DJ Young Samm grabs a trio of Houston for alliteration and bars for “Blessed.”
Houston hip-hop in a way owes a lot to the church. Southern Baptists, in particular, raised a large generation of Houston rap heads. The feeling isn’t lost on DJ Young Samm as the Break Dem Boys Off do-everything brings together three men who’ve all endured a pain or two for “Blessed.” Dante Higgins bats leadoff, shaking off an Achilles injury and an ex who left him when he was low. “Have I been blessed, that’s a good question,” he ponders. Then he jogs off items that firmly put it all in perspective, “Bills paid, still getting laid, get a message every time I hit the stage.” As Doughbeezy rationalizes the real-life situation that ultimately changed his life, Delorean’s thoughts shift around from the Charleston nine to looking his daughter in the eye.
“I’m out here gunning for respect,” Doughbeezy says with the vocal inflection of an old pastor who dabs sweat off of his forehead after every consonanat. “If it ain’t bout no paper then Beezy can’t entertain it. Had to learn when it’s a problem, walking away is a way to handle it.” He still feels an honest pain about the incident that altered his life and understands that none of his words are marks of braggadocio. “I could have left in a casket,” he attests.
Stream the three trials of testimony from DJ Young Samm and company below.
Dante Higgins channels death into a renewed focus for Majix.
“I swear I’m everybody bro when they want something…”
Dante Higgins, when you see him in person effuses the concept of a mild-mannered businessman. Nothing gaudy on his body and the most expensive thing he may own that day is a pair of sneakers. Higgins is round, built like a former athlete who always stuck around his weight class in case things popped off left or right. There aren’t too many things that push Dante into that craggy, animated posit that he sometimes emits on records. Well, except for Duke basketball. That always gets him charged up.
Higgins never found himself as a complicated rapper. A straight-forward, A-to-Z storyteller with a bit of Southlawn charm, he always came off as the man who’s seen plenty and worked around every pitfall. He could detail the body and mental deficiency one could have sipping on cheap, but beloved brown liquor. Or how a childhood memory of his favorite bike stolen becoming a more significant metaphor for life. Every line from Higgins felt personal; it embodied every person that walked into his world and walked out of it and Higgins had to make a souvenir to mark each occasion.
“Still trying to find my way.” – “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’”
All of that makes Majix feel something like a concept album from Higgins. The voice of his departed studio engineer Majix Mike lingers throughout, and Hig operates as if he’s still with us. “I’m probably the only producer out here … that’s DJing, producing, building websites, graphic design,” Mike says at the end of “Just 2 Verses.” “I’m playing pianos. I know not one engineer, producer out here that are doing things on that level. That’s what defines me.”
In a way, Mike’s tragic murder put Higgins in a weird tailspin. He still released music, such as the bold, yet challenging King Pen suite with Charity Vaughn primarily behind the boards but it felt as if he was fighting for something. Rhyming and obtaining respect once was an effortless task. Making things for the joy of it was a lost concept to Hig, doubled down by deals that didn’t necessarily fit who he was and relationships that drained him. On Majix, the glow is back. The wild, almost schoolboy proficiency for stretching out simple words like “enchiladas” returns. Vaughn returns with the rubbery body rock of “1996” and a dense chop of Tyreese’s “Sweet Lady” built into the bass line. “You can roll with Trump cause Bill Clint my President,” Higgins raps as if he was reading a scroll similar to the preamble of the Houston Constitution.
“Couldn’t nobody tell me that Fat Patrick wasn’t the shit.” – “1996”
The world of the Hig Head leader still operates like a seasoned Madden vet knowing when to drop in coverage. “Doin’ The Most,” Majix‘s longest track with Undergravity lifts up that pensive nature of “Black Lives Matter” but instead of centralizing the pain as a “we all harm each other” motif, he stretches it outward. Police harassment, the concept of “Black girls lost,” and more items parade through Higgins’ mind like Jack Yates’ band on MLK Day.
