Headliner: Lil Keke
Representing: Houston, Texas
Mixtape: Da Leak
Real Spit: Lil Keke, OG member of the late great DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click, was one of the primary engineers of Houston’s signature chopped and screwed sound. Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Slim Thug broke through nationally with Billboard-charting albums, but when it comes to the origins of H-Town’s candy-painted, slabbed-out, wood grain-wheeled, swang-and-bang resonance, all roads lead back to Don ‘Ke.
But things have changed drastically since the 20-year vet started out selling cassette mixtapes with DJ Screw. That’s right, cassettes. These days, every MC — whether they’ve been certified platinum or not — is dropping copious amount of free original music to their fans. Fast forward to present day, and the Don is adapting to his new surroundings by dropping his first free mixtape, Da Leak. The 18-track opus, chock full of freestyles and remixes, features guest spots from the People’s Champ, Thugga and Big K.R.I.T. and will serve as an appetizer for his next full-length LP, Heart of a Hustla, to be released in October.
“I come from a situation where in Texas, we the mixtape kings,” Lil Keke told Mixtape Daily. “We don’t do free mixtapes. That’s how we make our living. So with it being my first free mixtape to the public, my fans are real eager and big about it. They know one thing about me: I do my mixtapes just like albums. I don’t short the people, I give ‘em real songs.”
Don ‘Ke sets things off with “Cocaine Nites,” a syrupy ode to hustling filled with visceral street pathos, that begins with G Money and Nino Brown monologues from the film New Jack City and leads into a synth-heavy beat with the S.U.C. legend spitting, “The fire still breathin’ within, here to win/ On point like your favorite pen, so come again/ Bonafide gangsta, certified thug/ Homage is bein’ paid, f— who these bitches love/ I’m a hustla, fix it and get it in broad day/ Don ‘Ke, I suffered and did it the hard way/ We eat real good, so we doubled the profit/ I’m talkin’ zero, comma, safe, deposit.”
“Candy Red” takes the listener back to the original days of plastic cups and codeine where the Don flexes his laid-back lyrical dexterity with the verse, “I’m out here like a king, candy on the car/ We on them double cups and drankin’ green-label bar/ That bloody blunt, that sticky one they taught me how to hold/ I cut a lane and do my thing, that young n—a cold/ Don ‘Ke!”
But don’t get it twisted: Keke is still all about the Benjamins, and he lets it be known that his city still gets the dough on the trunk-knockin’ track, “Cash,” when he rhymes on the chorus, “Houston a big city, we got them white blocks/ Covered in yellow gold, flashin’ them white rocks.”
On Da Leak, the S.U.C. capo sticks the landing and delivers that tried and true formula that will sustain his loyal street fanbase and usher in new fans that love to dip, lean and ride along to that H-Town purple swag.
Joints to Check For
>> “Candy Red” — “It’s nobody from the Screw era, from this type of era or from that way that don’t know nothing about this song so it’s gon be real big it’s gon be real popular it’s gon be a big song in the Screw community but the beat is so funky and southern that anybody from this type of way will be able to love it and feel it.”
>> “Cocaine Nites” — “I make quality street music, so ‘Cocaine Nites’ was the lead track for my fans cuz my fans are from the streets.”