These are the 25 best songs from Houston rap's glorious 2011. They've been pressed onto actual cassettes (not pictured above). We only made ten of them, because, fuck, it takes a long time. They are for sale ($600). And, as a way to honor the city's grey tape past while being entirely self-indulgent (pretty much our two favorite things), they're called the Shea Tapes. Email if you want one.
At any rate, the 25 songs. Now, naturally -- NATURALLY -- there are a few qualifiers:
(a) There was a bit of a hullabaloo this year during the Houston Press Music Awards process when the Best Underground Rapper and Best Rapper categories were squished into one. And that makes sense; it's hard for, say, someone like Delo to keep pace with Slim Thug when fan voting is concerned. So, for here, for this mixtape, only artists that could reasonably be considered "underground" within Houston's sphere were included. Basically, that's goodbye to Bun B, Slim Thug, Trae, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Z-Ro, Lil Flip, SPM (he had a tough, tough song released this year called "Pyramid" that nobody bothered to talk about) and, now, Kirko Bangz. You could have them as a guest feature (Le$'s "3rd Coastin'," for example, which has a Paul Wall verse on it, would be eligible), but they can't be the primary. Oh, speaking of...
(b) No artist was allowed to be the primary on more than one song. That's why Killa Kyleon's "Make Me" featuring Jack Freeman didn't make the list, even though it is (arguably) one of the best local songs of the year. You could sneak on twice if you had the good fortune of being a guest feature on someone else's really good song, but that's it.
(c) If your song was just you rapping over someone else's beat, you didn't qualify (there's a vast difference between sampling a beat, which nearly everyone does now apparently, and straight-up taking one). Houston is thriving right now. There are too many talented producers at everyone's disposal. Those beatjack types of things are almost always fun -- did you hear Marcus Manchild yank apart the instrumental for Drake's "Cameras"? -- but they can't be rated higher than tracks with mostly original production. It's just not right. That's why, say, KDOGG's brilliant flow over the "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" beat or anything from Tawn-P's wonderful tape The Wake Up Kiss didn't get included.
(d) Interludes/breaks/skits weren't included. This rule had to created specifically for DJ Mr. Rogers, who's "RidingThruMrRogersNeighborhood" interlude on Le$'s Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2 was so gregariously creative and enjoyable that, rapping or no rapping, it very likely would've landed somewhere within the top four. That shit should be 22 hours long. If you ever have to stand in line for anything in Heaven (new robes, get your wings repaired, trade in virgins, whatevs), that's what they should play while you wait. Also, Jett I. Masstyr's "The Madness Pt. 1" interlude would've wiggled its way up to teens, for sure.
Now, the songs, 25th to 1st:
Children of the Corn-ish production, an aggressive contribution from the previously unknown Lil' Pooh, one great Zavey line ("You prolly think I'm out my mind. Well, bitch, I'm out my mind."). Lots to like here.
She won't explain how, but Rodriguez has kept herself in new SPM music since his incarceration.
25. Fame $ity, "The Strip" featuring Yung Quis
Fame is a hearty, hearty gangster. Next year, he will have a much larger buzz than he does currently. He's too good not to. Here, he and Quis do the Bad Cop, Bad Cop routine. Strong stuff.
Easily the most edifying of this first cohort. (The instructions are simple enough: If you have a butt, go ahead and throw it backwards.)
23. MPS, "Dat's My Lil' Dip" Remix featuring Just Brittany, Beatking and Fat Pimp (Video Above)
This was the best song from his party-in-a-can album Inside My Mind. It is as hypnotic as it is fun.
This was the first year that there appeared to be a concentrated effort among underground Houston rappers to attack the dance rap genre. It made for all sorts of tomfoolery.
20. D-Risha, "Ebonics"
A four-minute dissertation on the Houston rap lexicon. They should make elementary kids learn this song instead of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Can we all just agree to put the "He's Good For Being A White Guy" storyline to bed now? #Kthxbai
1. Don't stop. 2. Pop that pussy. 3. Pop that pussy. 4. Pop that pussy.
Pageantry and tragedy. For real. Brutal first verse.
