K-OTIX Redux: Houston's Legendary Anti-Gangstas Reunite

Photos by Marco Torres
"We'll do the pause, then when we're ready..."
- Russell "The ARE" Gonzalez

What if I told you that Houston rap is much more than slow, loud, and bangin', syrup-dripped, gangster, pimped-out, and/or trill? That a certain rap crew from Houston that headlined SXSW's very first official hip-hop showcase in 1994, and has performed and successfully toured nationally and internationally (with De La Soul, Talib Kweli, and the Black Eyed Peas), and whose members continue to be instrumental in the city's rich musical tradition? That their debut LP Universal (2001) is perhaps one of the best Houston rap albums, ever?!

Such a group existed, and, at times, exists still. I'm talking about K-OTIX, a.k.a. The Legendary K.O. Lead by the MC duo of Micah Nickerson (Mic or Big Mon) and Damien Randle, backed by beat master and DJ Russell "The ARE" Gonzalez, K-OTIX took what they learned from the East Coast sound and integrated a pensive delivery combined with the grittiness absorbed from living in the tough H-Town environment of the mid-'90s through the early '00s.

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Where Is Lil Wayne In the Lyrical Hot Water Hall of Fame?

Proving that it is almost never wise to compare the results of rough sex to Emmett Till's face, Lil Wayne was dropped from his Mountain Dew campaign last week. Emmett Till, for those of you who aren't familiar, was a 14-year-old boy who was beaten to death, shot, and dumped in the river for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955.

I would have thought it was a no-brainer, the idea that society does not condone comparing anatomical parts with the face of a victim of a horrific racial crime, but indeed it was not. The controversial lyrics that cost Weezy his contract were taken from a remix of Future's "Karate Chop," which leaked onto the interwebs in February of this year. During Lil Wayne's part, the rapper proclaims that he'll "Pop a lot of pain pills/ 'Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels/ Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till."

Classy, I know. Sorry about the visual.

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Strange Encounters: Five Great Metal Songs About Aliens

Faceless Planetary Duality.jpg
In the metal pantheon, lyrical subjects go in and out of style almost as fluidly as fashion and whether a song should have breakdowns or not. It seems almost a guarantee that every few years the entire scene will shift to a new fixation. Just a few years ago, everyone was screaming about their feelings and how much they hated their ex-girlfriend for breaking up with them. Now? To quote Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, I'm not saying it's aliens, but... it's aliens.

That's right. The allure of the extraterrestrial has lately overtaken the world of metal, especially extreme metal and the popular "djent" form. Of course, there were earlier examples, including Megadeth's classic "Hangar 18," but the fixation really took hold around 2008 with the release of the Faceless' Planetary Duality.

Ever since, aliens are the thing. How has that turned out? Well, it's a hell of a lot better than the misogyny that pervaded metal in the mid-'00s and it's actually produced some awesome tracks like these.

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aliens, metal

Sometimes Uncomfortable Doc Resurrects '70s Superstar Paul Williams

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Paul Williams: Still Alive
A Film by Stephen Kessler
Virgil Films, 84 mins, $19.99.

In the 1970s the diminutive Paul Williams was everywhere. And I mean, everywhere.

The singer-songwriter was best known for penning hits for others like the Carpenters ("Rainy Days and Mondays," "We've Only Just Begun"), Three Dog Night ("Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song," "Out in the Country"), Helen Reddy ("You and Me Against the World"), and Kermit the Frog ("The Rainbow Connection").

But he was also a performer himself and very frequent guest and co-host on talk shows (appearing on "The Tonight Show" some 50 times), had acting spots on many shows like "The Love Boat" and "The Odd Couple," scored films and made a few big screen appearances.

Oh, and he won an Oscar for Best Original Song (with Barbara Streisand) for "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)". You know, "love...soft as an easy chair..."

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Liam Gallagher Is My Hero. Don't Judge Me.

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Solly Darling via Wikipedia
Liam Gallagher is a literary genius.

Yes, I said it. And I won't take it back.

But wait. Don't start typing out your "Beady Eye sucks and their album tanked" rant just yet. I can explain.

I say this based not on Liam's musical prowess but on his inane ability to drop pearls of bitchy wisdom aimed at the likes of everyone from UK football star Wayne Rooney to the Scissor Sisters, while managing to keep the press interested in his work with a band that has thus far, well, sucked.

