10 Swang-and-Bang Anthems for Sunday's SLAB Parade
Just so you know, that low, persistent rumbling you feel in your gut this Sunday afternoon will have nothing to do with the Whataburger you pounded down at 3 a.m. the night before. It'll be the ultrasonic bass emanating from the popped trunks of 50 customized vehicles swangin' through Third Ward as part of the city's very first SLAB Parade and Family Festival at MacGregor Park.
Photos courtesy of Slab Ridaz Magazine Swangers on a Silverado? Welcome to H-Town.
What's a SLAB, you ask? Well, first off, thanks for visiting Houston, and we recommend that you check out Frenchy's Chicken before you have to leave. According to the Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts Program, the Houston Museum of African-American Culture and Workshop Houston -- the triple partnership putting on the festival -- a SLAB is commonly an older-model American sedan enhanced by glossy paint, plush interiors and flashy rims. That '84 Cadillac with wire-spoke wheels and purple candy paint you passed on U.S. 59 South? SLAB, homie.
Don't get it twisted: We're not talking about West Coast low-riders or simple hoopties here. The SLAB is an H-Town thing, identified by markers such as a superfluous fifth wheel on back, neon lights in the open trunk and TV screens jumping up out the dash. And if it ain't got those swangers poking out -- "elbows," they're called -- it ain't a SLAB, baby.
"SLABs are a uniquely Houston expression developed in the Sunnyside neighborhood in the '80s and '90s," says Pat Jasper, the HAA's Director of Folklife and Traditional Arts. "Lots of people say SLAB is an acronym for 'slow, low and bangin',' but many say they're called that because they're just this giant slab of a car.
"Lots of songs sing directly about the SLABs or reference the SLABs," she adds. "For instance, on Beyonce's latest CD she does a shout-out to Houston where she references SLABs and proclaims her homegirl-ness."
The idea of a public celebration of this very peculiar regional art form was first proposed by Langston Wilkins, Houston native and Ph.D candidate at Indiana University's Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, who did his fieldwork with the HAA and wrote his master's dissertation on Houston hip-hop culture. The HAA and HMAAC ran with the idea, resulting in a family-friendly festival in the park featuring music, spoken-word and dance performances alongside a parade of 50 pimpmobiles down Griggs and Calhoun to the park from MLK.
Though the uninitiated might see a SLAB and assume the driver is slangin' dope, it's far more likely he's just a regular dude with an artistic bent and an expensive hobby, Wilkins says.
"I really hope people see SLAB as an urban art form," he offers. "The SLAB community has kind of a negative perception in the public. I want people to see that this is a culture of hard-working men and women who like to invest extra funds in their cars. That's a very American thing."
No doubt. But if you're a little light on funds yourself, you can still prepare for the parade by experiencing SLAB culture through the sounds of Houston hip-hop. For those who would ride on '84s, we present the ultimate H-Town SLAB playlist:
10. Paul Wall feat. Big Pokey, "Sittin' Sidewayz"
Perhaps no Houston rapper takes more delight in local SLAB culture than Paul Wall. In this breakthrough solo hit from 2005, the People's Champ offers a comprehensive primer on Houston hip-hop culture -- centering, naturally, on the almighty big-body Cadillac on swangers. To hear Paul tell it, you don't have to pull gals inside the club to get respect. If you want to turn heads, it's all about being the undisputed king of the parking lot instead.
9. J-Dawg feat. Slim Thug, "Ride on 4's"
Boss Hogg Outlawz capo J-Dawg manages to perfectly capture the spirit of swangin' on this Nawfside anthem. Rather than gangbangin' or doin' dirt, J prefers to relax by rolling his candy-coated car through the hood, listening to music with friends and maybe taking a couple puffs of something or other along the way -- just remember to keep those tinted windows rolled up!
As always, the real SLAB rider must be sittin' on fours, the highly-sought '84 Cadillac rims that mark a true money-makin' hustla's ride. To confirm as such, the Big Boss himself, Slim Thug, checks in to show the world that he's blessed every time his voice is up in your deck.
List continues on the next page.