Counting down the 25 best local rap albums of ANY year is less than easy. Counting them down for this year, the most energetic, frenzied year for Houston rap since 2005, it is more than impossible. Rather: WAS more than impossible.
After countless at-length conversations with those that know better, a complicated mathematics-based computer program that nearly buckled NASA and the death of an IHOP waitress, it is done.
For this, there are no rules. There are no pre-qualifiers. There are categories. This isn't the These Are The Best Mixtapes list or the These Are The Best LPs list or the These Are The Best EPs list. Fuck that. Competition is one of the cornerstones of rap. Every piece of (rap) music that came out in Houston this year was eligible for inclusion here.
These are it.
This is them.
These are The 25 Best Rap Albums From Houston's Glorious 2011. It gets no better.
30. Lil O, Grind Hard, Pray Harder
Remember when this tape dropped? Everyone was in the "Yo, LIL O IS STILL MAKING MUSIC!?" mode hardcore, crazy surprised. Download it. Then favorite "Betcha Can't Do It" and "I'm What Dat Iz," the tape's standout tracks. It's pretty much time to start considering Lil' O ageless, right?
29. E.S.G., Owner's Manual
E.S.G. is as sturdy as oak and as underappreciated as something that's really underappreciated. His loyalists will no doubt argue this tape deserves to be higher on the list. And that's perfectly understandable.
28. One Hunnidt, Legacy of a Legend
Legacy of a Legend is driven (mostly) by the loss of One Hunnidt's brother. Even if the sort-of poetic cadence isn't how you prefer your rap music, this tape is nearly always interesting, and does well to neither marginalize nor exploit the situation.
27. Chane, Samplified Successor
Written almost as therapy session to help Chane release his feelings about watching his father pass away, SS possesses some absolutely heartbreaking moments (Papa Chane recorded hours upon hours of audio of himself talking to his son, pieces of which are interspersed here). Curious to see what happens from here.
26. D-Risha, Big Trouble in Houston, Texas
If D-Risha can be for you, who can be against you? Risha exists somewhere near the middle of Houston rap's rankings, even if only a handful of people have noticed him there. BTiHT is a bright, meta tape that will likely face the same fate. For shame, fuckers.
The Top 25
25. Roosh Williams, Common Struggles of a Modern Man
Everyone forget about Roosh, didn't they? Swoops in at 25 with the intellectual assault of CSoaMM. Proper showing. His camp, like everyone else's that didn't land at the number one spot, will yell that his tape should've been closer to the top. He'll have a better case than most.
24. Marcus Manchild, Preseason 2
Manchild was lightning bolt quick on Preseason 2. You needn't look any further than the tape's first three minutes to hear why it is his name has begun bubbling up at XXL and BET offices.
23. Dustin Prestige, The Kelly and Jessie EP
Newcomer Dustin Prestige is still filtering through noises trying to find "his" sound; if nothing else, the adventurous TK&J EP proved that. Hopefully he drifts towards the boldness of "Army of Me," which was equla parts tough and charming.
22. Mr. Wired Up (Oh Boy), Inside My Mind
His name is cumbersome, his music is not. There is a growing Dance Rap cohort in Houston, and InsideMy Mind was the best of the bunch, even if it's not entirely correct to label it as such.
21. Rob Gullatte, 3 Days
Has anyone been more overlooked than Gullatte? His 3 Days tape, released quietly, should have been praised highly. It is fiery and passionate and interesting. Hopefully, his next tape, planned for release in 2012, will be more properly received.
20. Hoodstar Chantz, Before the Fame
Lots of rappers brag on themselves. The endlessly likeable, aggressively chauvenistic Hoodstar Chantz turned it into high art on Before the Fame, registering one of the ten best songs of the year along the way (naturally, it was called "I'm The Shit").
19. Kirko Bangz, Procrastination Kills 3
PK3 saw Bangz do something a lot of people were saying he couldn't do after the robo-hypnoticism of "What Yo' Name Iz" ignited his ascension towards MTV's graces: rap. Go figure. He was far more dexterous than people were anticipating. His 2012 will be something worth documenting, for certain.
18. Dante Higgins, Rhymes For Weeks
This tape, all redubs of tracks that other people made famous, had one of the first underground releases that people really got excited about hearing ("H.A.M.," featuring Doughbeezy) and the second best beatjacking of the year (he stole J. Cole's "Blow Up" and made it considerably more likeable). Rumblings for his first proper album (due in 2012) have already started.
17. Hollywood FLOSS, One Fan At A Time
One Fan At A Time was levels better than FLOSS's enjoyably energetic House of Dreams. It is smarter and more fully vetted and absolutely capable (see: any time he teamed up with producer Rockaway). So is the competition now though. He will get better again in 2012. Can everyone else keep pace?
16. UZOY, The [Def]inition
The [Def]inition was streamlined and unfettered, and, at its brightest moments (the heralded "Fast Forward" and "Pack It Up"), saw UZOY keep pace with just about anybody in Houston you could name.
15. Mookie Jones, P.A.N.
Mookie Jones is the actualization of cool, and this tape (Playa Ass Nigga) is the actualization of that acualization. What the fuck does that even mean? Who knows. But it makes absolute sense if you're listening to him coo his way through P.A.N. while you read it.
