Crack Music

2005, on the record

"You got two ears and one mouf. That means you need to listen twice as much as you talk."

– Paul Wall & Chamillionaire, "Go Grind," 2002

"Listen, people. I don't know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can't sing any better than that. There's about 300,000 of you fuckers out there – I want you to start singing. C'mon!"

– Country Joe McDonald, Woodstock, 1969

Of the voices heard and unheard at the midpoint of the new millennium's opening decade, none tickled the ear like Houston's major label rap class of 2005: Chamillionaire (The Sound of Revenge), Bun B (Trill), Paul Wall (The Peoples Champ), and Mike Jones (Who Is Mike Jones?) Who? Mike Jones. Who? Mike Jones. Who? Mike Jones indeed.

Between Chamillionaire's chamilitary verse, the blunt hoarse of Bun B, and Paul Wall's sonic grilling giggles the purple humor of Mike Jones, out clubbing it with Slim Thug. When Thugga boasts "Like a Boss," his Southern slur struts up "like a bouse." That bouse will stick to your pan like a scratched CD until you can't help but hear the genre's inherent reliance on blues repetition and indeed the whole of Southern musical evolution. Kanye West (Late Registration) achieved similar results nationally with Jamie Foxx reprising his Oscar-winning impression of Georgia son Ray Charles for "Gold Digger." Two tracks later, West's "Crack Music" burns right to the black heart of hip-hop's continued mainstream dominance.

"Sometimes I feel the music is the only medicine, so we cook it, cut it, measure it, bag it, sell it.

The fiends cop it. ... Put the CD on your tongue, yeah, that's pure, man."

Cindy Sheehan's media tent in Crawford, Texas, was another stronghold for the musically literate below the Mason-Dixon Line. With a little help from his friend Steve Earle, Austin's James McMurtry (Childish Things) reiterated what Kanye West said on TV about Bush: "We Can't Make It Here." Fortunately, a few veteran tune smiths still squeak out a living here, deep in the heart of Texas: Eliza Gilkyson (Paradise Hotel), Ray Wylie Hubbard (Delirium Tremolos), Billy Joe Shaver (The Real Deal). Contrast that against ATX's new guard: Spoon's Britt Daniel (Gimme Fiction), Okkervil River's Will Sheff (Black Sheep Boy), and the grandaddy of indie songwriters, Smog's Bill Callahan (A River Ain't Too Much to Love). Get that River running through Willie Nelson.

The new breed of songwriter has arrived, from the Cat Stevens' hippie folk of Devendra Banhart (Cripple Crow) and WPA pop of Sufjan Stevens (Illinois) to the haunted southern rock of My Morning Jacket (Z) and Kings of Leon (Aha Shake Heartbreak). Another fresh crop is right behind: Great Lake Swimmers (Bodies and Minds), Cass McCombs (Prefection), and Jens Lekman (Oh You're So Silent Jens). On Red River, bands team with songs delivered in the key of pissed off: America Is Waiting (In the Lines). There, as everywhere in Austin, 2005, we give thanks for the resurrection of one Roger Kynard Erickson, original purveyor of another era's "Crack Music."

"Give us these days, and take our daily bread. ... And what we gave back was crack music. And now we ooze it, through they nooks and crannies, so our mammas ain't got to be they cooks and nannies. And we gonna repo everything they ever took from granny. Now the former slaves trade hooks for Grammies. This dark diction has become America's addiction. Those who ain't even black use it. We gonna keep baggin' up this here crack music." – Kanye West, "Crack Music"

Crack Music


1) M.I.A., Arular (XL)

2) Devendra Banhart, Cripple Crow (XL)

3) Slim Thug, Already Platinum (Geffen)

4) Chamillionaire, The Sound of Revenge (Universal)

5) Gorillaz, Demon Days (Virgin)

6) My Morning Jacket, Z (ATO)

7) Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)

8) Red Sparowes, At the Soundless Dawn (Neurot)

9) The Rosebuds, Birds Make Good Neighbors (Merge)

10) The Clutters, T&C (Chicken Ranch)

Crack Music


1) Smog, A River Ain't Too Much to Love (Drag City)

2) Spoon, Gimme Fiction (Merge)

3) Roky Erickson, I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology (Shout! Factory)

4) James McMurtry, Childish Things (Compadre)

5) Okkervil River, Black Sheep Boy (Jagjaguwar)

6) The Crack Pipes, Beauty School (Emperor Jones)

7) ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Worlds Apart (Interscope)

8) Kathy McCarty, Another Day in the Sun (Rexy Rex)

9) Voxtrot, Raised by Wolves EP (Cult Hero)

10) Manikin, Still (Super Secret)

Crack Music


1) Todd Potter, The Bell (White Wing)

2) Craig Ross, The Greater Good (Wild Abandon Ltd.)

3) Blaze Foley, Wanted More Dead Than Alive (Waddell Hollow)

4) Banjo & Sullivan, The Ultimate Collection 1972-1978 (Hip-O)

5) Naugahyde Dream Sequence (Frumunda)

6) The Golden Boys, Scorpion Stomp #2 (Hook or Crook)

7) Tuxedo Killers, M. Night Shyamalan's (Furniture)

8) This Microwave World, Red States (Tight Spot)

9) For Those Who Know (Christmas Mountain)

10) The Black Angels (Light in the Attic)

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