With Texas Rap, there are three labels you need to know about:
1. Rap-A-Lot. J. Prince, Geto Boys, Devin the Dude, 5th Ward Boyz, UGK (and others). Set the levels and, as well as some of the best local talent, also released music by some of the coldest non-Texan rappers in the country on their team.
2. Screwed Up Click. DJ Screw, Big Moe, Big Hawk, Big Pokey, Lil' Keke, Trae tha Truth, Lil' Flip (plus more). Originated the Chopped & Screwed sound, had the underground on lock, and only one graduate ever really hit mainstream radio.
3. Swishahouse. Michael 5000 Watts, OG Ron C, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones (with extras). Made the rest of Rap pay attention to Houston in 2005, striking record deals in big places.
By 2008 the purple-tinged spotlight for Texas had faded. The Houstonians had slightly elevated statures afterwards, but nothing like in ’05. It saw rappers returning to independent deals with regional physical releases. A shame, but they were chugging on as before, with the internet helping them to reach broader audiences.
The rowdier Screwed Up Click never really sought fame from the masses (other that Lil' Flip). Unlike their younger Swishahouse counterparts, they kept grinding and had been regularly feeding the streets with new music both before and during that high point. One such release from one of SUC most celebrated graduates is Z-Ro's “Crack”.
Mr McVey’s twelfth album saw him shift from playing the part of the boisterous gangsta on an album the year prior, to a much more sincere individual. He replaced the riot-inducing instrumentals and violence-laden lyrics with a much calmer demeanour here. The opening song “Baby Girl” has love-struck vibes to it and he’s even hosting a party on “If That’s How You Feel”. He’s in a completely different place.
Z-Ro has never been afraid to sing, but this album took things a stage further. Whereas in the past, he might have created Nate Dogg-like hook to create a rugged sing-along, he’s actually harmonising with glee on parts of “Crack”. It’s a refreshing change and one of the elements that makes this release feel like an evolution in his catalogue.
Where previous albums felt quite rushed and rough-around-the-edges, this has more direction, a manageable quantity of music and thorough mixdown to polish it off. There’s a bit of filler on there, he covers old ground a few times, but it feels like a more professional presentation of Z-Ro’s talent than ever before.
The album is peppered with collaborations, as Z-Ro calls on the assistance of former rivals, local associates and under-tapped talent, for a thoroughly satisfying hour-and-a-bit. Of all people, Mýa pops up on “Tired”, where he’s found reflecting on his life in typical Z-Ro fashion.
Let’s get things straight: he doesn’t just turn soft here. Topics stray all over the place on the album, but he still creates a cohesive body of work. As ever, he stays true to his H-Town roots, by revisiting classics like “25 Lighters” and “Geto Boys and Girls”, while sharing very personal perspectives on his past, and where he’s heading.
The Mo City Don has track record, strings of catchy songs and the reputation to get the streets behind him. This album's wasn't particularly different to any of his others, but it has a certain charm that marks it as a turning point in his lengthy discography. Coincidentally this album was part of a string of Rap-A-Lot Records releases for Z-Ro. This, the first of a series of drug-entitled albums from ‘Ro, was probably the best of them.
Z-Ro comes with that crack on that “Crack”.Twitter. If Twitter's not your thing, give us an email.