Diamonds in the South

SXSW panels

Diamonds in the South

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 18

As moderator Matt Sonzala of Damage Control Radio quipped that 1986 marked both the inception of SXSW and Rap-A-Lot Records, 20 years of Houston rap dissected itself for a panel of Screwston enthusiasts. "This is not the first time Houston rap has blown up," Sonzala announced, "but this time is certainly the biggest." As a new breed of artists including Paul Wall, Mike Jones, and Chamillionaire reap the benefits of a regional buzz, longtime South Park promoter DJ Chill harkened back to more isolated times. "The industry support wasn't always there. Once the industry realized that the streets were buying up rappers like Lil' Keke, ESG, and K-Rino, they then felt they had to support." While the perception of Houston as a self-sufficient rap market validates itself on a regular basis, Chill also reminded that it's often external hype that begets internal resolution. "At first, Houston rappers couldn't do major shows in Houston. They had to go out and do shows in small towns across Texas and Louisiana in order to build up their reps, which only then allowed them to do major shows in Houston." Ozone Magazine editor Julia Beverly reinforced the irony of the situation. "When people think of rap in the South, they think of Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami. They're not thinking about all of the small towns in between." As labels scurry to attract fresh talent, that thinking is sure to change.

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