Upon Further Examination—The HoustonReport
Any time all the artists from one region start releasing material claiming to bring their region back…the region is not doing well. A lot of time it’s a harmless device to show the MC as a Neo/Luke Skywalker figure. When everyone starts doing it you know it’s something more. This happened to New York a few years ago and they are still recovering from a pretty serious talent drought. Houston is a bit more complicated. Talented artists litter the landscape and their flaws are also in abundance. I wanted to put something together that would give an assessment of where things are in this historically important region, and what the next generation looks like. I will be looking at their latest mixtape as a point of analysis.
Doughbeezy-Blue Magic mixtape
A 16 track mixtape with known Texas commodities like Slim Thug, Bun B, and Killa Kyleon all featuring. Doughbeezy is a naturally talented lyricist, but after a few songs you’ll realize nothing stands out that much. Some of the chorus’s are annoying or ill conceived and his best lyrical moments don’t amount to much. On “F#ck You” he brags about having his foot on peoples neck, lays down a very good verse, but Killa Kyleon takes over and has the best line of the tape, “She a slut now, everybody do Houston.” At the heart of Houstons problems is the fact that when Mike Jones and Slim Thug reached mass popularity it was their sound that broke out, not them; the sound that has been co-opted by artists like Drake. Killa gives the smartest summation of the problem, everybody does Houston.
Before the last track (a posse cut redo of Still Tippin’)Doughbeezy takes a “smoke break” interlude to brag that nothing on this mixtape was written. So that’s the answer, he grabbed a mixture of his beats and other peoples beats and just erupted onto them. So Blue Magic proves that he can rap, but not much else. I don’t know if he can craft songs. I’m not sure how he can make the next step up until he proves that to a very critical hip hop public.
Stream or download Blue Magic at http://www.datpiff.com/Doughbeezy-Blue-Magic-mixtape.323832.html
Delorean-Mucho Caliente Mixtape
Delorean released a series of Hood Politics mixtapes, his take on the O.P.B. (Other Peoples Beats) philosophy. Unlike Doughbeezy he doesn’t seem to be satisfied in his abilities. Over the course of the Hood Politics series and continuing in Mucho Caliente is a darker tint to his lyrics. His threats seem less like Shadow boxing and more like actual frustration. Even on songs like “Epic”when he’s bragging about feeling great and not trying hard he spends the blistering first verse threatening anyone and everyone. “Sodawater”is filled with fake thugs whose mothers are at home worrying for their lives. His problem is definitely O.P.B. especially on a song like “Murder”where he keeps Jay-z adlibs and Kanye singing while spitting over the Watch the Throne track. It essentially gives him a fake Jay feature he doesn’t need and reminds you that this isn’t his beat. On the same track he promises “2 lps one year, DMX numbers.” In order to do that you have to stop grabbing radio beats and wrecking them, no matter how good at it you are.
Listen to Mucho Caliente at http://smokingsection.uproxx.com/TSS/2012/06/download-delorean-mucho-caliente-mixtape
Spirit Driven is an incredibly frustrating listen. The beats are a little less than mediocre. Basic drum patterns and the heavy plink of piano keys that happen when a conscious rap beat begins. It indicates “this one is serious.” O.N.E. is special because he delivers heartfelt and intelligent rhymes. At his worst he makes songs like “Spoiled” that not only allow for a boring beats but an offensively syrupy R&B chorus. “Piano Music” is a high point and one of the few tracks not ruined by the bad beat/R&B chorus combination. It’s not just a strange Chutes and Ladders game of horrible to great tracks. “Deal Wit U” and “Climb that Hill” are patently uninteresting. At his best he is caught between his fame and his soul, questioning the basis of gang philosophy on “Price of Success(BE ON).”On “Right This Time” he commits to the voyage of the song, admitting that making this music the way he wants it is challenging. His best verse is on it “The tragedy is the faculty lives on damn near minimum wage and they ask them to care, go to the top 400 people and just ask them to share…go ask the bottom 200 mill if its actually fair?” A Houston rapper discussing the distribution of wealth in serious terms is an interesting prospect but right when he’s at his most interesting a song like “The One” starts. The piano sample is light and sensitive as he name checks O-Town, N-Sync and boy bands…followed by a terrible chorus by Brian Angel. As much as he makes fun of these boy bands…this song sounds like it could have been made by any one of them. Brian Angel certainly would have fit in. It feels at times like O.N.E. carefully takes just as many steps back as he just took forward, so that he won’t make any progress. That way he can be underground and underrated, the guy everyone says “doesn’t get enough shine.”
you can download Spirit Driven at the end of this article
Le$ is unrelenting. He puts a new mixtape every few months, usually its 22-28 tracks long and 10-14 of those are really classic beats he has no business getting on. In true Boss Hogg tradition Le$ has never been a world beater in ability. He’s slow and sufficient; crafting paranoid, determined, riding music. “Swang & Bang” establishes this, not a quotable to be found but a gorgeous beat (equipped with the sound of a money counter in the background). “Heart of a Hustla” and “Bunch of Money” follow fitting snugly within his comfort zone. Haters resent his money, he grinds for it anyway and the beat remains luxuriously Stunt N Dozier. You cant help but question decisions like “Thuggish” where Le$ decides to go searching for the last inch of untapped potential he’s convinced is left in the Thuggish Ruggish Bone beat. The Stunt N Dozier mix 1 is not only offensive but annoying and uninspired. Progress is evidenced by this outing being only 14 tracks total but three Stunt N Dozier Mixes are instrumental(only lyrics through samples) and problematic in that they draw attention to the fact that these thick, bouncing beats are the real draw. You have to wonder how many MC’S would sound just as great or better over tracks like “Goin’ Down Tonight.” I think More Le$ shows progress but it can feel painfully slow.
More Le$ is available at http://www.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/17977/le_more_le.html
These artists are all searching for more than just the right chorus or beat. They are looking for the right artistic persona. That zone where you not only have faith in your progress but your fans do as well, that’s what builds a buzz. When no one has that…everyone starts saying “we bringing Houstonback!” Of all these artists if I had to pick one to put out a shockingly complete mixtape in the coming year it would likely be Delorean. He’s less bluster(and funny bluster when he blusters) and capable of managing the mixture of dark and thoughtful that suits him best. He really just needs to find his way to the right production.