ABOVE: Aaron May
Some Laid-Back Sounds to Take You Into 2024
It’s a new year.
Some of us are going to make some resolutions we’re going to keep. Some of us are going to make some resolutions we’re going to quickly forget about. I’m probably going to do both. One of my first resolutions started in the last year and that was to write consistently, a feat that is equally rewarding and demanding depending on what time of the week that you catch me. What has helped me keep going is this column, where each week I try to bring you some of the Houston music scene that you may be missing out on. For the past few weeks, we’ve looked at some of the genres that people might not associate with Houston, like the psychedelic sounds of Khruangbin or the country music stylings of Norman North, but let’s start the new year off with the genre I listen to the most, Hip-Hop.
Hip-Hop just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and in those five decades it has influenced so many other genres of music. Not only that, but it has created many different categories and divisions, some that are defined and others that remain nebulous. I’m not talking about the theory I presented with Rod Wave (that he’s more of a blues or country singer than a rapper and the only reason he and the rest of the world define him as such are for…reasons…go read the article). I’m talking something else.
Like, what is Curren$y? The New Orleans native has solidified his legacy with his laid-back flow about cars, business, women, and weed. But what is his style of music? Of course, it’s Hip-Hop but what is its division? I don’t know and I’m not going to take the time to Google because there’s a strong chance it’ll be something nonsensical, but Houston also has its many divisions when it comes to Hip-Hop. Most of the time when people look at Houston rap, their eyes are on those that paved the way, with particular focus paid to pioneers like UGK, the Geto Boys, Swishahouse, and the S.U.C and, while those rappers are extremely important to the cultivation of the Houston sound, the admiration of their careers can overshadow what others in the city are doing.
Is that their fault? Absolutely not. I listen to them just as much as the next person (especially the greatest rapper alive. Go read the article) but I also want to point out a few others. For instance, here’s a couple of artists that make music for riding around the city.
Le Dollar sign has been creating and defining his sound on his own terms for over a decade. A veteran of Slim Thug’s Boss Hogg Outlawz, Le$ has since carved out his own lane with his brand DIOS (Did It Ourselves). Whether creating the soundscapes himself or working with producers like DJ Mr. Rogers, the New Orleans-born MC has an ear for the soulful. His music is motivational, rapping about taking control of your own fate through lyrics teeming with references to cars and musings about life. He recently released Settle 4 Le$ 3, his popular mixtape series with DJ Mr. Rogers. The album features Killa Kyleon, Slim Guerilla, Slim Thug, and Primo Rice. The mantra spouted by Le$, DIOS (Did It Ourselves), is not just a label but his entire lifestyle. The MC creates his own music, records his own videos, runs his own store, and releases his own clothing brand independently with his creative partner, Jorgey. The results are overwhelmingly positive with the store, DIOS, having to reopen in a new larger location recently due to demand.
Aaron May released the introspective Chase in 2019 with a sound and topics that seemed well beyond his teenage years. Since then, he has continued to grow with the release of No Recognition and Outside Lookin In. Singles like “Let’s Go,” “In Love,” “Time” and his newest, “Still Humble” have the Alief MC reflecting on life, fame, and fortune over smooth beats perfect for riding around the city. May is like a badly kept secret. His team is calculating, releasing when and how they want to, and even though you might not hear him on the radio or other traditional outlets, you might flip on a game like NBA 2K and he’ll be on the soundtrack.
It’s been two years since Dinero released the video for “Lost & Found,” the first single off his album The Sequel which flipped the Roy Ayers classic and had the MC cruising around Houston. The video is what got me and since then he hasn’t disappointed, releasing four more albums, most recently 2023’s Too Fly 2 Die. He, as well, has an appreciation for classic vehicles, and while Le$ leans towards classic BMWs, Oldsmobile Cutlasses, and classic Cadillacs, Dinero’s lyrics are filled with references of sports vehicles from the ‘80s and ‘90s.