“If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”
The quote comes from Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York” an ode to his city and the people that it produces. It has since been taken as a mantra for the masses that move to the east coast mecca with dreams of fame and fortune. At the heart of the saying is the idea that if you can push yourself in the city that never sleeps, there is no city that can offer a greater obstacle. Which is why I assume Frank Sinatra never made it down to Houston.
Of course, I’m being facetious. The singer known as “Old Blue Eyes” was here in 1969 to perform for a sold-out Astrodome in an All-Star Tribute for the returning Apollo 11 Astronauts. Also, a lot has changed since Frank was alive. The Astrodome, once deemed the 8th Wonder of the world for its size and scale sits, dwarfed in the shadow of NRG Stadium. Houston, once a smaller market, oil-town, has expanded into the fourth (arguably third but that’s another conversation) metropolis in the United States. Houston is no longer the “small town” it was once deemed to be, as more transplants make their way to the city every day. With them comes new ideas, artists, and industry adding to the rich cultures of people already making a name for themselves in the city. That growth has been rapid but with that rapidness comes growing pains. When it comes to entertainment you can find the cream of the crop here in Houston but, often, a lot of artists don’t get the shine they deserve. There are the who’s who of Houston music. The names that you usually think of when there is a Texas All-star set. But there is also the next class of artists that represent Houston through and through but have made their name larger by stepping outside the city. Artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Khruangbin, Lizzo, Maxo Kream, Solange, D4VD and more have shown that the caliber of artists that are coming out of the city rival anything coming out of any other municipality. The artist community in the city knows the talent is there. In 2019 Beat King released Club God 6 with the single “BeatKing Gotta Leave Houston” where he reflected on his place in the city and if he needed to stay.
“Houston love me here but the industry don’t love me here,” he pontificated as he spoke about the other cities that welcomed him with open arms.
His verse and song capture a lot of the problems with the industry in the city. Beyond his thoughts are the even bigger critique of the media arm on H-Town. It doesn’t exist. Houston is the fourth (arguably third…but again…another conversation) largest city in the nation but it often seems like it has the media reach of a small town. I watch WGN (Chicago), listen to Hot 97 (New York), read the Washington Post (I…I shouldn’t have to say this one), see streams from Kai Cenat (Atlanta), and watch countless LA-based television and movie offerings. For the amount of people living here, the media offering pales in comparison to a lot of other cities. Is it fair? No, but it is the reality. It is hard to make it out of Houston…but if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Some of the artists already named in this column are living proof.
Is it hopeless? Absolutely not. The landscape for entertainment and media is rapidly changing in the city every day. As the artists named above flourish more and more, they keep branching out from the city. Artists like Beat King continue to gain a foothold in the industry while still using Houston as a base of operations which helps to open the doors for others. Mediums like podcasts are starting to get a reach beyond the Houston city limits. The influx of people moving here and the chronicling of the city on social media is starting to expose the Bayou City to national and international audiences. This column exists to make sure the artists making music in the city are highlighted like they need to be. Here are four artists in Houston that don’t need a lot of words because they have everything that is needed to blow up on the national scene. None of these artists are new and, in many ways, have the support of the city behind them. But they should, like a lot of other Houston artists, be on more national stages.
Chris Dudley has been releasing music under the name Propain since the 2010s but his run starting in 2018 with 7 Day Theory is remarkable. His latest release, 2023’s Made from Scratch, heightens that run. With features from Big K.R.I.T, Sauce Walka, OTB Fastlane, Freddie Gibbs, Z-Ro, Monaleo and more, the album is one of his most well-rounded offerings to date. Commercial singles like “Hol Up” sit right alongside storytelling singles like “Karma.” The album is lyrical, commercial, Houston, and more. He creates albums that both pay homage to the city’s Hip-Hop history and give a modern feel that can be placed alongside and above any other mainstream offerings.
Kentavia Miller was one of 2022’s XXL Magazine Freshman Class members. Her name, a combination of her nickname and her proclamation that she was the best MC, started off as a joke but her work has solidified her as a top lyrical artist. Her independently released 2020 album 4 da 304’s was wildly successful leading to the three follow up albums including 2023’s Back to 304’n. She has mastered the art of the punchline, peppering her verses with clever wordplay and boastful rhymes reminiscent of the mixtape era of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. She’s been recognized by established artists like Snoop Dogg. She recently teamed up with Rapsody for RocNation’s Humble Soles Mixtape single “Love Answers All” where the MCs reflect on their journeys thus far in their musical careers. Her signing to RocNation, mixed with her skills on the mic, mean that we are sure to see even more of KenTheMan in 2024.
In 2022 Marqus Clae released The Mecca, his Def Jam debut. The album is criminally slept on. Tracks like “Ox & Buns,” “King Clae,” “Jigga,” and “Studio Gangsta” had the MC effortlessly dropping complex lyrics over blaring horns and drum loops. The young MC is no stranger to the industry, signing to Master P’s No Limit Records in 2016. He is mentored by Lupe Fiasco and has worked with artists like YG. The Mecca is his ode to Hip-Hop and his best body of work so far. And while that album didn’t garner the commercial attention it deserved, his recent single “Kendrick, Clae & Cole” promises that there is even more coming from the Houston native.
A Google search of Cam Wallace often turns up search results with Beyoncé. That’s because the Houston native produced “Upgrade U” for her 2006 album B’Day. He has worked behind the scenes writing for artists like Ciara, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, LeCrae, Sevyn Streeter, and Slim Thug. In 2023, he released the album DRTYWRK, along with the dance EP SHIFT, and the R&B EP Naughty. He is multitalented, able to work in different genres which gives him the ability to create some truly unique sounds, but he also knows how to appeal to the masses. His single “Ringin’” was picked up by Slim Thug giving Wallace a feature alongside Sauce Walka on Slim’s 2017’s album The World Is Yours. Wallace’s influence is felt throughout Slim’s 2017 project. With Wallace’s skill as a rapper, songwriter, and producer, prepare to see more of him as his career grows.