Exploring Houston's Hip Hop Legacy

I love hip-hop. I listen to it in my car, while I’m cleaning the apartment, when I’m getting ready to go out. Sometimes I even quietly play some in the back office of the store. So when I noticed that we were bringing hip-hop historian Maco L. Faniel to the store to discuss his new book HIP-HOP IN HOUSTON: THE ORIGIN & THE LEGACY, I was intrigued and picked it up. I’d grown up listening to so many of the rappers Faniel discusses, but I was surprised to learn that I was now living in the city from which they originated. To clarify: I didn’t grow up in Houston; I’m from Temple, TX, a medium-sized city located about an hour north of Austin. Before swim meets my teammates and I would huddle together in the team room and listen to Mike Jones and Chamillionaire to get pumped up. We probably didn’t have nearly as much to rebel against as young African Americans living in the Fifth Ward in the late 90s and early ‘00s did, but rap and hip-hop struck a chord with us, just the same.

Faniel does discuss the well-known Swishahouse/DJ Screw legacy for which Houston is famous, but the thrust of the book - and what makes it really different from other hip-hop histories - is on the roots of Houston’s hip-hop culture, going as far back as mid-century, with an exploration of Houston’s renowned jazz, blues and zydeco artists, like Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins. He then recounts how Houston was influenced by New York’s hip-hop scene, but also how rappers like K-Rino, Willie D, and Sire Jukebox, club owners like Steve Fournier and DJs like Carlos Garza (DJ Styles) helped particularize and expand Houston’s hip-hop scene before it became professionalized. You’ll learn about the Geto Boys when they were the Ghetto Boys, about rap battles between the different members of Houston’s five main black high schools, and then, about much bigger battles in nightclubs that could and often did host thousands of people.

Broderick, a Houston rapper and Faniel’s longtime friend, called Faniel before HIP-HOP IN HOUSTON’s publication to say “Bruh, you have to publish this because people need to know about this untold history.” Broderick is not alone in this sentiment: the UH Library System joined together with Rice’s H.E.R.E. Project to form the Houston Hip-Hop Archives Network and the two-day “Awready!” Houston Hip-Hop Conference in 2012.

To that effect, here’s a very, very tiny Houston Hip-Hop playlist (in no particular order), compiled with the help of Faniel’s book and Brazos booksellers’ own hip-hop knowledge. For a comprehensive list of Houston’s best hip-hop albums check out Shea Serrano’s truly impressive 2010 Houston Press H-town countdown.

  1. “Mind Playin Tricks on Me” - Geto Boys 
  2. “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangta” - Geto Boys 
  3. “Seen a Man Die” - Scarface
  4. “Vigilante” - Raheem
  5. “Rockin’ It” - Real Chill (K-Rino)
  6. “‘I’m Free” - Pimp C
  7. “Southside”- Lil’ Keke
  8. “Tops Drop” - Fat Pat
  9. “Wanna be a Baller Shot Caller” - Lil’ Troy
  10. “Ridin’ Dirty” - Chamillionaire
  11. “Pocket Full of Stones” - UGK
  12. “Swang” - Trae
  13. “Still Tippin’” - Mike Jones
  14. “Ever So Clear” - Bushwick Bill
  15. “Mo City Don Freestyle” Z-Ro
  16. “Barre Baby” - Big Moe

And our most recent favorite, “Bow Dow” by Beyoncé (pay attention to the shout-outs in the last verse.

-- Mary