If you went to a Houston hip-hop club or a live show or turned on 97.9 from the 1980s on, chances are you've heard of Wickett Crickett. He is considered by many to be the godfather of Houston hip-hop and one of the pioneering personalities within the genre as an artist, DJ and supporter of local talent.
Wicket Crickett is not a "rapper" as most people identify them today, but a classic, old school MC straight out of hip-hop's primordial soup. With his notorious quick wit and humor, he spawned many of the catchphrases we associate with modern DJs and his ability to control a crowd is legend around town.
"His hosting is an art form in itself," says Langston Collin Wilkins, Houston's resident hip-hop historian. "He's an MC in the very traditional sense and he's one of a very few left, but he remains a dominant figure in the city's hip-hop history. He's the glue that unites everything else."
Wickett Crickett is also the host of the Houston Slab Parade + Family Festival on Sunday. We sat down with him to discuss the parade, his legacy and the how the city of Houston can better preserve its indigenous art forms.
PH: The Houston Slab Parade + Family Festival is one way the city is preserving and celebrating its hip-hop culture. Do you think we're doing enough or does our community need to do more to celebrate it's unique place within hip-hop?
WC: Houston is know for the screw era, which is later than mine. But I've always said that these artists should come together, put their money together, and buy some land together and name it "DJ Screw Memorial Park". And then put plots out there with the fallen ones from Houston. You see what I'm sayin? I think that would be something that -- when people come here from out of town -- they would go and visit Screw Park and they would see plaques for Fat Pat, Big Mello, Screw and all them. I think we need to have something like that here.
PH: So you want to preserve their legacy in a public way.
WC: Right. Because when you go to LA and see something like the Walk of Fame, there's stars on there you've never even heard of. But when you get to read all those names it's fascinating. And so Houston don't have nothing that people can come here from out of town and take pictures in front of. It's like if you go to Paris or London you see stuff that you take pictures in front of, but Houston needs its thing.
PH: What part of town would you put it in?
WC: I really would want it to be somewhere like the Astrodome area. If it's not in that area it needs to be around here (referring to U of H campus) or the Hermann Park area, where you have the museums. I think it needs to be something that's pretty big that kids can go to during field trips. That should be one of their field trips so they can learn something about themselves.
PH: The hip-hop community in Houston is known worldwide. Why do you feel like it still doesn't get the recognition that is deserves back home?
WC: I'm proud of our legacy and the fact that people from the Houston Arts Alliance and academics and journalists want to talk about it. But there's so much more we could be doing. I've always beleived you should give people theirs while they're living. If there were more people doing what you guys (journalists) were doing and getting more people interested in the history that would be a start. When rap first started nobody was worried about rap. Once they relaized that there was actually some money involved people started noticing. I want people to undertsand the different stages that Houston hip-hop went through.
PH: What do you feel like your role has been over the years?
WC: I'm one of the first ones who invented the MC job in hip-hop clubs because I recognized that it was two jobs. A lot of peopel can DJ, but they can't talk and crank clubs. A lot of artists, like DJs, were so worried about scratchin and mixin that they never learned how to talk. So I invented the talking part of crankin clubs. A lot of the stuff that I said that made people crunk they still say to this day. They learned from me like I passed it on to them. A lot of people feel like I'd be upset, but it's a passing of the torch. I'm proud of it.
PH: Can you give us an example?
WC: "All the independent women in the house..."if you got a job, a car"..."if you independent"..."make some noise"...I started all that, actually on a stage at a crafish festival in Louisiana. Half the stuff that people say right now they got it from me to hype crowds. I was saying all that stuff way before anybody. I just knew stuff to say.
PH: So you're not annoyed that people borrowed your phrases?
WC: No, it's a good thing. But a lot of MCs right now don't have their own identity. If you go into the club right now you're going to hear the DJs saying everything they heard growing up, things they heard me say.
PH: Tell me about your role at the Slab Festival?
WC: It's an honor for them to ask me to come out. I'm one of Houston's first pioneer rappers, really the first one rapping, but I didn't put out records out at that time because I was DJ'ing and MC'ing. Maybe four or five years later they started making records. I'm in various books that people have written about Houston hip-hop, a couple of the museums and I gave DJ Screw his first job. This is the first slab fest in Houston and I want to thank the organizers for making me part of history. I appreicate people even wanting to be interested in slabs and the culture.