Houston Music

The H-Town Countdown: Setting the Table

Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. For the next six months, we'll be 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].

For the last few weeks we have pored over countless Houston rap albums, attempting to narrow down the mass into the 25 best. And if that weren't enough, we then ranked them, top to bottom. It was some stressful shit. Imagine going to the beach and trying to find the 25 best grains of sand. Or the 25 worst Paul Wall similes. That's what it felt like.

But the list is finished. Finally. And as far as we know, it's a project that has never been done before. It'll probably end up as a cited source on Wikipedia pages for the rest of time. We consulted actual rappers, music fiends, other writers and the guy that's always at the bus stop by our house with no shirt on. This is some official shit.

And because we don't want to get a bunch of waah-waah "You just picked your favorite albums" emails, we'll explain how this works. Essentially, we ranked the albums using four basic rules.

1. Mainstream success is not a factor: We're talking about the best album, not the most popular, because, by and large, most music listeners are insensitive to the subtleties (read: dumb). Mike Jones's Who is Mike Jones? went platinum. Scarface's Last of a Dying Breed sold 93 copies. But nobody in their right mind is going to argue that Who is better than Last. Not even Mike Jones.

2. General listening experience: Can you listen to it front to back without feeling like you have to skip anything? Is it too short? Is it too long? Were there too many skits? Not enough? Who did the guest features? Was the album cover cool? So on and so forth.

3. Overall influence and originality: This one seems like it'd be problematic, but it's actually pretty simple. Just think about it like this: If we looking at them in a vacuum, UGK's UGK 4 Life is better than Too Hard To Swallow, but UGK 4 Life will never be as influential, thus it would be ranked below THTS.

4. Paul Wall: An album is automatically disqualified if he is involved in any way. Period. Actually, we're kidding. We take as many shots as we can at Paul Wall, but we've placed a moratorium on all Paul Wall prejudices for the duration of this list (this column only). Need proof? He's on the list. In the top 20.

There will probably be a bunch of people pissed off for not making it on here, even though they'll probably act like they don't care. That's cool. When we re-read the list now we get kind of pissed too. There was a whole bunch of good stuff that got left off.

So for this installment, we're going to quickly scan over several albums we wanted to find space for, but couldn't justify knocking anyone off of the list for. The actual countdown begins next Thursday. In the meantime, warm up with these most honorable mentions.

Lil' Flip, The Leprechaun: Really, really wanted to include this, if for no other reason than because Flip was holding it down early in the decade when no one was talking about Houston. In the end, there were just a few too many skippables.

Chamillionaire, The Sound of Revenge: And just like that, you see how hard it was to crack the top 25. If you're absolutely pissed that this didn't make it, that is completely understandable. But rest easy. Cham is on the list. Twice.

Big Mello, Bone Hard Zaggin': Broke our hearts not to be able to work this one onto there. Good thing people from Hiram Clarke don't know how to work computers.

Choice, Pipe Dreams: Choice was the only female that had a chance of making the list, but ultimately her dirty talk (the title track is basically audio porn) wasn't quite enough to sneak her onto it. It is a nice bit of history though, so if you find a copy, buy it.

Trae, Life Goes On: Strong CD - "Give My Last Breath" and "Nothin' 2 a Boss" were phenomenal - but it just missed out. Another who does make the list, though.

Paul Wall, The People's Champ: This is actually a solid album, particularly the chopped and screwed version from Michael 5K Watts. If you don't have it in your library, hop to. It should be noted that as much as we dig at him, he does have about $80 of our dollars via us purchasing his albums. Aren't we foolish.

Odd Squad, Fadanuf fa Erybody: Good, good stuff rooted in Devin's holy trifecta. Get it.

Seriously, there are a ton of others we could suggest that didn't make it - Bun's II Trill, any of Willie D's stuff, Big Pokey's Hardest Pit in the Litter, Street Military's Don't Give a Damn - but the list is solid.

Be back here next Thursday when we start it.

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Shea Serrano