Houston hip-hop artists have a history of being very talented but, unfortunately, very divided at times. In the '90s, there were rivalries based on what part of the city you lived in. Several years ago, that philosophy was put aside, and the guys from H-Town started collaborating regardless of geography. When the city reemerged and exploded less than a handful of years ago, the scene caught fire with a bevy of pairings: Slim Thug and Chamillionaire. Lil' Flip and Chamillionaire. Slim Thug, Mike Jones and Paul Wall. Bun B and everybody.
Then everybody started doing their own thing again.
"In every argument, both sides are going to feel they are right," said Chamillionaire, who has had issues with Paul Wall and Mike Jones over the past few years. "In hip-hop, it's very competitive — the competitive nature of the music. ... Any little thing can make somebody mad."
At the recent Ozone Awards — supposedly a shining moment for the city — the division screamed when Trae tha Truth laid hands on Mike Jones, punching the MC. To make matters worse, the night ended early without a planned cipher of the city's MCs closing the show. Tsk-tsk.
On Sunday, Houston radio station the Box pulled off what some called the impossible, assembling just about every hip-hop artist in the city — old and new — for what they called the "Best of Texas" concert. It all took place during the Los Magnificos Car Show at the Reliant Center, and it lasted more than seven hours.
"This is home," Lil' Flip said after he got offstage early in the afternoon. "The biggest car show we ever had. Twenty-thousand [people]! Usually we have, like, 12,000."
Flip underestimated the turnout; by show's end, there was talk of the spectator tally being somewhere between 28,000 and 30,000.
"This is our biggest event of the year," Slim Thug explained. "Usually we have artists from all over the country come down and perform. This year, it's all Houston and a few Dallas artists, and it's sold out. This is the biggest turnout they ever had."
Houston legends the Botany Boys, Lil' Keke, Scarface and Bun B joined current hometown superstars Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug and Mike Jones. The night's most anticipated and loudly received sets, however, came from two guys who the mainstream don't really know, Trae tha Truth and Z-Ro, who closed the show.
"It's intoxicating, it's like one of them things rolled up burning," said Z-Ro, who was the undeniable crowd favorite of the night. "Z-Ro, Zeeee-rooooo," the crowd started chanting an hour before he came on.
"The kids and the older people, all walks of life — they out there screaming, word for word," the MC said. "I looked out and didn't see any wall, I didn't see any wall. All I saw was people. I felt I had to be all I can. It's like the army now."
It was very surreal hearing 20,000-plus sing Ro's song "I Hate You B----" like it was a Linda Perry power ballad.
Mike Jones got a very different reaction during his set. Maybe they didn't immediately recognize him because of his significant weight loss (he's been dieting and working out), but when he came out, the crowd was just cold. No booing, no cheering, no reaction. That indifference carried through his show for the most part. He did get them to sing along occasionally, though.
Bun B went over heavily with the crowd. They welcomed him like the legend he is. "Draped Up" and "Get Throwed" drove 'em crazy, while "Int'l Players Anthem" and "Big Pimpin' " kept hands in the air.
Paul Wall rolled out hits like "Sittin' Sidewayz" and "Grillz," but his big moment was bringing out Chamillionaire for 'N Luv Wit My Money.' The two buried the hatchet a while back, but they made it official Sunday night. Cham himself brought out Krayzie Bone on "Ridin' " and Lil' Flip for "Turn It Up."
Although songs such as "Mr. Scarface" and "Money and the Power" were probably older than some of the kids in the crowd, Scarface got them to chant his classics. "Smile" and "I Seen a Man Die" were also in his chamber, but the biggest record for him was "My Mind's Playing Tricks on Me." While it had been billed that the Geto Boys would take the stage together to receive a lifetime-achievement award, Bushwick Bill and Willie D were unexplained absentees.
Trae tha Truth clearly went over his allotted time: The house and stage lights were on during most of his performance. But who's gonna tell the imposing street don to stop rapping? Especially when Trae brought out his son and the kids of deceased Houston icons Fat Pat and Big Hawk.
But Slim Thug gets the show's MVP award. Besides his own set, he jumped onstage no less than five other times for various guest appearances. No "Still Tippin' " with Jones and Wall, though.