The Vo-Ice: Silenced
Southern, 31, was in Houston to record with Boston George, and attend Friday’s Young Jeezy and Wiz Khalifa show at the Woodlands. He’d gone down route 290 that day with his longtime friend DJ Grip, co-founder of local production company Dollaz N Since, with whom Southern was working, and Lil Sicc. The trio worked on Southern’s The Vo-Ice, an EP named after the rapper’s distinguishing quality.
“His voice was so identifiable,” remembers Tony Wayne, a founding member of the Basswood Lane group that taught Southern to rap in 2001. “It was unreal. It was mesmerizing.”
Indeed, it was the Reagan High alum’s general flash that attracted Basswood Lane to Southern. Wayne’s brother Jamie Lee thought he looked like Houston rapper Lil’ Flip upon seeing him downtown. He brought Southern back to his East Austin studio and recorded “On the Highway.” After that, Southern was Ice B.
“He was always flashy, wearing a lot of jewelry,” points out Wayne. Says Grip: “He was the first out of Basswood to get a grill, first to get a cross. He was in love with jewelry. That was his thing. He always had to be flashy and wearing new jewelry.”
For eight years, the Basswood Lane crew of Wayne, Lee, Oz, and Southern formed what the Chronicle pegged in 2006 as the defining sound of the hip-hop heavy 78723 zip code.
“With Houston slowing things down, we started to get crunk,” Wayne told onetime Chronicle writer Robert Gabriel in a cover story that year. “We started to bounce, but we maintain some touch of Texas flavor.”
In July 2011, Southern broke loose from Basswood Lane with the first of two solo efforts: the full-length Ashes & No Liquor and an EP, Street Speaker, released that November. He hoped to wrap up work on The Vo-Ice before the end of this year.
“He was really talented, and one of the shining members of the local scene because he had such a memorable voice,” laments Grip. “He had such a strong style and swagger.”
Southern is survived by his daughter J’yllssa, 5, and his girlfriend Megan Pina, as well as Pina’s son Tayvian.