This, as you've (hopefully) read, was a standout year for Houston rap. In addition to the shuffling that went on at the tip-top of the food chain (Bun, Slim, Trae, Paul, Cham, Z-Ro, Devin and even Lil' Flip all moved spots on the Name The Best, Most Important Houston Rappers list), a 12-month-long game of Can You Top This seemed to be taking place among the increasingly vocal New Houston Collective, from which, these three things are now officially official:
- It is now acceptable for you to argue that there has never been a healthier, stronger, more varied and intimidating lineup of talented rappers in Houston than at this very moment. Chew on that a bit.
- Bun B will go down in history as the most important Houston rapper of all time. Nobody can catch him. He's too far ahead. 'Face could put out another classic album and it still wouldn't be close. Bun has reinvented himself over and over and over again, each time showing a markedly keen understanding of the intricacies of the tumultuous -for lack of a better term, "rap game." Praise to the most high; Bun B.
- Trae has worked himself into perhaps the most enviable unenviable position in the history of envy and positions. For a clearer understanding of that, try to argue against this point: Trae is currently more important in Houston (and perhaps to Houston) than Z-Ro. You can't, legitimately.
Of course, the crux of this lead is the music. We're not certain exactly how many records and mixtapes were released by Houston rappers this year, but there were a bunch (a mathematician might call it somewhere in the neighborhood of "a shit-ton"), which is the reason for this post.
Click on through this slideshow here to see who made it onto the immediately prestigious Top 10 Houston Rap Albums of the Year. It is a distinguished list, and a lot of good, good stuff was left off, so know that while inclusion dictates excellence, exclusion does not necessitate shittiness.
Off we go...
First, the six Honorable Mentions:
16. Scarface, Dopeman Music: Had he concentrated his efforts entirely, this likely would've ended up somewhere closer to the Top 3. But he (appeared to) mostly phone this one in. Still, even considering that, it was better than all but about 15 Houston rap albums this year. Fuckin' 'Face, man.
15. Propain, #Departure: One of the names that gets highlighted on the New Houston Collective roll sheet.
14. Hollywood FLOSS, House of Dreams: Perennial contender for the Best Underground Rapper of the Year award, if FLOSS' name is on it, it's going to be solid. No difference here.
13. Devin the Dude, Gotta Be Me: This tape was one or two songs away from really being tough to deal with. Still, even without any standouts, it's a strong enough tape to register 13th best of the year.
12. Paul Wall, Heart of a Champion: The People's Champ clocks in at 12 with his fourth proper album, Heart of a Champion. Better than that, though, his "Smoke Everyday" track, which features Devin and Ro, rates as one of the year's best songs, regardless of geographical location.
11. H.I.S.D., The Weakend: This is a thinking man's album, and people aren't going to fully appreciate all that it accomplished (particularly when measured against 2007's earth-bound The District). If someone makes a list of the 10 Best Houston Rap Albums of 2010 in 2021, The Weakend might crack the Top 5.
Now, the Top 10...
10. Killa Kyleon, Natural Born Killa: Apparently refreshed by the change in company, Killa Kyleon showed off his newfound vigor on the bombastic Natural Born Killa. "Nuthin' 2 a Hustler" eventually helped this tape bump The Weakend out of this spot, much to the chagrin of every backpack rapper fan everywhere.
9: Scooby, D. Coleman Mixtape: After thirding songs for years with his longtime cohorts (G.R.I.T. Boys), Scooby stepped into the role of solo artist this year on the D. Coleman Mixtape with remarkable ease. He stretched his legs in all of the open space, cultivating his own innate charm and subtle deftness of tone - nobody in the New Houston collective modulates the hum in their flow as well Scooby - very nearly realizing all of his potential on his very first try.
8. Slim Thug, Tha Thug Show: You might not remember this in light of all of the Twitterness that Thugga's washed himself in this year, but he's still a rapper, and the Tha Thug Show, which revamped his Hometown Hero game plan almost entirely, serves to remind you of just that. This is the most commercially viable he's ever had, but not at the expense of his core fan base.
7. The Niceguys, The Show: No other group or duo finished higher than No. 22 on this list; that's how good the guys who are nice are. They polished up what little smudges there were on their preceding EP and made The Show a bright, fun and at times courageous album that shined the brightest when rapper Yves tapered back his considerable talents and allowed the songs to grow on their own ("The Cave," "Curtains," "Good Shepherd"). Know this: If these sirs put out another album in 2011, it will finish higher than this. They've already proven themselves too smart for it not to.
6. K-Rino, Annihilation of the Evil Machine: K-Rino is destined to wander around in obscurity; this hypothesis has proven itself theory for the better part of two decades. Still, even at 40-years-old, there are but a bare few who can match his carnivorous wit when it is set free. Annihilation of the Evil Machine is every bit as intense as its name implies, and K-Rino is in Jungle Killer Mode for the duration of both of its disks.
5. Bun B, Trill OG: Bun B probably had the most successful, busiest year of any Houston rapper this year. Trill OG was awarded Five Mics from The Source, he had a mixtape that wasn't a mixtape, he had a couple of endorsement deals, became a college professor, topped 128K followers on Twitter in a few short months and guest featured on a countless amount of records. There are only so many ways you can say someone is hip-hop royalty, you know.
4. Fat Tony, RABDARGAB: The guy after whom they renamed the Houston Press Best Underground Rapper award after (it's now called The Obi) claims fourth with RABDARGAB, his compelling, ambitious if not altogether adventurous debut outing. There wasn't one other album this year that had a stronger three song set than the first three songs here ("Nigga U Ain't Fat"; "Rap Babies"; "Luv It, Mayne"). Overweight Anthony is a growing force.
3. J-Dawg, Behind Tint Vol. 2: J-Dawg, the most ferocious of all of the Boss Hogg Outlaws, bulldogs his way all up to the coveted number three spot with Behind Tint Vol. 2, the most wholeheartedly gangster album of the year. Nationally, he may still be a mostly unknown, but in Houston his 2010 turned him into a marquee player.
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2. Preemo, Concrete Dreams: Who? Exactly. The perpetually underappreciated and underrated Preemo logged the second best Houston rap album of the year and only a handful of people seemed to notice. He was smart and brave and creative and smooth on it, doing so with an amount of confidence that was, at times, quite baffling when measured up against his then-obscurity. Concrete Dreams plays front to back with mere baby hiccups in its sleekness.
1: Trae, Can't Ban Tha Truth: Beyond the general listenability of this album - read about that here - no LP had a more resounding impact historically than Trae's anti-corporate, anti-The Box, anti-commercial Can't Ban Tha Truth. It altered the trajectory of 100 different things, including but not limited to: His career, his legacy, the lives of those directly involved with him, the lives of those only tangentially involved with him, the lives of those that supported him, the lives of those that hated him, bass fisherman in Wisconsin, the housing market, the seventh season of Entourage, the speed of light and the migration pattern of rhinos in Africa.