Recently, rumors about an impending reunion between Trae and Z-Ro began to populate the atmosphere. It seemed mostly like hogwash; though neither of them ever officially acknowledged a rift between the two, everyone pretty much understood that something had pushed the two founding members of Assholes By Nature towards opposite ends of Houston's hip-hop spectrum.
But not too long after the murmurs about their getting back together became hot topics on message boards, Twitpics started popping up on Twitter showing the two together, along with messages about their being in the studio, working on this or that.
And then, like a belated Christmas, it was officially confirmed: A joint album between the two, It Still It What It Is, the follow-up to the heralded It Is What It Is, is in the making.
The two linked up Sunday to shoot a video for one of the new album's tracks. We stopped by to see what was what.
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Some notes from the shoot:
- The video shoot took place at various locations around downtown and the surrounding areas. One of the shots filmed was at a dirty, dilapidated building down the street from Warehouse Live. It was ratty and the windows were boarded up and it generally looked a good place to hang out if you wanted to catch hepatitis. If it were unofficially named Warehouse Dead, that wouldn't be too far off.
- When we came walking around the corner, the very first thing Trae did was make fun of our pants. Skinny jeans are a great big joke among the gangsters, apparently.
- It should be noted that Trae and Z-Ro announced their intention to work together again back in December, the same month that those thousands of birds and fish instantaneously died. People have hypothesized that fireworks were the cause, or that some mysterious disease was the cause, or that maybe even lightning was the cause.
The answer seems clear to us: When Trae and Z-Ro reunited, it shook the Earth to its core, destabilizing fragile ecosystems and food chains and so forth. Z-Ro has been known to open up chest plates simply because he couldn't think straight. Trae packs something that they classify as steel. Birds and fish never stood a chance.
- The video shoot was for one of the songs off of the new album that might be called "Fucced Up World," which is definitely a redo of Tupac's "White Man's World." They were playing the song loudly on one of those portable iPod docks while the video was being filmed. It does not suck.
- When we walked up to Z-Ro he offered a closed fist as his hello. We grabbed hold of it like it was a doorknob.
- Handfuls of homeless people congregated around the area before eventually making their way into the background of the actual video. One of them was an unexpectedly jovial fellow named Tim. We asked him where he was coming from. His response: "From under the bridge." We asked him where he was headed. His response: "Heaven."
- Another homeless person, a short, stocky woman in several layers of clothes, was chatty as well, though far less amiable than Homeless Tim. We asked her how she became homeless. She said she lost her job and then her place to stay and then her children. Now she sleeps outside when she can't get into one of the two women's shelters in the city, which is just about every night. She made sure to stare straight forward when she said explained the situation, looking at nothing but street and cold air.
- Some other notables were in attendance as well, most relevant for the moment being Yung Quis, a high-ranking ABN official with his own solo tape set to release. While chatting him up, we mentioned that we had been trying to get an interview with G.T. Garza to come to fruition (Quis and Garza just released a tape they did together). Quis took out his phone and called Garza at that very moment to arrange everything. ABN is about business, it seems.
- About 30 minutes after we met Homeless Tim, he came wandering back over. He made chit-chat for a bit, then asked a photographer to take a picture of the two of us. The photographer did. Homeless Tim then turned and asked us for money.
Now, we know that he asked for the picture to be taken as sort of a warm-you-up move so he could ask for money, and, in theory, it's a smart move. In practice though, it just seemed like we had been charged to take a picture with a homeless guy, which is probably the shittiest way anyone has ever spent $2.
- Besides the opportunity to stand in the cold and talk to society's forgotten, the most important reason to go the video shoot was this: To see how Trae and Z-Ro operated around each other. As mentioned in the opening, the two, for reasons that have never been disclosed, have been apart for some time now. Per Trae, this is the first actual video they've shot together since 2003-04.
We were curious to see the dynamic between the two. Would they be uneasy around one another? Would they be ambivalent? Would one clearly be the leader? Would they be instantaneous best friends? Would one try to take the other's head from his shoulders? It all seemed in play. But they were exactly as you'd hope they'd be: Comfortable.
They didn't avoid each other, but they also seek each other out. One of the biggest concerns among Houston hip-hop fans was that the two were getting back together for the sake of promotion, that this was all little more than an attempted payday. And if that were the case, then, in all likelihood, that would mean that the forthcoming album would suck.
But if the shoot is any indication, their reunion appears legit. It Is What It Is is a classic album. It Still Is What It Is has the potential to have the same sort of impact.