10 Things We Learned At The Awready! Houston Hip Hop Conference

photos by Marco Torres
Julie Grob, Coordinator for Digital Products and Instruction for the University of Houston Libraries
The much-anticipated Awready! Houston Hip-Hop Music Conference was held Wednesday at the University of Houston, drawing in academics, screwheads, and media alike. The conference is a joint venture between the University of Houston Libraries and Rice University's H.E.R.E. Project (Houston Enriches Rice Education). Julie Grob hosted the event along with Dr. Anthony Pinn, and the diverse panelists included rappers, professors, and an auto shop owner. The panels were split into the following:

  • "The Origins of Houston Hip-Hop" with K-Rino, Steve Fournier, Willie D, and Ricky Royal; moderator: Maco L. Faniel
  • "DJ Screw and The Screwd Up Click" with Big Pokey, ESG, Meshah Hawkins, Lil Keke, and Shorty Mac; moderator: Lance Scott Walker
  • "Slabs & Syrup" with ESG and Lil Randy; moderators: Langston Collin Wilkins, Dr. Roland J. Peters, and Julie Grob
  • "The Legacy of DJ Screw" with Bun B, Chingo Bling, Paul Wall, and OG Ron C; moderator: Matt Sonzala

Here are ten things we learned Wednesday:

1. Screwed Up Records and Tapes has re-opened at their new location in the Hiram Clarke neighborhood, 3538 W. Fuqua.

2. Much of what we know as gangsta rap was inspired, sometimes directly, by Houston rappers battle rapping and "ranking" on each other in bars and clubs such as the Rhinestone Wrangler. Steve Fournier recalled Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons visiting Houston, then taking what they learned back to New York City to produce some of their most successful records for Def Jam in the early '90s.

He also said that Death Row visited Houston six months before The Chronic was released, and he clearly sees a correlation between Houston "reality" rap and the West Coast gangsta rap.

3. Willie D is both a mad rapper and a comedian. He told the definitive history about the origins of The Geto Boys' last and most recognizable incarnation, including a hilarious altercation that ended with him punting Bushwick Bill like a football, and getting booed in NYC in front of two thousand people.

He told the attendees that regardless of setbacks or obstacles, if they have a talent or a dream, keep fighting and trying until you succeed. Several panelists credit Willie D as the true originator and epitome of the Houston rap sound.

4. According to ESG, the current street value of a pint of codeine promethazine cough syrup is roughly $800. The owner of one of the major pharmaceutical companies who produced this type of cough syrup sold for around $2 billion dollars.

ESG made it clear that although it does taste good, it is very addictive and the legal penalties for possession and distribution are severe. The success of Houston rap and its rappers would have still occurred without the introduction of syrup.

5. There are rules to creating a slab. You start with the engine, then move to the interior, and finish with the candy paint and rims. Riding in a slab used to be a privilege, but now you see swangers on cars like the Ford Focus and PT Cruisers.

The original meaning of the word "slab" is not the acronym "slow, loud, and bangin'." The origin is attributed to the vehicles rolling on and touching the concrete slab of the streets. The cars were low because of the rims, tires and the heavy speakers that they carried. Non-slab cars are called "hoops" or "undercovers."

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Dustin Kalman
Dustin Kalman

I like the thought that gangsta rap originated in Houston but I thought gangsta rap was around way before The Chronic hit. I always equate NWA with gangsta rap, am I wrong?

Just to be clear, I am not saying that the Houston sound didn't influence The Chronic.

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