14. Doughbeezy, Reggie Bush and Kool-Aid
Doughbeezy/Dough/The Beez/Doughbeezius/God of War and Bald Fades/The Baddest Man Under 5'7" stomped through 2011. If there was an accomplishment to be had, he chased it like Tiger Woods chases white women. Here, he registered two of the year's best songs ("Light You Up"; "Pass The Swisher") and firmed up the argument that he is among the very best rappers in the state. Hail Doughbeezius.
13. Boss Hogg Outlawz, Serve and Collect Vol. 3
The Boss Hogg Outlawz troupe has seen an untold number of variation. This lineup, with the monstrous Mug and J-Dawg and the hypercool Dre Day and the seamless Le$ and so on, they are as dynamic and impressive as they've ever been. S&Cv3 saw them trample all through the expected regional rap colloquialisms. No frills, no flourishes, no nothing. It's just hard, fast BHO-dom, just as God intended.
12. Simple Success, Smash and Dash
Simple Success is a group, actually (DJ, drummer, and occasionally a rapper). They were woefully undevalued this year, in part because they're not very good at beating their collective chest, but also because Smash and Dash is largely a mix CD. Still, it is auspicious and invigorating. And their live show is the tits. Buy this tape.
11. Roderickvonn, I'm Almost Done Getting Ready
IADGR is a digitized revolt, and perhaps the arch-opposite of the "traditional Houston rap" sound. You will either hear it and dance or hear it and feel out of touch with everything. Those seem to be the only two options, and that's kind of great.
10. Preemo, Magic Bullet
Oh, hey, remember this guy? He tends to show up here a lot on these types of Best of the Year lists. It's not an accident. He's good. And his music is almost always strong (let's all just ignore that duo tape he did with the Tanzanian rapper).
9. hasHBrown, Relationsh*t
The virtues of Relationsh*t have been vollied around since its release. It is well conceived and executed, eager but not overbearing and fun without being foolish. hasHBrown has never sounded better.
8. Slim Thug, H.O.U.S.T.O.N.
During the year, Slim Thug attempted to marginalize six days of the week by creating #ThugThursdays, wherein each Thursday he'd release a new song for free. This tape is largely a collection of the songs he put out. It is good, inspired, bosshoggian music. Of all of "established" rappers in the city, Thugga is among those that appear most comfortable moving among the new local model.
7. Tawn P, The Wakeup Kiss
Yikes. Tawn P, yet another member of Houston's growing female rapper contigent, is the antithesis to UZOY's rounded slickness. She is jagged and aggressive and smoldering, and this tape is full of that. You can take some points away for the parts where she accidentally decided to sing, but beyond that, it is hardcore fun.
6. Delo, Hood Politics Vol. 2
If you want to argue that this tape should have finished in the number one spot, nobody would fault you (personal note: it was actually the most played album in my iTunes library). It is hearty and it is intelligent and it is blah, blah, blah. There were parts on HP1 where Delo seemed to be feeling around in the dark. He was bullet-focused and unstoppable on HP2. Delo belongs in every Who Is The Best Underground Rapper In Houston? conversation if it's to be taken seriously. Fuck yo' life. Delo is grand.
5. Trae, Street King
Trae is Trae. And Street King did what Trae albums do: Beat up everything with the gall to stand its way. But the most impressive part of SK: there were a million guest features (an estimation) and it still FELT like a Trae project. That's big, particularly if you consider some of the names that showed up (Big Boi, Lupe, Wale, etc). We'll let you know when he makes an album that doesn't register as one of the year's best. (It's going to be a while.)
4. Propain, Dangerous Minds
Dangerous Minds crushes. It is stuffed with life and is unfathomably energetic. Nobody --NOBODY-- is better at portraying a sense of fenced in fury than Propain. It's like he's always right there, right at that point where shit is just about to go absolutely haywire. You know that movie Warrior? Propain is Tommy Riordan right before he's about to fight. He is terrifying, but you're not certain what's making him that way (is he crazy? is he jaded from a hard upbrining? did something horrible recently happen to him? is he the spawn of a war demon?) so it's impossible to root against him. Proclaiming someone to be the future something is always dangerous footing, but saying that Propain has the potential to be one of Houston's great rappers seems firm enough.
3. Z-Ro, Meth
After a critically disappointing 2010, Rother Vandross dealt Meth to the masses and all was forgiven. He sang and he rapped and he sang-rapped as only he can do, sounding in control and inspired the entire time. And when Ro is keyed in, not many can match strides with him. It appear his fame will never grow larger than the regional adulation he receives now, but it's seeming more and more like maybe that's the point.
2. Le$, Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2
Argue that he benefitted from the smokey brilliance of DJ Mr. Rogers or the hustler tutelage of Slim Thug or the unending influence of the Internet; either way, the end point is the same: S4L2 is an original, interesting, nearly masterful collection of sunburnt funk rap that became essential listening in 2011. Everyone knew Le$ was good when The Beautiful Struggle came out. Nobody knew he'd do this.
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1. Killa Kyleon, Candy Paint N Texas Plates 2
Kyleon's recognition has been a long time coming. And this tape really felt like the fulfillment of the flashes of greatness he'd flashed along the way. It featured the city's best rap song of the year ("Bodies"), the city's best rap collaboration of the year ("Make Me, featuring Jack Freeman), the city's best beatjacking of the year (Big K.R.I.T.'s "Time Machine"), etc. It just FEELS wrong to say that this is anything but the best rap project to be released in 2011, and that's really all anyone ever needs anyway.