Acceptable Alternate: "Tromedy" featuring Roosh Williams
17. GT Garza, "Hoe"
How quickly can you name that sample? How quickly after that did you say, "He made a song called 'Hoe' from this"? How quickly after that did you say, "Yeah, okay, GT Garza is a bad dude."
Why the 16.5 ranking? Easy: The super complicated mathematical formula we were using to calculate where the songs were getting placed in this countdown went screwy when we got to this one, likely on account of all of the tears that were falling onto the motherboard while it played. Math cannot unravel these types of emotions. Sorry.
Can we just go ahead and make it so that whenever someone writes about Manchild's speed-of-light flow, they do so without using any spaces between the words in an effort to convey just how fast it is that he's going? Imean,MarcusManchildrapsfastasshit,bro.
15. Mookie Jones, "Go, Go, Go"
Mookie Jones is the actualization of bedroom eyes. He is a mink coat. So on and so forth.
14. Roderickvonn, "ALL UR BASS R B-Long 2 US!"
Probably the only song on this list created around an Internet meme. It is impossible to listen to Vonn and not feel thoroughly unhip and clueless about what it is exactly that the kids are doing.
Hoodstar has delivered a handful of remarkable verses this year (remember when it took him all of about an hour to destroy that beat Slim Thug put on Twitter?). This is one. He isn't always appropriate, but within the shit-talking spectrum, he rates way, way close to king.
One of the current Houston rap traditionalists. Quick side note about this song: This is actually the beat he won after he bulldozed his way through a freestyle competition. Love that.
Lots say that "Pack It Up" is UZOY's best song, and that's understandable because it's very good, but this, a buttery, near neo-soul rewrite, is noticeably more interesting.
From one of the best albums of the year, easy. Le$ is doing a lot of things right a lot of the time, and his whole postmodern gangster bit is kind of en vogue right now, so, who knows.
Acceptable Le$ Alternates: "3rd Coastin'"; "Get What You Give"
Boss Hogg Outlawz. #FWM Maybe one of the most accidentally amazing choruses of the fall season.
Two years now this guy has been one of the best rappers in the city. It'd be neat if someone noticed.
Acceptable Alternates: "I Betcha"; "Hello Again"; "Where She Started"
7. Propain*, "Smiling Faces" (Video Above)
Just too good. His Dangerous Minds tape will make a fair amount of noise next year. Mark that.
*Acceptable Alternates: Propain, "King Otis"; Eskabel, "Otis"
Somehow, this shifts from hurricane to still waters without any hiccups. Far superior to the original.
God. Damn. Actually, here, that should be capitalized: GOD. DAMN. Gullatte, formerly Kritikal, is so flip-the-switch ferocious that it's hard not to immediately argue that he is some sort of aggro-rap savante after about six seconds of hearing him rapping. The very first time we got into a fight (4th grade; Fuck you, Jorge C.), the other kid hit us first. We started crying. Then, and it's a bit fuzzy, we went fucking apeshit insane. It was animalistic (in as much as a 4th grader can be considered animalistic). That moment right after shock and fear flipped into rage, that blind red, that's this song.
Supernaturally likeable and equally talented, The Beez watched his name rise in 2011 as quickly as anyone not named Kirko Bangz. If he does not become ultra successful, it will not be because of a lack of effort.
Creepy and sensual and smart and beautiful. If hasHBrown never makes a song better than this, it'd be understandable. So good.
2. Delo*, "One Shot" (Video Above)
"Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, motherfucker! I'm hungry in this bitch!" --Delo // Yep, that about sums it up.
*Acceptable Delo Alternate: "AAAAAGGGGHHHH"
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1. Killa Kyleon*, "Bodies" featuring Bun B
Killa Kyleon has always been very good. This year, perhaps inspired by the palpable energy of Houston's growing rap underclass, it felt like he decided he wanted to be great. He crushed everything. EVERYTHING. An example of how dominant he was: He won the Best Mixtape of the Year award at the Houston Press Music Awards and nobody fired off an "Oh, this is total bullshit" tweet or email or comment this way. And rap fans argue about everything. EVERYTHING.
Acceptable Killa Kyleon Alternate: Killa Kyleon's "Make Me" featuring Jack Freeman
Coming later: the ultra-prestigious Ten Best Rap Albums from Houston's Glorious 2011 list.