Houston rap has never been in a far more comfortable, and possibly profitable, place. Think about it: the city has two radio stations that both support local artists left and right, and the once-banished Trae Tha Truth is once more openly celebrated on the airwaves. At the same time, long-rising underground stars such as Doughbeezy and DeLorean have made their first dents upon radio.
Propain and BeatKing have had the two most ubiquitous singles. Hell, Mr. Scarface rose from the ashes and decided a new album was in order. The Latino contingent is stronger than ever, and the depth of talent just below the rappers already mentioned here is deep.
I like comparing Houston rap and the WWE -- not just because of the city's insanely rich history with the sport, but because it's so linear. The superstars of yesteryear, such as Slim Thug, Bun B and (to a small extent) Z-Ro, are still viable, but the youth are now ready to handle the mantle of being the flag-bearers. With that in mind, here are the mid-2014 awards for Houston's rap scene, all tied to the men who brawl in the squared circle every Monday and Friday, plus one Sunday a month on pay-per-view.
THE DANIEL BRYAN AWARD: DOUGHBEEZY & BEATKING (Houston Rappers of the Mid-Year)
Daniel Bryan is WWE's king of the "Yes" Movement. For 18 months he was built up as the underdog in the company. Not like John Cena, who really is the authority, Bryan is a legit underdog -- a B+ player who is capable of being the best in the world, but never truly crowned as such. Then WrestleMania 30 happened, and Bryan not only went through Triple H's Tiger Suplexes, he also managed to hoist both the WWE title and that Big Gold Belt in the air as champion.
In a sense, that's how you can say Doughbeezy and BeatKing finally won: they're one another's closest competition in the race to the top. Consider this: the Clown Prince of Houston rap not only managed to get the attention of Complex, he squired another radio smash with "Smile," has another in rotation and manages to keep everybody guessing on his Gangsta Stripper Music 2 tape.
Dough's résumé for 2014 is quite impressive as well - a full length mixtape that struck with two noticeable singles, a definitive Doughbeezy anthem in "I'm From Texas" and the two even tandemed together for "She's On Top". Can't debate anybody else.
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THE "CHAMP IS HERE" AWARD: DOUGHBEEZY, FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON (Mixtape of the Mid-Year)
BeatKing vs. Doughbeezy. One is street, calculated and punched-up fun. The other is trying to make a statement by amplifying everything that's worked previously. By the thinnest of hairs, Dough's tape impacted a bit more than BeatKing's, even with a late challenge from Le$ to deal with.
THE "THIS IS AWESOME" AWARD: YVES, SINCERELY YVES (EP of the Mid-Year)
If this award had any real history, AllDay would have owned it three times over. Tawn P and Preemo dropped three quick-strike EPs that were rich in boom-bap and traditionalism while also holding some modern traits. This year, there have been two EPs of actual consequence: Doeman's DYNA and Easy Yves Saint/Yves' Sincerely Yves.
With all of the edge attached to it, Sincerely Yves by leaps and bounds should have made more noise than it did. It still has legs, the "Juice" video as gritty as anything we've been able to catch in the last year. Doeman's tape, while strong is up against a snarling beast here from one pissed off Niceguy with a lot to say.
Story continues on the next page.
THE BRAY WYATT AWARD: DOEMAN & DE'WAYNE JACKSON (The Breakout Stars)
If we're being openly curious about who's set to become what in Houston's rap ecosystem, you need only look at Doeman and De'Wayne Jackson. And if we're giving this award any kind of made-up history (fine, we will), then Kirko Bangz previously earned this title. So did BeatKing, and last year it was all Maxo Kream. (His award was cast in blue and placed next to his Jordans collection or something.)
Doeman is your quintessential Latin rap star. He's nimble on the microphone, appealing from a female standpoint and crafts the kind of music where certain areas stand out. There's lifestyle moments ("Jodeci"), flat-out escapes where lyricism is his weapon of choice and more.
Jackson is animated to Doeman's cool; Doeman is smooth to Jackson's yelped abrasion. Both of them work in concert in engaging an audience. Jackson's Halftime EP with Donnie Houston became a signature moment for him, a tape that not only gave Houston his props as one of the best in the city on the boards but a guide for young rappers.
THE "CM PUNK CHANT" AWARD: KIRKO BANGZ, BIGGER THAN ME/SLIM THUG & Z-RO, A KING & A BOSS (The Album/Mixtape We Want But Don't Have Yet)
Sigh, CM Punk. I could view a guy who left a company high and dry without showing any kind of respect and decency to his fans as an asshole. I could also feel a bit bitter for calling him that, given he's entertained me for a solid decade as the best microphone guy in the business.
Do I miss CM Punk on Monday nights? Of course. Do I wish he just enjoy retirement in obscurity as opposed to his effigy being chanted in some sort of weird dick-tease that might lure him back? Of course. But he isn't back, and won't be anytime soon.
This award is rather easy, however. Both projects were set to drop a year ago. One remains in limbo and the other is slated to come out in the fall. C'mon, guys -- put both projects out before we all become old and officially put you on Detox status.
THE GIANT SWING AWARD: Z-RO, "WALKING HARD" (Song of the Mid-Year)
The most direct, "holy shit, this is about to happen" move in the WWE right now is Antonio Cesaro's Giant Swing. His entire physique is right up there with Karl Gotch: he's an in-your-face super-heavyweight who is stronger than damn near anybody.
Houston rap songs usually do that to you when you hear them. They grab you, turn you into mush and try to sway all of your friends into liking them. This award had been immediately stamped as the "Doughbeezy and BeatKing" award, since both men have completely swallowed up everything within a certain radius, but then Z-Ro released "Walking Hard" and told us all to shut the hell up.
Story continues on the next page.
THE "WE THE PEOPLE" AWARD: DOUGHBEEZY, PROPAIN & YVES (Videos of the Mid-Year)
Here's the facts: if Doughbeezy's "I'm From Texas" video dropped right at this second, it probably would win. But really, this is a three-man race: Dough's "Bumpin," Propain's "2 Rounds" and Yves' "Juice." Which is basically saying, put two of the best directors in the city, Evesborough Films and Michael Artis, and tell them to duke it out in the center of downtown Houston. One is grit and grime, another is a crime caper, and the other concerns itself with hedonism, love and club life.
Thus, there are certain powers you really can't deny. When it comes to creativity and making sure subjects look like stars of a different nature - you see Danny Ocean. When you want to immediately look ready for MTV and the sort - you seek out Michael Artis. You've got to fight these three in order to see the best the city has to offer.
THE "YOU DID IT, BROCK!" AWARD: SCARFACE (Shocking Moment of the Mid-Year)
WrestleMania was three months ago, so my telling you The Undertaker lost to Brock Lesnar shouldn't be a shock. Better yet, if it is a shock, watch the match, make the same unreal face that everyone else made and then begin crying.
Anyway, Scarface came back this year, fit and still ornery as hell. Plus, we're getting a new Facemob album sometime soon, which is arguably the greatest thing since the sun came out.
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