Majix Studio [2018]

Dante Higgins
Hip Hop

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, Phil Famous, George Young, and Killa Tex 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. Phil Famous 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.