And so it’s come to this.
We’ve spent the better part of the year with this column highlighting a wide majority of mixtapes, albums, singles and other inner workings of Houston rap. We’ve seen new names come into focus, older names remain steadfast, and some transform into national entities, all without leaving the city. Thus, 12 months into 2015 and with the final grouping of best mixtapes and albums already balloted and tabulated, it's time we pass out some awards.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Trill Sammy
A late surge from the wild-haired “Martin” rapper ensured that he was going to own the throne for the youth who live purely off of vibes and energy. There was supposed to be a tape from Hiram Clarke Sammy dropping at the end of the year, but thanks to increased tour dates with Dice Soho and a massive sold-out show inside Warehouse Live’s Studio room, it’s evident that Trill Sammy has an idea of not only his star power but how natural charisma wins over plenty of people in hip-hop. Trill Sammy wanted it “Wholesale” and he got it.
Honorable Mention: Rizzoo Rizzoo
LIVE SHOW OF THE YEAR: “Welcome To Houston 2.0," Free Press Summer Fest
The hardest thing about sitting among legends, kings, men who share similar career successes and accolades, is that you never know how long it's going to last. For a city that will forever try to give flowers to its legends while they’re still here to smell them, Free Press Summer Fest has made in an annual tradition to ring in a vast majority of the city’s old guard for a one-off performance. As I spoke to Z-Ro earlier this year, he agreed that there should be no reason why “Welcome to Houston” couldn’t tour the country and remind people of what particular geographic area is basically the frame for damn near every current rap & R&B song out.
Honorable Mention: Republic of Texas, Warehouse Live
MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Sauce Walka vs Drake
The original "moment of the year" were actually tiny ones that molded together. Kirko Bangz finally has a light to release his Bigger Than Me album. T-Wayne & Chedda Da Connect turned their brotherhood into Billboard success, label deals and in Chedda's case, an outright album. BeatKing partnered with Penalty. DJ Chose did songs with Akon and signed a partnership with Think It's A Game. DeLorean went on a national tour. And yet, none of it made the world collectively ask a ton of questions more than The Sauce Twinz and the by product of Sauce Walka's feud with Drake. You know the history, we've covered it to exhaustion. Even when "Winnin," the Sauce Twinz/Meek Mill record popped up a couple months ago, we immediately presumed it was a diss when in actuality it was a standard affair moment of braggadocio.
Or we could have said when Steve Francis got his chain snatched, but that's just too damn rude.
MVP: MC Wickett Crickett
In a way, arguably the most selfless man in the industry deserved praise one last time. Rappers in the city come and go, yet the man who first introduced the city to open-mike nights, to mini festivals and the mining of liked minded individuals to build a legacy will forever remain. We lost Wickett Crickett last month after a battle with cancer. His legacy as a historian, an MC, a champion of the local scene and one of the more valuable voices in Houston will forever remain intact. He's a legend. He will be missed.
Now for the final mixtapes of the week for 2015.
Kay Jay, Tees, Trees & MP3s
When we first got wind of Kay Jay via Free Press Summer Fest and then Houston Whatever Fest, it was easy to try and dismiss him. There’s no fun in immediately shifting your focus towards someone else, especially after you’ve seen hundreds of performers. Kay Jay expressed that he was an entrepreneur, a college graduate who not only had high hopes for himself but wore those emotions on his sleeve. A tape like Tees, Trees & MP3s can come off as simple, hell, even geared towards the diminishing genre of “frat-rap,” but Kay Jay is a bit different. There’s a flow there that is lithe, even sing-songy from “Top Spot” on. What he may lack in being a flat-out can’t-miss rapper is made up in spades by producer Trakksounds. Not even a full month after he helped Nashville rapper Starlit effectively “move” to Houston, he’s back crafting another full-length project for a rapper, combining Houston old with Kay Jay’s views of Houston new.
When you’re a rapper, you create invisible enemies, picking up the same type of self-motivational techniques that Michael Jordan used as an obsessive form of wanting to win at any cost. Kay Jay has haters, because of course. Kay Jay can get sucked up into psychedelia thanks to a little weed and a little drank. What you can't take from Kay Jay is the love he has for his niece on TTM’s closing track “Guardian Angel.” It’s heartfelt and easily something to remember Kay Jay beyond typical rapper tropes.
Wes Blanco, Grease Is the Word
At first thought, Wes Blanco could have rode his rather impressive stream of consciousness flow from "Johnny Cash" into a realm that only he could truly occupy. Much like how Javon Johnson is a hard, '90s era rap revivalist, Wes Blanco pushed around the thoughts in his brain with such an impulse that he has to get them out. Grease Is The Word, his late season EP attempts to capture most of that magic within its 7-track layout and succeeds for the most part. Benjamin Trill offers a very noticeable switch up for the latter half of the tape but Blanco's in his pocket on "Fully Loaded" and "Get Right". He's not fully dismissive of a particular woman as he was on "Johnny Cash" on "Get Right" but he's near it, scoffing at women who lie about the men they sleep with. Stream it here.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
J-Dawg, "Forever And a Day"
Still a powerful song, now with an even more powerful video. J-Dawg is at his pensive best on "Forever And a Day" as he fights back tears and exhaustion just to reveal testimony about M.U.G. He wants you to be fully convinced about your own situation, that if you know somebody who didn't love a friend of yours saying RIP to stop lying about it. J-Dawg may fight you, he may shoot you, but he definitely wants you to be honest about your misdoings and faults.
DeLorean feat. Bam Rogers, “Pay Off”
The hardest argument I had against “Pay Off," DeLorean’s second straight moment of grind clarity, for being one of the best songs of the year was that I was limited to counting 10 records. As tough a record “Pay Off” is, its only a reminder of what DeLorean does on almost a track-by-track basis. The video however is rather touching, a unique grasp on struggle, sacrifice and in the end — happiness.
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SHOW ME HOW
Show Louis, “Mahailia"
I keep expecting things to change with Show Louis, that whatever penance he was handed down by the Lord above would end and he would just return to being a more than capable father and human. God, apparently, isn’t through with him yet on “Mahailia,” where the Love & Drugz rapper admits to doing dirt, calmly reminisces on his mother playing Mahalia Jackson and him smoking to chase the demons away.
Rizzoo Rizzoo, “#WWYD"
The only time a trap artist is going to play “21 Questions” isn’t when dealing with the cops, its when he’s questioning the heart and loyalty of a subordinate. Rizzoo Rizzoo along with Bro Dini navigate through every logical statement and potential outcome for “#WWYD” and it’s easily the best two verses he’s spit since coming onto the scene for good in 2015.