Houston Music

The H-Town Countdown, No. 23: K-Rino's Time Traveler

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 [email protected].

"So you was God posing as Satan doing an imitation of God acting like Satan?"

K-Rino has always been inordinately clever. With regards to just raw content, you're not going to find too many MCs that delve deeper into the "word as weapon" mentality. For the duration of his two-plus decade career, Rino's albums have centered on wildly complex and creative wordplay laid over thickly produced beats.

The irony here, though, is that he's done so to such a successful extent that people began listening to K-Rino albums just to see what he was going to say next, which makes listening to the same album again and again feel the same as when you watching a movie with a "twist" ending again and again. Derailed was good the first two times, yo, but we never felt like we need to see it more than that.

But Time Traveler felt - still feels - like a straight-up hip-hop album, most notably in two parts.

First of all, the production is lighter than usual and his occasionally semi-automatic gunfire flow is tapered back just slightly.

Take "Four Minute Warning," for example. There's always at least one song on each of his albums where he just goes effin' insane with punch lines and multis and metaphors. On this album, "Four Minute Warning" is that track. But where other times he would've laid it over some magnanimous swell of a battle beat (such as "Perpetual Ascension" on Blood Doctrine), this time he picked an economy-of-sound snare loop as the backing. The contrast between the complexity of his lyricism and the simplicity of the beat make it enjoyable over and over.

Secondly, there is an uncommon amount of gravitas to his words on this particular album. He's hinted at being socially conscious and spiritually based on other works, but on Time Traveler it felt like it was the first time he was able to pull it off for an entire album without being preachy. Ultimately, he was able to be relevant from a positive standpoint, which is way more impressive than it initially appears to be. Even the momentarily incendiary "Kill the Preacher" ends up being about killing falsehoods and not actual clergymen.

Factor in that he recorded the entire album in 21 days - you can almost tell which tracks were recorded before the others by how hoarse his voice is on each, which has the incidental effect of giving the album a somewhat somber feel - and you've got yourself a certified classic.

K-Rino's new album, Solitary Confinement, will drop this October. To pre-order your copy you can email K-Rino himself at [email protected] or hit 'em up at www.myspace.com/spckrino. He's trying to get 1,000 people signed up before he releases it.


No. 24: Pimp C, Pimpalation

No. 25: Big Moe, City of Syrup

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Shea Serrano