Recently, I was able to spend some time shooting around @PlayhausHTX. The immersive installation, in town through September 2019, consists of multiple rooms with interactive art. While I have noticed a surge in the number of pop up installations around the city as of late, what stands out to me more than anything is the fabulous job that @julesoxo has done with @districtone in creating a space that represents Houston with Houstonians.
Local artists were tapped to create within the space, so outside of the awesome experience of taking photos (for the ‘gram, as they say) participants are provided a front row seat to art that is present and thriving in our city! The featured video mural shot was painted by @donkeeboy. I have included a few personal highlights from my time covering the space.
I was lucky enough to choose a timeframe that wasn’t overcrowded with folks and as such, @julesoxo was even kind enough to play my suggestion of Houston’s own @thesuffers through the location’s powerful speaker system as I shot. Even if there had been a big crowd when I arrived, there is plenty of space and installments to wander between which make for staying respectful of everyone’s time and space easy. The above is really only a fragment of what is available to participants.
Recently, while adult admission would regularly cost $38, there has been a Monday special that would drop that to $25/adult. Credit/Debit cards are accepted, so you can swipe the plastic and be on your way into transporting to your favorite of the immersive options. Follow their page for the most recent deals and updates. In my opinion, this is a must see while you visit or live in the city. Don’t miss out!
When I was in Middle School, Houston rap music and culture started receiving acclaim and attention on a national level in ways that had never before been seen. Houston in many ways is a unique city in that we share both the major metropolitan lifestyle of Downtown, but the rural existence of many suburbs. But, before you start thinking we ride horses to work, Houston also possesses “SLAB” culture which stands for Slow, Loud And Bangin’. Custom candy painted classics with wheels that poke out (Elbows or ‘bows) as drivers cruise through the city. Trunks that open to reveal personalized lighting and steady thumping low bass sounds played from screwed and chopped mixtapes sold in shops (or bootlegged). Both lifestyles have a claim here in Houston.
As the media attention grew on that National Level, local rap artists saw opportunities to expand their independent labels in different ways. Some signed “major” deals and partnered with larger labels with more industry reach, some kept more ownership of their work. Names like Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Chamillionare, Big Pokey, Lil Flip, Z-Ro and Slim Thug moved regional popularity (an respectively from all areas of the city) to taking center stage for Houston as a whole. While there was a period of scuffles and disagreements between artists, Port Arthur Rapper and half of UGK (Underground Kingz), Pimp C was instrumental in attempts to unify the city. There was once notoriously a large beach weekend in Galveston called “The Kappa” in the early 2000’s. Many of the aforementioned artists would be featured on Mixtapes titled “Before The Kappa” and “After The Kappa”, respectively. The highlights of these mixtapes included artists freestyling, or coming up with lyrics on the spot, in the moment and not pre written.
Freestyling is an art in that you both are remaining topical, yet flaunting some of the best punchlines you can think of. Freestyling is less composed than a major song, but each bar carries weight. As an MC, you are describing the life you lead, the life you want, and are attempting to build rapport with the listener as a result. Houston Rap culture embodies a shine that is all our own, from the fancy cars, to the fashion to the elaborate custom jewelry even located in our mouths (Look up “grills”, if you have questions).
Slim Thug, a.k.a. Slim Thugga, a.k.a. Sugar Daddy Slim, signed a major label deal with Star Trak. Star Track’s roster at that time included the powerhouse production of The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo). Slim had already captured a great deal of attention with his own mixtape hit “3 Kings” and arguably as the definitive voice on Mike Jones’s “Still Tippin'”. In many ways, “Still Tippin'” stands as an anthem of when the stars aligned for Houston, so being prominently featured on the track endeared the city to Slim as much, if not more, than his other works.
When Slim’s contract with Star Track concluded, he was able to shop deals with other labels, but ultimately released more projects before promoting his own Bosslife Worldwide. Here’s where the game changed; while enjoying a comfortable life provided by hard work, Slim also started to buy properties in neighborhoods around town. Through Bosslife, Slim has helped to establish a construction company that flips houses. It is both an opportunity to reclaim parts of the community, but also provides opportunities to teach trade skills for willing employees. After Hurricane Harvey struck, Bosslife teamed up with a local radio station as well as a prominent law firm to give away a newly renovated home.
For the longest time, Slim’s come up was promoting “Boss Hogg Outlawz”, his own label responsible for releasing mixtapes including his own verses. In 2005 he released “Like A Boss”, a record that would state an action and follow it up by repeating the title phrase.
Outside of “Still Tippin'”, “Like A Boss” may be the record that you know Slim’s deep and powerful voice from. No doubt he backs up his boss status daily with his work in the community and the way he has managed to represent the City. Salute to @slimthug, @julesoxo and @districtone for representing the City and being bosses all around!