By the time he refocuses things on the atrocities committed in Houston by men rushing to get a rep, K-Rino is there to ride shotgun. “Houston Gone Crazy” starts off with news clippings of a shooting in Third Ward, a little girl getting shot and killed by three men. Higgins can’t feel anything except fear and disgust while contemplating a career change, “But ain’t nobody hirin’ / Pistol’s stay firin’ / I even thought about being a fireman.” It’s simple but Hig never rapped to be cool, he rapped because he was extremely good at it. Especially at making the most simple things sound profound.
Majix is a return back to normal for Dante Higgins. The fun moments with Hot Peez (“Don’t Worry ‘Bout It”) and strip club junkie Mr. Wired Up (the “Nice & Slow” sampled “Pull Up”) offer different palates for him to work with but ultimately he’s right back in that pocket. He’s no longer the kid huffing and puffing about his Mongoose bike. Instead, he’s the man back on the stoop with Southlawn in his rearview. Acknowledge the past, keep pushing forward.
DeLorean flips a Houston radio staple with verses from some heavy hitters.
Even as a child, I thought I could freestyle. I thought I had the courage to call up 97.9 on a random morning before school and drop a quick little four-bar verse. Hours before his Nights At The International Ballroom drops, DeLorean figures the same. “The Rollcall,” a KBXX staple gets turned into a full-on city wide rap exercise where acts like Bigg Fatts, Buddie Roe, KDOGG and Dante Higgins all represent for their sides of town. Fatts represents South Park, Hig for the boys off Scott. Buddie Roe does it for Briargate in the Mo and KDOGG represents all of the Northside.
The catch, or rather the pull of “The Rollcall” occurs at the very end. PugTunes left a little bit of a beat open for anybody who wanted to jump on the record themselves. The #RollcallChallenge may lead to some pretty spectacular results and hopefully, will signal that Houston already had its own minor version of a Funk Flex Freestyle. Hear “The Rollcall” verses of Bigg Fatts, Buddie Roe, Dante Higgins and KDOGG below. Take your shot with #TheRollcallChallenge now.
Dante Higgins voices frustration with the city losing its culture in a new visual, “Screw You.”
Dante Higgins is mad. And if you’re from Houston, he thinks you should be mad, too.
Expressing annoyance with seeing folks not from Houston bite Houston culture, is nothing new. If imitation is flattery, then the H should be proud to have so many people biting its style… but not when its style is becoming more associated with other places than Houston itself. Like many others, Dante Higgins has watched essentially the musical gentrification of Houston by outsiders. And the man who branded himself “Good Forever,” can be silent no longer.
On Monday, Dante Higgins dropped “Screw You,” a music video whose byline bluntly states “WTF Happened To The Houston Culture?” What follows, is a four-minute vent session that’s intense, yet honest.
Recruiting Elliot Guidry – Houston TREND Magazine founder by day and photographer/videographer by night – behind the lens, Higgins posts up in a dark room, shrouded in pitch black as he delivers his heavy message. Like Higgins’ previous release “Black Lives Matter,” “Screw You” isn’t a rap, but it’s also not entirely spoken word. It toes the line between both: Dante gets into a rhythm in places and its refrain (“what happened to you – no, what happened to us?/How these out-of-state rappers do Texas better than us?”) is all but a hook in itself.
As always, amidst Higgins’ more comical lines – “We the reason n*ggas out here winnin’/ Oh, diamond grills? We the reason n*ggas out here grinnin’” – lie kernels of truth (“White folk ain’t trying to see it when the po’ folk come around”). As someone part of Houston, Higgins doesn’t just blame the culture, he acknowledges he exists as part of the enablers. The difference is, he’s done being a spectator to the heist. So when Dante poses the question, “Why it ain’t no Houston rappers at the VMAs?” while pointing out that there are double cups aplenty at MTV’s biggest stage, it should make you wonder.
Watch Dante Higgins’s “Screw You” video for yourself up top.
Blessed Feat. Dante Higgins, Delorean & DoughbeezyDj Young Samm4:51
Doin' The Most feat. UndergravityDante Higgins6:46