Houston Rap: The Disappearing Neighborhoods That Shaped a Scene

Just as important, says Walker, was documenting these old neighborhoods while they still exist. Today, gentrification poses just as large a threat to these inner-city communities' way of life as drugs or cops. It's an inescapable specter in the book, as many older rappers return to their former stomping grounds only to find them largely unrecognizable.

Some of those interviewed see it as progress. But most worry about the low-income families and longtime residents being pushed out by rising home prices and property taxes.

"Gentrification is a big subject of the book," Walker says. "Look at Fourth Ward: It's gone! There are entire blocks there that look like The Woodlands. They're seeing their neighborhoods completely changed, and they're getting wiped away. Communities are being broken up, churches are getting broken up.

"It's a parallel you find in a lot of cities," he adds. "I live in New York now, and I see it here."

Despite the threats on all sides to the 'hoods that have incubated Houston rap for decades, however, the book's authors remain upbeat and optimistic about the resilience of the underground. After all, the evolution of the city's sound and culture has never really stopped, even if its momentum has been slowed 'n throwed now and again.

As long as passion for the music remains, Beste says, so too will the peculiar folks and flavors that make up H-town hip-hop.

"I'm sure the sounds and the images will change in the coming years and decades, but I think the core of it, that drive to tell stories about their experiences and about their neighborhoods, that will never change," he says.


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maybe if the neighborhoods had maintained themselves, new houses wouldn't come in to replace them?

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