From the slowed-down recordings of the immortal DJ Screw—made to be heard through the ubiquitous automotive tape decks of the era—to the bass-heavy trunk music of local icons Lil KeKe and Paul Wall, the hip-hop of Houston, a commuter city in the most literal sense, has long been associated with the daily driving routines of its residents.
So, it’s no surprise that H-Town slab culture is at the center of KeKe and Wall’s first collaborative album, Slab Talk. “We said, ‘we gon do some slab music’,” Wall tells Houstonia, “and we’re so used to doing it and so used to representing for our culture and what we do, I think it was natural; it was easy.”
The 10-track album, which dropped last week and features guests Slim Thug, Big Pokey, and Kendall Thomas, has been a long time coming for the two legends, who have long appreciated each other's work, adds KeKe. “This is our first collaboration after we’ve done so many songs together.”
The word “slab,” by now an accepted colloquialism for a classic American car that has been restored and modified, usually through the addition of speakers and subwoofers, is also officially an acronym meaning “slow, loud, and bangin’”—a dual descriptor of both the car itself and the music it was built to play. In fact, a lot of Houstonians listened to the music in their cars when the culture was being created. “It’s a different sound than when you’re listening on headphones, or you’re listening on a boombox or stereo at home,” says Wall. “There’s a lot of times when we’re dealing with a producer or an engineer and we tell them, ‘make sure that bass is knockin’.”
Long considered luminaries within Southern rap, both KeKe and Wall have spent decades influencing and shaping slab and southern hip-hop culture into what it is today, KeKe, since the early ’90s as an original member of DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click, and Paul, since his Swishahouse debut in 1999. Yet they both voice a respectful appreciation for the new direction that culture seems to be heading. “I’m still pushing the same culture, but it’s different,” says KeKe when asked if he and Paul feel an obligation to uphold traditional Houston rap in the face of an ever-evolving scene. “The way we do things now is different than in the ’90s and the 2000s. We’ll always find a way to intertwine the culture and be a part of it as it changes and grows with time.”
Beyond their latest album, both artists have a multitude of upcoming and ongoing projects on their plates. Paul is heavily involved with his Slab Rides for Justice initiative, which organizes car club meetups and slab rides with charitable or social causes. He most recently attended a slab ride in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was fatally killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood this past February. The Peoples Champ artist is also considering a yearly memorial ride in honor of slain Houstonian George Floyd, who recorded with S.U.C. under the name Big Floyd, this fall.
As for KeKe, the Houston OG has a solo album in the works, slated for release later this summer. He also plans to reunite the new and remaining S.U.C. members for a joint project he hopes will drop near the end of the year. “Stay tuned,” the “Southside” rapper says.
Slab Talk, along with its previously released singles, “So Trill” and “Left, Right,” is available now on all platforms. Check out all 10 tracks below.