When people talk about the weather in Houston, Texas they love to mention the humidity. Often times they fail to point out the fact that it’s also 105 degrees. Both factors affect the heat index. Similarly, when music fans and the like mention rap from the H, the conversation goes like this–
“Oh, the dirty dirty south? Houston? You mean like, Geto Boys and Screw?”
It’s great the south has made an impression, just too bad that is all that has been fossilized in people’s brains and Ipods. So besides the humidity and the temperature, there is another reason why Houston is hot.
But I am not here to point fingers. This summer some old Swishahouse tracks came into my possession, and I thought to myself, “Damn. These are dope. I don’t remember coming across these back in the day.” And I continued thinking, “Am I one of those self proclaimed rap fans (above) that only has The Roots, Jay-Z, one Nelly song, and Coldplay on his Ipod? No way, it’s safe to say that’s not the case.
When Swishahouse was founded in 1998 by Michael ‘5000’ Watts and OG Ron C, it was a newcomer to a hyper local movement that began in the mid 80’s with the South Park Coalition (1986) and Rap-A-Lot Records (1986), followed by the Screwed Up Click (1992), the Wreckshop Family(1990’s), and the Dope House Family (1995). As a result Swishahouse lacked momentum and didn’t get the radio play it deserved. Therefore, I wasn’t exposed to the early Swishahouse artists until their later roster garnered radio play and national attention.
Houston is an extremely large and sprawled out city. As a youngster from the Southwest Side, it was difficult to come across music from other parts of the area in terms of mix tapes, shows, and other promos. As far as rap goes, I only saw advertisements for South Side rappers such as the Herschelwood Hardheads, Botany Boys, Fat Pat, Scarface, and the Blac Monks.
Around 99’, a little after Swishahouse was founded, I moved. Unlike my old neighborhood friends, my new crew wasn’t bangin’ Screw and I was no longer running into local rappers at my friend Kevin’s house. Instead I was introduced to punk bands such as Operation Ivy and The Aquabats. In effect, for a hot minute I was distanced from the budding H-Town rap movement, especially from North Side stuff.
Side note: It’s weird that my two worlds eventually overlapped. Tim Armstrong of Operation Ivy and Travis Barker, originally of The Aquabats and later drummer for Blink 182, formed music super groups The Transplants and Expensive Taste in collaboration with several Houston rappers such as Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and Bun B.
Finally, another factor that separated me from North Side culture was style. We rocked fades on the South Side and North Siders had braids. Author Mickey Hess of Hip Hop in America observed—
The North Side and South Side of Houston were known in the hip hop world as having a deep divide that occasionally erupted in violence. The North Siders identify as such by wearing blue and black and styling their hair in braids. On the flip side, South Siders wear red and black with fades instead of braids.
In a word, my geographic location, haircut, and a tension I had almost zero stakes in kept me from experiencing some of H-Town’s finest music.
On the whole North v. South thing, several Houston rap artists released songs illustrating the unproductive internal Houston rap beef. Slim Thug and ESG released classics such as Braids N’ Fades (1999) and Candy Coated Excursions (2000), both pointedly describing that “there’s nothing but love between the North and South.” Additionally, Pimp C released Knockin’ Doors Down (2006) in an effort to kick down the barriers many Houston rappers created between each other over fruitless arguments. Further, the hair style divide fell by the way side and now many Houstonians symbolically sport this hair cut.
So like I said earlier, I was given Swishahouse’s greatest hits this summer. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. After those classics, I’ve also listed some exciting new projects that Swishahouse is working on, one of which is TRILLSTEP. Yea, you heard that right. Dub Step mixed with Houston rap. It’s off the chain –Droopy
Big Tiger, Lil’ Ron, Lester Roy, Blindcyde, Tubby- DRANK IN MY CUP (2001)
Chamillion, Archie Lee, Lil’ Ron- HATERS BE ASKIN (2003)
Mike Jones- DON’T FAIL ME (2002)
New Projects (in no particular order)
BMC & Michael ‘5000’ Watts- TRILL STEP SAMPLER and if you are in the Houston area go to this October 22, 2011.
Felo AKA Felony- TIME PASSES
Surreal ft. Dallas Blocker- SO THROWED
FAM 420- Magno, Konan, Coota Bang, Archie Lee- A.B.E.
 Aqualeo, Big Tiger, 50/50 Twin, Big Pic, A.D. Green, Lil’ Mario, Lil’ Trey, Big Redd, Lil Pat, Blyndcyde, Lester Roy, Alley Cat, Lil Ron, Lew Hawk, Sabwarefare, J Dawg, Al Bolden, PJ, Krazy Man.