Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday that isn't a national holiday, Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.
This Week's Panel: Bun B, Propain, Devi Dev (97.9 The Box), Brad Gilmore, D-Risha, Delo, hasHBrown, Tawn-P, DJ Don, Brandon Caldwell, Fat Tony, KAB Tha Don, Doughbeezy, Kyle Hubbard, A.D.D.
Not Invited: 2009
This Week's Prompt: Following the publication of the first Underground Houston Rap Awards column, we received a fair amount of email. Most of it was cordial, and some of it was awful. The one question that came up more than any other, though: Which has been the best rap song a Houston undergrounder has released this year?
We're going to open it up some and include the bigger-name guys as well. Let's make two categories, then: Best Underground Houston Rap Song of 2011* and Best Mainstream Houston Rap Song of 2011. So, which two get the nod and why?
*We had to be liberal in the interpretation of the date 2011. Several records made in 2010 that didn't get major recognition until 2011. For example, Kirko Bangz's "What Yo Name Iz" was listed here. It came out in 2010, but most are going to recognize it as a 2011 record, so it sneaks in.
Propain: All of 'em but mine.
Devi Dev: I really like "She Like Me" by Mookie Jones, and I think "So High" by Slim Thug is a great mainstream record.
Bun B: Not trying to be funny, but what defines mainstream?
Rap Round Table: Good Point. For this circumstance, let's say that if it's been played on The Box more than twice, it's mainstream.
Bun B: Then mainstream is "These Days" by Z-Ro and underground is "Getting Paid" by Trae and Wiz Khalifa.
Brad Gilmore: Hmm, well let me start with the underground artists. As far as the absolute best song from the New Houston Collective, I have to narrow it down to three:
hasHBrown, "Degree of Difficulty" (from Relationsh*t)
I choose this song for a few reasons. When you are single and you just broke it off with your "sigot" (significant other), and this song comes on your shuffle, as it did mine, there is not a more perfect song to listen to. This first line in the song is, "You want a girl when you want a girl, but when you don't want a girl you want a girl that understands that."
It's a really great song to start off your day. Even with all that aside, the song itself is a Houston classic. Jett I [Masstyr] on the beat, with the help of his alter ego hasHBrown, alongside Thurogood Wordsmith and Dustin Prestige, it just makes for a good hip hop song.
Fat Tony, "Luv It Mayne" (from RABDARGAB)
This is the song that sticks out to me the most from Tony's debut. It's has a real head-banging beat, an over infectious G'd out chorus, and some of the dopest lyrics I've heard Tony spit. With the help of Murs and Bo. P, Tony really encapsulated his energy, swag, pimpness and Texas roots all in one record.
Twenty Eleven, "Renewable Energy" (from Renewable Energy)
This is the best underground song released within the last few months. I know this is my own band, but this song really illustrates our career thus far, and even though we have been told countless times we couldn't do it, because we were too young or because we were all different races and that no one would understand our sound, we knew one thing: that tomorrow was a brand new day and we wouldn't let anything stop us. And to put it in the words of Chris Brown: look at us now!
As for the mainstream, Bun B, Kirko Bangz, and Marcus Manchild have all been repping Houston to the fullest, but I'll give it to "Get Off Me" by Manchild.
Brandon Caldwell: Even though I wasn't directly asked*: Underground [is] "Khloe" [by] Delo. Mainstream [is] "These Days" [by] Z-Ro.
Delo: "Back Up In My City" or "AGGHHHH" by Delo for underground and mainstream [is] "Say I Won't" by Propain.
Jett I Masstyr: Underground [is] Dustin Prestige's "Catalina Win Mixer." Mainstream, I really don't know what's been released in 2011. I would say Propain's "Say I Won't" since it was released last year and isn't a mainstream song in my opinion.
D-Risha: Okay, the number one underground Houston song goes to John Dew's "Richman" on the album nobody is talking about (Summertime Johnny v1.9). I felt like [producer] Hash and John had a meeting and Hash pulls out a treasure chest and pulls out the beat; it's that serious [laughs].
It blew me away the first time I heard it because I didn't expect it from him and he attacked it the way a super MC would and it demands that he be taken seriously as an artist. And the sample/beat is so infectious it's crazy.
My mainstream pick goes to Z-Ro with "These Days." To be honest, it's not the first time we've heard this type of song from Z-Ro but it's over A list production in the form of Beanz and Kornbread, and it shows with that type of production behind him he could take over any radio station around the country. If this keeps up, he won't be a local celebrity for too long.
Fat Tony: Kirko Bangz's "What Yo' Name Iz," by far. Underground would [be] OG Ron C's freestyle over [Fat Tony's] "Lotus."
DJ Don: The best underground record is "Catalina Wine Mixer" by Dustin Prestige.
Tawn-P: Best underground rap song is "Lavish Life" by Houston artist Tawn-P and best mainstream song is "These Days" by Houston artist Z-Ro.
KAB Tha Don: This might sound arrogant or cocky, but "Good Music" [by DAB] is the best song of 2011, underground or mainstream, and everybody who has really listened to it has said the same.
Renzo: The best undergorund song that I heard this year came from Jon Black and Ensane, collectively known as the Killafornianz. They have this song on their album called "Whatever" that gave me goose bumps when I first heard it. It kinda gave me that feeling I got when Idove into Jurassic 5 as a kid. The song is about shrugging off the bullshit and I am a parader (not sure if it's a word, but fuck it) of not giving a damn at the end of the day. Perfect soundtrack for my daily activities.
Runner-up is Kyle Hubbard's song where he says "I smile at the fact that I know that no one loves me/ I let my pretty blend in wit my ugly." It's on his Tomorrow in Retrospect EP. Song is emotion filled and has unapologetic honesty. And yes, to the reader, I am too lazy to think about the name of the song.
Best mainstream for me was Bun B's "I Get Down Fa Mine" on Trill OG. That was the unmarried, untamed, no-kids, fuck-everything, murder-verse-writing Bun B we all came to love and respect. At one point in the song he says, "And you gon' be a bitch on the day dat you die." Greatest line on the entire album. Runner-up would have been Slim Thug's "Free" on Tha Thug Show. Perfect message and perfect timing.
A.D.D.: I haven't heard any other rappers 2011 projects except Airborne's Mindpodshuffle mixtape, and the best song to me on there is "Make It Happen."
And I definitely don't know who's doing what on mainstream. Matter of fact, I don't even know what to consider mainstream. Most of these niggas' songs - scratch that, all these niggas' songs sound the same.
Oh, and watch out for my debut album this year. And keep it up to all the rap niggas out there.
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Doughbeezy: My pick for best underground is my track "Back Stabbers," and that's because I haven't heard a realer song out yet. And my pick for best mainstream is probably Bun's "Put It Down" featuring Drake.
Kyle Hubbard: Best mainstream is Killa Kyleon featuring Chamillionaire, "60 Gs," because it's classic Houston but has its eyes on the future. Best underground is Roosh Williams, "Beautifully Simple," because it's super-smooth.