His liquid-gold rants are any reporter's wet dream, and have managed to create a cult following for the former Oasis front man that has extended well past his musical glory days.

If Liam Gallagher could write lyrics like he slings out bitchy potshots, Beady Eye would be a huge commercial success. But he doesn't, and it's not.

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The Arrival of Correct Hip-Hop "Grammer"

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It's no secret. Houston has a robust rap underground. We have many reasons to be proud of our hip-hop scene. And there's nothing wrong with having one more.

Every now and then, an artist comes out of the clear blue sky, and makes such an undeniable musical introduction, their newness to the scene is irrelevant. Their hip-hop skill set demands respect and can't be ignored. A rapper named Grammer (purposely misspelled) is on track to doing just that with his upcoming album A Grammer Darkly, which at early listen, is bordering on brilliant.

Grammer is full of rich lyricism, intellect, unexpected wisdom and just pure champion stuff. It all harmoniously blends together on Darkly, dropping November 30.

He gives us a taste with his debut video, also named "A Grammer Darkly," with none other than the monster on the mike, V-Zilla. In it, Grammer demonstrates his brain and star power with lyrical astuteness. It's a proper preview to what's to come.

And thank God. We always need better "grammer" in hip-hop. Never mind the spelling.

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Cory Jreamz's Polysemy Is A Mystery Worth Solving

There's something strangely appealing, calming and inviting about the cover of Cory Jreamz's four-track EP, Polysemy: A wine glass on a chair under a tree. But what's the story behind it?

The young, artsy rapper, a 17-year-old senior at Pearland 's Glenda Dawson High School, may have been raised in the wrong decade. He uses words like "rad" and "awesome" too freely, but tells Rocks Off there's no real significance to any of it.

Ironically, the lack of real definition around the album's face, as well as the appeal and calm it exudes, draws a correlation with the overall feel of Jreamz's music and the very concept of polysemy. The definition of the word polysemy is the capacity for a sign to have multiple meanings.

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Koppo's The Hood Still Ain't Safe Enriches Houston Gangster Rap Scene

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The Houston gangster rap scene has a fresh, new and worthy addition in Northside rapper Koppo. The proof comes in the form of his recently dropped album, The Hood Still Ain't Safe, which represents the rapper coming into his own moment while still scrapping for widespread Houston notoriety. 

Koppo's vocals are gritty. To the ear, they sound like what's left in the corner of a gutter on a hood street corner -- muddy, grainy and grimy remains. His style is sometimes reminiscent of Plies, but Koppo doesn't deliver proper speak off the mike like his Florida counterpart.

He's truly a product of the hood and hard times. In January 2011 we wrote:

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Texas MC Snow Tha Product Signs With Atlantic Records

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Snow Tha Product inked a deal with Atlantic Records.
"You mean to tell me that you think I don't know that I ain't black?

Or that I don't know that usually Latin girls ain't really been all up in rap?

I didn't know that my color or gender could be the preventer of getting on tracks

See the last time that I checked they play hip-hop in the hood

And I dare you to find a hood with no Latins in it because I don't think that you could."

- Snow Tha Product, "Unorthodox"

Almost two years ago, Rocks Off featured a promising California-raised, Texas-based MC Snow Tha Product. According to her management, Rocks Off was the first major media outlet to write about her. Back then, we wrote

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Kinky Songs Get the Dayton Treatment

photo by Jason Wolter
Jesse Dayton onstage in Becoming Kinky: The World According To Kinky Friedman
In our recent interview with Kinky Friedman, performing tonight at Dosey Doe in the Woodlands, we mulled over Jesse Dayton's on-going project of an album of Friedman's songs. Friedman was very enthusiastic.

"The last time we talked, Jesse had already done the basic tracks for eight songs," said Friedman. "I haven't heard them, but Jesse says he's trying to give them something like a Steve Earle or a Bruce Springsteen treatment. No one's ever really tried to do that with my work, so I'm very excited by this."

"What I'm glad about is that this is not going to be one of those fucking tribute albums," says Friedman. "I hate most of that stuff. I'm really happy that he's trying to put Jesse Dayton's stamp on them, not just do a half-ass regurgitation. But I'm really happy that Jesse's record may find new fans for those old songs."

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