The Rocks Off 100: K-Rino, South Park Coalition's Southside Maven
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there, too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? K-Rino has been such a longtime fixture of Houston hip-hop that it's hard to imagine the underground without him. The Southside MC has been spitting street poetry for three decades, dating all the way back to his days at Sterling High School, where he battled his lyrical rivals in hallways and on street corners in Houston's gritty South Park neighborhood.
Photo by Marco Torres
From those early rap battles emerged the South Park Coalition, H-Town's first rap clique, which set the bar high for local independent distribution and work ethic. As co-founder and driving force behind the S.P.C., K-Rino simply never put the mike down in the intervening decades.
Today, he has more than 20 albums under his belt and has spread his rapid-fire, streetwise wordplay to every corner of the globe -- all without the help of a major record label.
Home Base: "Home base, for the most part, is home -- where I live," K-Rino says. "But home base is actually my mind, because, you know, for what I do, the inspiration and creativity can come from anywhere. My mind is the home base for everything that I do."
Good War Story: "Probably what's made me proud to be a rapper is just the fact that I've been able to do shows all over the world, going overseas without the backing of a major label," he says. "Just from the underground, I've been able to do a lot of those things that most artists dream of doing, and some are never able to do.
"That's probably one of the highlights of my career, just being able to travel the world and perform in front of packed parties, just on the strength of being an underground artist."
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Houston is home," the rapper says simply. "I'm not the kind of guy who 'goes Hollywood' and packs up and moves to another city or another state. I think that the foundation of what I represent and what I write about is rooted in this city, rooted from my experiences growing up in this city.
"To leave that would just alter that whole dynamic," K-Rino continues. "It would actually just remove it totally. So, I stay home, stay grounded and stay rooted in what made me who I am right now."
Music Scene Pet Peeves: "I got a couple!" K-Rino said. "My biggest would probably just be the lack of originality. You know, the game has turned pretty much into a copycat industry. People just kind of wait to see what's going to catch on, and what's going to get so-called 'hot,' and then they start to pattern themselves and pattern their careers after that.
Photo by Jody Perry
"I'm from an era where people were not scared to be individuals and not scared to just be who they are, be original," he explains. "And all of those different artists were able to prosper just on the fact that they represented something different. I don't think you see that now. I think it's more of a cookie-cutter kind of game where if you have 50 artists in a pile, 45 of 'em are pretty much going to be the same guy. That kind of bothers me."
- Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life
- Sam Cooke, Greatest Hits
- Prince, Sign O' the Times
- T La Rock, Lyrical King (From the Boogie-Down Bronx)
- Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded
Best Show Ever: "The best one I ever performed would be out of the show I did in Helsinki, Finland," says K-Rino. "That would probably be the best one, because of just the energy that the crowd gave me coming out onstage. That took me to another level.
"Mixed in also is one I did here in Houston for one of my album-release concerts, for The Day of the Storm," he adds. "That was a pretty good one, also.
"The best show I ever saw? That's a tough one," he continues. "It may have been when I saw Prince at the Toyota Center one year. Either that, or when I saw Public Enemy at Warehouse Live. That was a pretty strong show. It's tough to say. I've seen so many great shows and great artists that it's hard to choose just one."
Current Projects: "I just completed a new album that will be out probably in the middle of March," the rapper says. "It's called The Maven, and it will be available on our Web site, www.southparkcoalition.webs.com, as well as iTunes.
"And I'm getting ready to do my 30-year anniversary event," he adds. "I started rapping in 1983, so this year marks 30 years with the pen and pad in my hand. We're going to do a big event, a big celebration at Warehouse Live on April 6.
"I want to see everybody who was ever affiliated with me and my career there that night, because it's going to be a special night."
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.