The H-Town Countdown, No. 18: Swishahouse's The Day Hell Broke Loose

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Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email it to sheaserrano@gmail.com.

This is the first album we've seen on The Countdown that has aged its way to a spot on it. What we mean to say is that, if we simply considered this tape in a vacuum, it probably wouldn't have made the list. Mind, it's certainly good, but time has swelled its significance considerably. First, it was put together right near the end of the '90s, a couple of years before the new-money Houston rappers (Cham, Paul, Jones, Slim, Flip, etc.) were able to piece together a marketable enough version of the sound that would personify - still personifies - our city.

South Park Mexican, Lil' Mario and Slim Thug, "Hay Hay Hay"


is all warbly voices, "I done came down"s and synthy production that sounds way better once it's been Screwed, which is not an accident. Listening to this tape now is an easy way to recapture the earnest days of Houston's second-generation rap pre-boom. It's remarkably nostalgic; were there a barber shop open at 11 p.m. (which is when we were writing this) we almost certainly would've woken up the next morning with a ball-fade haircut. Of course, there are plenty of compilation albums that were produced between 1996 and 1999 that can elicit that same sort of wistful response (pretty much any DJ Screw tape with a number in the title will do). This one, however, features a whole nother aspect to it that pushes it into classic status: the emergence of Slim Thug.

Slim Thug, Lil' Ron and Billy Cook, "Playa Made"

Say what you will about Michael Watts, but for years the man has a) had a keen ability to measure the pulse of the underground scene; and b) market what he deemed a commodity until it became such. Watts used his label to capitalize on the growing buzz a then still mostly unknown Slim Thug was amassing by prominently placing* him on TDHBL, finding space for his roaming grumble on no less than half of the album's tracks. It's likely Slim would've become a star without Watt's help, but it sure as poop didn't hurt to have that backing.

Lil' Mario, Archie Lee and J-Dog, "Still Thuggin'"

(*Watts mimicked this with Mike Jones on 2004's TDHBL Vol. 2, placing Jones on about 11 of that CD's 15 tracks. In 2005, Jones's Who Is Mike Jones? went platinum. This is not a coincidence.)

And all of this is not to mention the other MCs on the album: Paul Wall, J-Dawg, Archie Lee, Botany Boyz, SPM and Billy Cook to name a few. Because we're so kind, and we know because you would never, ever go to blogsearch and easily find it for free download,

here's where you can get a copy of the album for less than $6

. Make sure they get your ball fade high and tight.

References:No. 19: Chamillionaire and Paul Wall's Get Ya Mind CorrectNo. 20: Z-Ro's The Life of Joseph W. McVeyNo. 21: Ganksta NIP's South Park PsychoNo. 22: Big Hawk's H.A.W.K.No. 23: K-Rino's Time TravelerNo. 24: Pimp C's PimpalationNo. 25: Big Moe's City of SyrupRead the rules of The Countdown here.

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