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 Welcome back to the "Filthy South" ...



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 The buzz on the City of Syrup spreads nationwide ...





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— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Joseph Patel and Sway Calloway

Houston. It's the place where Beyoncé and Kelly grew up, Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon and Clyde "The Glide" Drexler won two NBA championships, where Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan used to strike out opposing batters, and where Warren Moon threw shotgun passes with firm accuracy.

Out-of-towners love H-Town for a lot of the same reasons they love Miami. Except for the summers — which are so searing that even Lucifer could be caught wearing shorts and sandals to beat the heat — the weather is like paradise. The women are so beautifully endowed that they make model Melissa Ford look like Olive Oyl, and the real estate? You can live like P. Diddy and only have to spend Flavor Flav money.

Watch "MTV News:
Best Of My Block"
From Houston to Miami, Memphis and Atlanta, MTV News hits the streets and studios with Lil Jon, Paul Wall and other major players to get a taste of the local flavor.


But if you love hip-hop, even all of that doesn't measure up to the thing that's driving eyes to H-Town these days: the music. The city that Rap-A-Lot Records and the Geto Boys put on the map 15 years ago has taken a collective second breath and is experiencing a musical renaissance that is bursting onto the national stage. Welcome back to the "Filthy South."

The most popular spot in Houston, surprisingly, is not one of the city's famous strip clubs like Harlem Knights. It's not one of the dance clubs (that is, the ones where people dance with clothes on), or even one of the homes of the city's sports teams like the Astros or the Rockets. Of all places, the jump-off tonight is happening at a Chinese restaurant called the Original Timmy Chan's on the north side of town.

MC/DJ/gold grill maker/rising star Paul Wall has assembled his crew and is getting ready for a night of "Tippin' " — or, as we say outside of the Longhorn State, cruising.

There's barely room for any of the patrons of Chan's to park, because Wall and his people have the perimeter on lock. The Game's "Hate It or Love It" is blasting, but it's playing at such a slow pace it reminds you of when you'd be listening to your cassette Walkman and the batteries would start to die. Among the gaggle of vehicles, there's a sparkly white GMC truck that's pimped out with flat-screen TVs and satellite reception, a blue drop-top — with its trunk popped open so you can read the neon sign that says "Can you see me now?" on the inside — and Wall's jet-black convertible.

  Why Houston photos
Wall — along with his Swisha House labelmate Mike Jones and Swisha House alum-turned-Star Trak draft pick Slim Thug — are leading the charge for newest edition of the New South's musical reign.

"Atlanta had their era and they still holding it down," Jones says. "But we got something that's new, that the world been afraid to jump on. But now, we hittin' them to where they can't ignore it."

"I'm glad everybody is acknowledging and accepting it now," says Lil' Flip , who has set the precedent for success with his two platinum albums on major label Sony Music, Underground Legend and U Gotta Feel Me. "A lot of people didn't really understand. People are getting deals now 'cause we sell so many records on our own without major labels helping us. It's time we get some recognition."

"I think it's just our time, man," Wall says. "It's so different from the rest of the country. We comin' up with a sound that's different, but if you really think about it, we've been doin' this the same sound for years. We ain't changed up our blueprint. We just keep on doin' the same thing, but the music is getting a little bit more better. The world is just tired of the same old, same old. They're ready for something new — and here we are, baby!"

Wall's not lying: Just look at the charts. Mike Jones' entered Who Is Mike Jones?, will enter the Billboard albums chart at #3 this week, having sold more than 180,000 records. Up until the beginning of this year, you'd have a better chance of seeing Tom Jones on MTV than Mike Jones — a virtual unknown to the majority of the country until "Still Tippin,' " the song that Houston and the rest of the South had been rocking for a year, broke out.

  "Still Tippin' "
Chopped & Screwed Version

Who Is Mike Jones?
(Swisha House/ Asylum/ Warner Bros.)
Jones, Paul Wall and Slim Thug all got started under the same family tree: the Swisha House. The label was founded a decade ago by DJ Michael Watts. At the same time, on the south side of Houston, the late, legendary DJ Screw — who basically is to Houston and the Southern mixtape game what DJ Clue is to the North — was breaking ground by introducing the world to a genre of mixtapes so unique, it would be branded with his name — "screwed up," known later as "chopped and screwed" or "screwed and chopped" (the "chop" comes from the DJ cutting the records up). The songs — beats, vocals, everything — are slowed down to a molasses pace, a sound that is reportedly enhanced by the effects of cough syrup, a local intoxicant of choice at the time (and which played a role in DJ Screw's death in 2000).

Watts started to make a name for himself on the north side with his crew, also called the Swisha House, and their freestyle-filled mixtapes. In 1999, the Swisha House formed a record label and among their early diamonds in the rough was a young MC named Slim Thug. As Slim grew in popularity, he was courted by major labels and eventually left Swisha House on amicable terms and started selling records and mixtapes with his own crew, the Boss Hog Outlawz. Some of the younger MCs in the clique stepped into the void left by Slim's departure, including Jones and the duo of Paul Wall and Chamillionaire.


NEXT: 'The buzz on the City of Syrup spreads nationwide -- plus, a Houston 'hood-check ...
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Photo: Rap-A-Lot/Asylum/MTV.com

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