A career in music has always been something of a foregone conclusion for Byron Lynn Nettles, Jr., the son of a DJ and grandson of a Zydeco musician. The Orange native, now Houston-based rapper known better by his stage name Yung Pooda, has known since grade school he would dedicate his life to making music. Today, his latest single “Forever Tippin” — an homage to Slim Thug’s Houston anthem “Still Tippin” — is climbing the hip hop charts, reviving an iconic sound most young Houston rappers are opting out of.
“I was born into this,” he says. “I started making music at nine.” But lineage alone guarantees nothing in an industry as competitive and oversaturated as hip hop. The would-be star needed more than musical roots to justify his career choice. His early days in the game were spent handing out CDs in Houston parking lots, and paying for said CDs, and the studio time to make them, in ways Nettles has only alluded to in previous interviews. However he managed to fund his career, that same lifestyle nearly erased the hard-earned momentum he had finally achieved just a few years ago.
“I wanted a Houston legend for it,” says Pooda of his 2017 single “Beat Up The Block” featuring Paul Wall. “Paul and I had a mutual connection, and he decided to hop on after hearing it. The rest was up from there.” The track, while failing to garner much attention, gave the young artist’s career a monumental dose of credibility, while also showcasing his slick lyrical talent. Around the same time, Pooda was booking tour dates with Boosie BadAzz, Slim Thug and Z-Ro. By all appearances, he was a superstar in waiting. Until, just as suddenly, he disappeared.
A stint back in Orange, a few conversations with God and, curiously enough, a global pandemic, is what it took to get Nettles back on track. The rise of TikTok in the year prior to the pandemic and the sudden and prolonged lockdowns of 2020 worked out remarkably well for the young man who, months earlier, had signed to It's a 10 Records, a boutique indie label distributed by EMPIRE. "Repeat That", Pooda's first single of 2020 and his first release since "Beat Up The Block", went viral on TikTok and later YouTube after earning it's own dance routine. Later that year, Pooda followed up on the track's success with yet another TikTok banger, "Chicken N Grits" featuring DreamDoll.
"Those tracks spoke because everyone can relate to them," says Pooda. "'Repeat Dat' has a mantra that makes you feel good, and 'Chicken and Grits' has the same effect. Both tracks came out at the height of quarantine, so all the love they received on social media shows that people were looking for an escape from being in the house."
This time around, Nettles capitalized on the buzz. Earlier this year, he followed up on the success of "Chicken N Grits" with a remix that features Trey Songz, and more recently released his most successful single to date, "Forever Tippin". A reworking of Slim Thug's Houston rap anthem "Still Tippin", Pooda's "Forever Tippin" pays homage not only to the track's original stars, but to the uniquely Houston rap sound they pioneered. The new single remixes both the original track's beat and hook, and Slim even makes an appearance in the song's music video, which was directed by "Still Tippin" director Mr. Boomtown.
"It was something I always wanted to do," says Pooda. "That was always one of my favorite songs, and I just felt like it's still is a Texas anthem. I just wanted to go back and put my twist on it—give my feel on it and introduce it to a new generation."
The single has been incredibly well received, breaking the top 30 on Billboard's Mainstream R&B and Hip Hop Airplay charts and the top 20 on Mediabase's Urban Radio Charts. On YouTube, the music video has amassed nearly 5 million views, and "Forever Tipping" has now been featured on Spotify's Out The Mud editorial playlist, Apple Music's The Plug/ Baseline editorial playlist and Tidal's New South editorial playlist.
Its reception indicates an overwhelmingly positive response to the song's nostalgic appeal, even as a new generation of breakout rappers move away from the city's slow and low roots. The catalogue of Houston's current class of rap stars, names like Maxo Kream, Travis Scott, Megan Thee Stallion and ODB Bloodbath, ranges from alternative synth rap to hardcore gangster rap, trap and everything in between. The once singular and signature sound of the city's rap scene has largely been relegated to the throwback bin. Or, if Yung Pooda has anything to say about it, perhaps not.
"I think Houston is headed to a great space in Hip Hop," he says. "Many artists are going back to their home roots and taking older tracks and paying homage. We are bringing that throwback vibe in our own, unique way. That said, there's room for it all, and Texas artists are showing out in many ways. We do it all here, and that's why music is in a great space here in Houston."
Going by the numbers, it seems Pooda's remarks are on the money. While Houston's slowed down, SLAB-centric brand of hip hop may no longer be the only show in town, it's likely to never go out of style in the Bayou City. Houston's rap scene may very well be forever tippin.