Houston has its share of legendary hip hop figures — from the one-and-only DJ Screw to household names like Beyoncé.
In his comprehensive new book Hip Hop in Houston: Origins, scholar Maco Faniel offers a fresh look at the city's rap scene by documenting its early roots, long before the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" put Space City on the hip hop map in 1991.
"The story really starts in 1979, which is this tipping point for hip hop as 'Rapper's Delight' becomes this national and global phenomenon," Faniel tells CultureMap. "It was the moment when rapping finally moved beyond New York and New Jersey and Philadelphia."
Thanks to massive dance clubs and a hungry consumer base, hip hop quickly thrived in Houston.
"It was the moment when rapping finally moved beyond New York and New Jersey and Philadelphia."
"People say everything's bigger in Texas and the nightclubs were no different," Faniel laughs. "Places like Boneshakers and the Rhinestone Wrangler would hold more than 1300 people, which was just something unheard of in the northeast."
Hip hop culture spread rapidly across the city as DJs, rappers and break dancers enjoyed access to huge audiences. By 1982, KTSU had a dedicated rap show called Kidz Jamm. Just few years later, the original Soundwaves (then located near Reliant Stadium) opened as one of Houston's first record stores to support hip hop, which Faniel says was still very much considered a fad in the mid 1980s.
By the end of the decade, strong systems of support fostered a unique local sound, establishing the South as a viable alternative to mainstream hip hop coming from the coasts.
To this day, '80s labels like Rap-A-Lot Records promote acclaimed Houston artists like Z-Ro, Devin the Dude and Juvenile on the national stage. In October, Bun B will release his much-anticipated fourth Rap-A-Lot album featuring guests 2 Chainz and Rick Ross.
"We seem to have a lack of knowledge about our own history here in Houston," Faniel says.
"It's crazy how much has been forgotten considering the city's contributions to American music in zydeco, jazz, blues and especially hip hop . . . I hope this book will change some of that."