Houston Rap has a simple two-pronged goal when it hits bookshelves on November 25th: document the Houston Hip-Hop scene and its relationship with the rich, in all senses of the terms, community it continues to flourish in. Famed photographer, Peter Beste, and Texas bred writer, Lance Scott Walker, spent 9 years interviewing and photographing locals as well as important figures who have witnessed and contributed to the growth of the culture. But the book is much more than a collection of pictures and words put together on the Hip-Hop culture. It’s a detailed tour on the good and the bad, the past and a look into the future, and everything in between on H-Town. This book is a very necessary addition to your library. Period.
We were blessed enough to ask Peter Beste and Lance Walker some questions regarding this insightful piece of history and how the journey they took has impacted them. We all thank them at The Source for this, and you should too. Here are their Twitters : @peterbestephoto & @lanceswalker
“Ain’t nobody like… fightin’ the government, the city. ‘What you mean, fight the city? You mean like… Houston against me?’” – Willie D
There’s a Willie D quote at the beginning of the book is pretty eye opening for those below and above the poverty line. How many people did you encounter were aware of what Willie D was speaking of? Or you could at least feel that they wanted to?
Peter: I found that there were many wise folks in this community who see the bigger picture. We made an effort to present a larger picture rather than just focus on typical rap/hip-hop topics. We purposely reached out to those who are aware of how these communities have been historically overlooked, and even directly targeted by “the powers that be” in an effort to keep them subservient and unable to fight back. K-Rino, Justice Allah, Willie D, Murder One, Dope-E, and Minister Robert Muhammad, were among the folks who spoke most eloquently on this.
Lance: I would think that anyone in the situation Willie describes would want to fight back, definitely. But I think for a lot of people dealing with their own hardships, it’s difficult to know where to start. The voices Peter mentioned have a platform that the community hears, so the message does get through, but we only did see things through the lens of rap music, so it’s hard to say how others in the community feel. There’s a lot more to these communities than we ever did get to see, so many people we didn’t get to meet, and it’s impossible to speak for them. Willie D did tell me in another interview that he thinks a lot of people feel disenfranchised — like their vote just doesn’t count.
Bun B in the foreword said that at the end of the day, Houston folk are a lot like other cities’ folk. They do things a bit differently but it’s all the same. How do you guys see Houston natives similar or different in personalities, behaviors, outlook, etc. from say New York or other major cities?
Lance: It’s a metropolitan city with no metropolitan cred, as it were. The fourth largest city in the United States and always growing, but not a destination city for a lot of folks. We wrote in our introduction about Houston being overlooked, dismissed and the like — that’s a very real thing to Houstonians, but it’s not a chip on their shoulder. Houston is its own little country with a bunch of little cities inside of it, and that’s especially true if you look at it from the perspective of its rap communities. They’ve got their own thing going on. The Houston economy is so localized with oil, NASA, and its massive medical centers all over the city, and rap is another economy that plays a part in the city’s sustainability. Houston’s biggest stars don’t jump ship for New York or L.A. when they get famous — they keep it in Houston. That builds on the communities spread out around the city.
Peter: Historically, Houston has been left to grow and develop on its own. Many would argue that before the Houston Rap mainstream explosion in 2005, it was extremely hard for a rapper who wasn’t from New York or L.A. to get attention or respect nationally. That isolation allowed them to grow freely, create their own sounds, their own labels, distribution networks, and even their own drugs. One thing that drew me to this community was its unique nature and impressive drive to succeed on their own terms.
Like in many neighborhoods in America, Hip-Hop offered a legal means to live that wasn’t too different from a lot of people’s lifestyles (hustler’s mentality, street cred, etc.). How do you guys think Hip-Hop became so deeply rooted in the Houston culture and how does it continue to thrive today?
Lance: The hustler’s mentality applies. But I also think that Houston’s isolation from the East and West Coast scenes and a local success story like the Geto Boys helped artists believe that Houston was big enough to support you as an artist. You get that into people’s heads and not only are you going to see a lot more artists, but you’re going to have artists that feel like they have a community that is open to them expressing themselves and telling their stories. That makes for better artists, and the city continues to thrive because that mentality has never gone away. Houstonians support Houston rappers. They make music that Houstonians can relate to and it sounds like Houston.