Houston’s been through it. Over the last seven years, it’s gone from the center of the rap universe (remember 2005, everyone?) to a reputation for being the actualization of regional tropes (they all sip syrup, right?) to, outside of a handful of guys, nearly being disregarded altogether. But it’s grown strong again, readying itself for battle, cultivating an impressive roster of rap talent. The city’s first new guy has trekked into the wild (Kirko Bangz’s “Drank in My Cup”) and an army more look to the follow. These are five to watch for.
#TheAesthete: There may be no young artist in Houston more capable of rolling all the best parts of the southern rap aesthetic into a single moment than Delo. He is gruff and gritty and purposeful and energetic, and his music is an impressive modern amalgam of soul and country rap. He has sampled Tupac and Zach De La Rocha, just the same. Gloriously atmospheric, undeniably consistent. [Download Hood Politics Vol. 3 via Datpiff.]
#THEFURYGOD: Propain has received co-signs from just about everyone that matters in Houston rap; Bun, Slim Thug, Scarface, my mom, more, everyone. (My mom’s inclusion is a charitable bias, obvs.) He raps with a nearly unhinged ferociousness, an undeniable energy that turns everything he says into meanness and everything he doesn’t say into snarling snarly snarls. Gifted songwriter, venomously competitive. [Download Dangerous Minds via Datpiff.]
#TheOmnipresence: Doughbeezy is a fireball emcee with an immediately recognizable pinched-together voice and an unconscionably fun flow. He rocketed from obscurity to ubiquity these past 18 months by multiplying a natural talent for performing with a superheroic work ethic. (He’d go to three or four shows a night, rapping in parking lots or anywhere there was a crowd if he wasn’t booked.) If he doesn’t eventually become the most famous rapper alive, it won’t be from a lack of effort. Hyper-likeable, hyper-driven. [Download Blue Magic via Datpiff.]
#TheEverything: Dustin-Prestige is good for any number of reasons. He’s tall and he’s cool looking (more important than maybe most people realize), he can rap and he can sing, and he’s comfortable alongside everything from indie rock to reggae. But Dustin-Prestige is great for one reason: He did all of those things on his most recent tape, Plaid, and he never sounded corny or unnecessary or contrived. Boldly creative, LeBron Jamesian. [Download Plaid via Mixtape Wall.]
#TheSurrealist: Le$ is part of Slim Thug’s regionally famous Boss Hogg Outlawz. But where Slim is rooted firmly in time-honored gangsterdom, Le$ is the postmodern version. He’s most effective when he’s allowed to roam around in the cosmos, when his production is sunburnt and horn-heavy. His tape last year, Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2, was near perfect in its ambientness, a trait he’s repeated on subsequent mixtapes. He knows exactly what he wants to do with his songs and he does exactly that. Unendingly confident, charmingly mellow. [Download Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 2 via Datpiff.]