There are many styles of Hip-Hop in Houston, but one of the prominent styles the city is known for is the singing and harmony. Whether belting the lyrics to Big Moe’s “Barre Baby” or harmonizing with the chorus of Z-Ro’s “I Hate You,” Houstonians have always supported the melodies coming from some of our top artists. The roots of this city are buried deep in a history of jazz, blues, and gospel. While New Orleans is synonymous with jazz; clubs and juke joints dedicated to the blues flourished throughout Houston’s Fifth Ward and Third Ward. Clubs like the Eldorado Ballroom featured artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and James Brown. The Bronze Peacock nightclub housed not only the nightspot but the record label of the same name. Peacock Records released music from Bobby “Blue”Bland, the Lonnie Woods Trio, and, the blueprint for Elvis, “Big Mama” Thorton. It should be no surprise that a city with that much musical history would produce rappers so entranced with creating melodic backdrops to display their lyricism. From Sean “Solo” Jemison working with ESG to create classics like Ocean of Funk to Pimp C making sure live instrumentation was the backbone of UGK’s Too Hard to Swallow, Super Tight, and Ridin’ Dirty; the importance of music has been engrained in the DNA of many artists in the crescent city. That includes the ability to hold a note. That’s why it’s not a surprise for Houstonians to champion rappers like Z-Ro and Devin The Dude who sing as much as they rap. Artists of that grain have also influenced those that came after them like Drake and Travis Scott. Now there are whole divisions of artists that sing over beats largely attributed to Hip-Hop. We’ve highlighted artists like Dende for his ability to bridge the gap between lyrical wordplay and vocal harmony, but here are three Houston artists that lean more towards the melodious side.
Caleb Zackery Toliver gained his acclaim appearing alongside Houston’s Travis Scott under the name Don Toliver. The singer lent his voice to Scott’s Astroworld on the track “Can’t Say” and shortly thereafter announced he was signing to the “Sicko Mode” rapper’s Cactus Jack label. While some wrote him off as a replica of Scott, Toliver immediately began putting in work, releasing singles with his Cactus Jack label mates, making guest appearances on albums by Eminem and Nas, touring with the Weekend, and releasing his debut album Heaven or Hell. He has since released two more well-received albums, Life of a Don and Love Sick; headlined two major tours for those albums, and is currently working on a fourth, the hugely anticipated Hardstone set to drop this year. If people thought that Toliver was simply an offshoot of Travis, he has long since stepped out from under that shadow and created his own star.
Pronounced David, d4vd or David Anthony Burke, has been making a name for himself since exploding on social media with the release of “Romantic Homicide.” You might not know d4vd or even recognize the names of his songs, but if you spent time on apps like TikTok or YouTube Shorts, you will recognize hits like “Romantic Homicide,” “Sleep Well” and “Here With Me.” And if you happen to be one of those people that doesn’t know d4vd’s songs by name, then you’re late. He has performed in fashion week in Milan, released two EPs, and joined SZA for the second run of her North American tour. The singer, who began his career making background music for his gaming videos, has put becoming the best Fortnite player on hold to gain a foothold in the music world. He’s still a young artist but his willingness to push boundaries and not be limited by genres is gaining him international attention. With one gold and two platinum certified singles and only two EPs, there is still a lot more for d4vd to prove, but the potential is more than there.
Jet The 3rd
The mysterious Houston singer has been dropping singles over the past few years and received praise from DJ collectives like the Waxaholics and OG Ron C’s The Chopstars. Since 2019 she’s been releasing singles and EPs with a new age sound and edge. From her staccato flow on 2019’s “Solitude” to the dark, ominous, soundtrack to her most recent release, “Unbreakable.” Like Toliver and d4vd, she has a sound unique to her and isn’t afraid to experiment with the music. Jet may be a newer artist but with support from the DJ community and her continued steady release output, there is more than a chance that her star continues to rise.