Last summer, Houston's one-woman pop monopoly Beyoncé Knowles introduced the world to one of her grittier alter-egos with the unleashing of Third Ward Trill. With chopped-and-screwed rap deliveries, à la promotional single "Bow Down/ I Been On," fans received a taste of the hip-hop influences to follow on Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail and her surprise self-titled release. But what do Bey's bars have to do with the price of grills in Texas? Well, since you asked, let's go on a two-miles-per-hour ride through Texas' influence on 'Yonce's jagged side.
Texas has been on hip-hop's national radar since the late '80s and early '90s mellowed introduction of a distinct sub-genre featuring UGK, The Geto Boys, and Lil Keke by way of DJ Screw. By the 2000's, Lone Star hip-hop reached heightened peaks with new wave MCs Mike Jones, Dorrough, Paul Wall Tum Tum and others. Beyoncé has always made an occasional mark on Texas hip-hop. She appeared in a 1998 Geto Boys music, collaborated in 2005 with Slim Thug and her signature pseudo-rap staccato melodies are characteristic of the sound. But while Beyoncé has dabbled in sounds native to these scene, she has, bit-by-bit strayed away in favor of international pop stardom and the glossier sound that goes with it. But in a 2014 where the line between genres will get even blurrier, Third Ward Trill could be the link that sees hip-hop in Houston surfboarding back into rap prominence, and maybe even the entire Lone Star state. To be successful in contemporary music is to be diverse and prolific, and because of recent cross-genre successes, hip-hop is no longer exempt. Mainstream rappers are being expected to at least hold a tune, and singers are expected to be able to spontaneously burst into flows at any given beat break (i.e. Future and Miley Cyrus). When artists like these display forms of hometown pride through snippets of a natively distinct sound within a track that otherwise strives for popularity, some fans take it upon themselves to boot up for an Indiana Jones-eque mission to discover the origin of that native sound. The treasure these fans dig up may lead them to new regional allegiances they otherwise wouldn't have taken seriously.
For Canada there was Drake's ambient R&B appeal. For the Midwest, there was Kanye's anti-gangsta eclectic defiance. And for Texas, there's Beyonce's newest persona, Third Ward Trill, a strategic blend of Houston's slowed and throwed trillness, Dallas' experimental soul and fiery hunger, and splashes of Jay-Z's Brooklyn braggadocio.
What Beyoncé means for Texan hip-hop is cloaked exposure. In the company of ballads and pop hits, fans listening to any of the hip-hop influenced tracks from her most recent effort may wonder, "What is this new accented delivery Beyonce is rapping with, and where did she pick it up?" With a modest amount of research, the answer will unlock a distinct hodgepodge of MCs in Houston, Dallas, Port Arthur and beyond, responsible for influencing the unique sound of an international pop star with Texas pride.
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