Paul Wall (Left) and Lil' Keke (right) pose at SoSouth Music. Photo courtesy Lil' Keke's Instagram.

By Laura Onyeneho

July 13 isn’t just any ordinary day for Houstonians. 7/13 or 713 Day is the city’s official unofficial holiday that celebrates the culture, cuisine and curated entertainment in the Bayou City.

One of the most significant components to 713 Day is the tribute to Houston’s hip-hop music scene. 

Still Tippin Houston, a multimedia and event curation company will host the official “713 Day” event featuring popular artists, legendary pioneers and the new generation of Houston hip-hop.

Houston has launched the careers of hip-hop’s biggest superstars for years, but it has failed to get the recognition of other hip-hop meccas like New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, leaving the city to be seen as underrated.

“713 also represents our area code. This is where we are from and we take pride in that,” says Steven Chavez III, founder of Still Tippin’ Houston. “It is also a time to celebrate how far we’ve come and to showcase how our culture permeates worldwide.”

 HOUSTON HIP-HOP AT A GLANCE

Houston Hip-hop found its voice around the 1980s when the Rap-A-Lot record label was founded. The label entered into the national spotlight with the success of its most prominent group The Geto Boys into the early 90’s. Soon after, the late iconic DJ Screw began dominating the scene with his famous chopped and screwed DJ techniques that are used in many mainstream songs today.

Houston is considered the historic heart of Texas music. The success stories of these artists have developed out of the neighborhoods of the Southside, Third Ward, South Park, Fifth Ward, along with many others. These stories grew from experiences of poverty, violence, crime and drugs that negatively impacted these communities.

“Many of these neighborhoods were a source of neglect and resource extraction. These were the sites for the ‘War on Drugs’ during that time,” says Maco Faniel, historian and author of Hip-Hop in Houston: The Origin and the Legacy. “This is the era of President Reagan and the ‘War on Drugs.’ Federal dollars were given to local policing. These communities became heavily surveilled with police activity, drug arrests, and resources were taken away from schools along with other issues that were impacting Black communities.” 

Faniel says one could argue that The Geto Boys hit single “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” discussed how these broader social structures were working to harm Black people and the paranoia that comes with being Black in America. 

Rappers told stories about their struggles to survive. Their saving grace was to pursue music. Some expressed how they had to sell their music out of car trunks while promoting their music by sharing it with DJs in notable hip-hop clubs and strip joints. 

Lil’ Keke is one of Houston’s most celebrated rappers who started his career freestyling in the back of “hoopties” (a junky, worthless, broken down car. Source: Urban Dictionary). Lil’Keke’s ambition and the gift of the gab led him to be a part of one of the most iconic hip-hop collectives of the early ’90s, The Screwed Up Click.

“I’m from the crack era. I don’t think there wasn’t anything more traumatic to the Black community than crack. The music during that time was gangster rap,” he says. “I sold drugs, I worked in crack houses. To come from that and still survive is a blessing. A lot of the music and my pain and subject matter came from that era.”

Lili’ Keke says local artists have had to get it “out the mud” and take the independent path to grow their music careers without the help of distribution deals or major labels. Tobe Nwigwe, Slim Thug and Mike Jones are a few notable names to add to this list.

“Houston hip-hop to me hasn’t changed, it just evolved over time. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the roots,” he says. “We might be considered underrated but we are so self-made and self-absorbed that we don’t put as much interest in what others think of us.” 

Lil’ Keke describes Houston as the independent music city in the world. His love for his community and the culture led to the proclamation of 713 Day by both former Mayor Annise Parker in 2015 and Mayor Turner in 2018. 

UPLIFTING THE NEXT GENERATION

Chavez says that 713 Day allows them to showcase the hidden gems of the city because many artists eventually leave to cultivate their talents in other cities. 

“The sound of Houston hip-hop culture is evolving,” Chavez says. “We have Megan Thee Stallion, Travis Scott. We’ve got Beyoncé. We don’t have the infrastructure like other major cities. We don’t have major record labels located here, and we’ve been doing it out the trunk for so long. But we still continue to make waves regardless.”

Houston rap legend Paul Wall has had a successful career since the debut of his first album “The Peoples Champ” in 2005. He released a new album “SUBCULTURE” last year to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his first album. He was influenced by Lil’Keke’s era of music and pays homage through the sounds of his era. He says that being able to create longevity in the cut-throat music industry instead of chasing attention and fame is important for young, upcoming Houston rappers to consider. 

“The reason why I’m still going strong after all these years is because I am my authentic self. I understand the business, I understand who is in my circle, I know what other avenues outside of music to invest in and what my hardcore fan base wants,” he says. “I don’t make sexually explicit music. It’s not my style. All I talk about is cars, sippin’ drinks or getting money. “SUBCULTURE” is about the underground nostalgic vibe. It’s about paying tribute to our past while elevating the culture. It’s about creating your own movement and not following the popular trends. The new generation is carrying the torch and keeping it alive on the national stage. Houston hip-hop is in good hands. This is a big reason why we celebrate 713 Day.” 


Paul Wall

Rapper, Actor, DJ

  • Career Debut: “Get Ya Mind Correct” album with Chamillionaire, 2002
  • Mainstream Recognition: Major-label debut, The People’s Champ, 2005
  • Signature: Southern drawl and local slag term (Slab, Swings, Tippin’, Candy Paint)
  • Awards: Featured on Grammy-nominated song “Grillz” with Nelly, 2007
  • New Music: Released 12th album SUBCULTURE, and Slab Talk mixtape with veteran rapper Lil’Keke

Lil Keke

Rapper

  • Career Debut- Early Protégé of the Iconic DJ Screw
  • Mainstream Recognition: Original member of the legendary Screwed Up Click (S.U.C)
  • Signature: Live freestyles, off-the-dome, no pad no pen style
  • Awards: Received city proclamation for 713 Day in 2015 and 2018
  • Community Service: Recipient of community service award from President Barack Obama, 2016


713 Day Celebration

Headlining Artists: Lil’ Keke, Paul Wall and Slim Thug

Date: July 13, 2021 @ 7PM- 2AM

Location: RISE Rooftop- 2600 Travis Street #Suite R Houston, TX 77006


Check out these fresh faces featured on this year’s 713 Day performance lineup:

Yung Pooda

Yung Pooda is a recording artist from Orange, TX who specializes in rap and hip-hop music. He is known for his wordplay and versatile sound. Yung Pooda signed with It’s A 10 Records in 2019, a boutique label. 

StarTheOnly1ne


StarTheOnly1ne is a 22-year-old hip-hop/R&B artist from Houston, TX. Recently, he dropped the official video of his single “Hope I don’t crash” off of his second album Stay True, Always Rise. 

Big Jade

Big Jade is a Beaumont, TX native known for her hard and precise rap style. Her music is described to be anything from pop music. She dropped her new album “Pressure,” a perfect description for her signature grimy spit spitfire lyrics.

Laura Onyeneho is the Defender Network Education Reporter and a Report For America Corps member. Email her at laura@defendernetwork.com