The line wrapped around the block. Dozens of Houstonians, most of them young, were anxious to get inside the Preston Theater in EaDo on Wednesday night to hear Houston rap legends perform, including Bun B, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones and DJ Michael Watts.
The venue was packed and the performances went on mostly without a hitch, except when Slim Thug forgot the words to one of his songs. "It's been 10 years," he joked, floating the notion that smoking blunts before the show may have contributed. But the crowd, clad in a mix of slinky dresses, dungarees and sneakers, didn't mind.
A small stage put the performers smack dab in the middle of the crowd. Fans went wild as video cameras for the Boiler Room—a website that televises underground music—hovered around the platform. The audience was cross-section of Houston, as everyone from transplant Australians to hip-hop fans wearing their millennial tribal gear (think logo hats and shirts with ironic sayings) swayed to the beats.
Matt Sonzala, a part-time music writer and full-time promoter, is well known for his support of Houston and greater Texas rap culture throughout the country. “It’s getting crazy in there,” Sonzala said of the green room as a small production team with cameras milled about. In the venue, the bass was about as thick as the smoke that wafted across the dance floor, where DJ Michael Watts was playing a catalogue of Houston rap standards, screwing and chopping the sonics when it was appropriate. There was Paul Wall, who pulled up in a Cadillac with pointed tire swangas, his business partner and hype man TV Johnny Dang in the passenger seat. There was C Stone the Breadwinner wearing a cowboy hat with his teeth glistening. Bun B walked in with his wife, greeted a few folks at the door and then disappeared into the green room.
Sonzala was soon buzzing around with an antsy look on his face, wondering where Mike Jones was; in less than an hour, the rapper was set to take the stage. Finally, Jones made it—on crutches. He performed sitting on stool, Axl Rose-style, sprinkling his set with classics that had the crowd roaring. He even brought Paul Wall and Slim Thug on stage to perform the smash hit "Still Tippin." Bun B closed out the night with tribute set to Pimp C as he flashed an anti-Trump streetwear shirt.
The evening proved that Houston's rap scene is more strong and vibrant than ever. But then again, with all that star power under one roof, no one would have ever doubted it.