Back in 2007, we came across a hip-hop video on YouTube that featured Trae, so naturally, we eagerly clicked on it. The track starts off with a sick Bun B sample.
"You fuckin with Texas, you fuckin' with the best/ I ain't hard to find/ I'm in Texas bitch, come and get me"
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The initial scenes are stereotypical Houston. Cars and trucks with suicide doors dripped in candy red paint, swaggin' aggressively through Texas streets, bullying average looking vehicles to the curb and stopping traffic. The shit just looks mean. Then you had a large group of Meskins throwin' up the H. So naturally, we thought "Houston" and asked ourselves, "All right, which of Houston's Latino rappers teamed up with Trae?" We weren't going to get the right answer because we were asking the wrong question. Hell, we were in the wrong area code. The answer was actually three hours and 36 minutes away, or 218 miles down 59 South. Don't worry. We aren't going to make you bust out a map. The rapper was from Corpus Christi, his name was Flatline and the song was "Fuckin With Texas." Jose Mendoza, a 30-year-old Corpus native, is one of two rappers on the Texas Latin Mic Pass who are Houston transplants from elsewhere. The other is Dallas native Big Cease, of Hata Proof Records on the Northside. (Rocks Off will get to him, too). Three years ago, the video made an obvious statement: Houston's rap culture is spreading like peanut butter throughout Texas and the Southwest. It's something to be proud of, because it makes the case that in the future, Houston could become a major music hub. We aren't as glamorous as Los Angeles or New York, but then it wouldn't be Houston if it was. Californian Baby Bash got his real start with Houston's Dope House Records - after his album debuted on that label, Universal took notice, so there's a precedent. "There's a big music movement out here," Flatline tells Rocks Off. "There are lots of people coming here; we are migrating to H-Town for this music thing. H-Town lives for this music and if you want to do things on a whole other level you have to be where the game's at. I love my city, Corpus Christi. It's my home base, but I could only go so far, unless I moved out the city." For guys growing up in the barrios of South Texas, Houston rap of the '90s provided music that was relevant not only culturally but geographically. "SPM and Grimm opened the doors to the Latino (rap) movement," says Flatline. "We owe a lot to H-Town. There was always cholo rap. I really didn't listen to cholo rap. If you wanted to hear a Latino you had to listen to Cali. Houston rappers started talking about stuff we could relate to and SPM took it to another level." Flatline has an interesting story. He went into the prison system in 1998 and served three years; he wouldn't tell Rocks Off his crime, only his time. He discovered his love for writing and rapping while incarcerated and wrecked it behind bars. Only weeks after being released from prison, he was in the lab recording in San Antonio and doing shows with SPM. He says prison guards saw him onstage in McAllen and flipped out. "Fuckin With Texas," which earned the Texas Latin Rap Awards' Song of the Year in 2007, was definitely his peak. That same year, his son was diagnosed with autism at age two and Flatline prioritized that important development with his full attention. Still working the mixtape circuit, Flatline did his best to stay on the radar. "I had big demand (in 2007) but my family came first," says Flatline. "A lot of people told me I slept on the hit, but I have 100 more to come with it." Flatline has six projects ready to drop in 2010, three albums and three mixtapes. He is looking to revive "Fuckin With Texas" with an extended remix version and he tells Rocks Off he's talking to ESG, Lil Keke, Lil Flip, Magno and Big Tuck from Dallas about jumping on the track. The first time you'll flatline in 2010 will be when Flatline's mixtape, entitled My City, hits the streets in mid-January. We wonder which city, Houston or Corpus? After viewing the video, does it really matter? Everything nowadays looks so damn Houston. Follow Flatline on MySpace. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.