, His Name Sounds Like It's From Some Sort of Greek Odyssey" Award: Tha Centop

Yes, we absolutely just made this award up right now. But seriously, it sounds like something sailors were threatened with while planning cross-ocean voyages. "Beware Tha Centop, mates. He's eaten a million pirates and dragged a thousand sea vessels down to the bottom of the Pacific," they likely warned.

The "I Want To Get Into A Fistfight At Walmart When I Listen To This Song" Award: KAB's "Type of Shit"

KAB recently won a spot at a SXSW showcase by battling his way through a lineup of rappers competing to win the same prize. But really, even if he hadn't won, he was going to take the prize anyway. Because who's saying shit to KAB? Nobody, that's who.

The "That's A Perfect Song For That Guy To Do" Award: The Show's "Early in the Morning" feat. Note

The Show, whose R.N.C. tape from last year was wildly underrated (even by us), is a genuine throwback hustler. Earlier this year, he wrote what could only be described as the most poetic, most just tweet in the history of Twitter, penning something like, "At Stripes selling these CDs. It's cold as fuck out here." How can you not like a guy like that?

The "Did You Really Think You Were Going To Make It Through An Entire Awards Column Without Reading This Guy's Name On An Award?" Award: Fat Tony

You know how many times Fat Tony has performed last year? A million. You know how many times he's been good live this year? Two million. That's right. Tony's live show has risen to such heights that it now transcends arithmetic.

He won the Houston Press Best Underground Hip-Hop Award last year on the strength of little more than his live shows and winning smile. This year he has an actual album to add to his arsenal. Yikes.

Thank you for your continued support. Please continue to send music to sheaserrano at gmail dot com. Round Two will be up in June.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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