Peyton lists top on the list.

Image: RIOT MUSE

2021 was a lunar launch of a year for Houston artists: Megan Thee Stallion took home multiple Grammy’s and collaborated with K-Pop sensation BTS; Travis Scott reconnected with Drake for “Fair Trade,” Lizzo put a stop to all these “Rumors” with Cardi B; Tobe Nwigwe and Maxo Kream effortlessly put on for Alief with their latest efforts—At The Crib Arrangements and Weight of The World; Slim Thug gave his Sugar Daddy Slim character a proper album; Paul Wall reminded us (and we’re definitely not disagreeing) that he’s a Hall of Fame Hustler;  Propain’s It Ain’t Safe Outside brilliantly managed to bring out a side of Sauce Walka seldom seen; Big Pokey made his triumphant return with Sensei; and how could we forget Bun B and Le$ dropping the pandemic-themed Distant EP on New Year’s Day?

 The amount of talent coming out of H-Town is on a level of critical acclaim; it’s not just a renaissance of our mid-2000s hip-hop domination, we are now transcending pop music, country, and every genre in between. If you were stuck in the house doing a permanent doom scroll for the past year and a half like the rest of us, you’re more than likely familiar with the aforementioned stars, so here are our favorite Houston songs by (mostly) artists we haven’t already named.

1. Monaleo, “Beating Down Yo Block”

The 20-year-old artist, Monaleo, shook up the music industry with her viral hit, “Beating Down Yo Block.” The unique track pays homage to Screwed Up Click’s Yungstar, utilizing a sample from his 2000 breakout hit, “Knocking Pictures Off Da Wall.”

2. Peyton, “Let It Flow”

“My soul is a spaceship,” sings Peyton. And while we know they don’t come equipped with rearview mirrors, this particular vessel has been searching within itself. The bass knocks hard, Peyton’s daydreamy vocals sail into the clouds, and Brice Blanco’s very relatable verse wishes for affordable therapy. “If I can escape my mind,” Peyton assures herself, “It’ll be alright.

 

ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons takes a poetic approach with his song “Desert High".

3. Billy F. Gibbons, “Desert High”

ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons takes a poetic approach with his song “Desert High,” offering a mysterious and ominous theme. Gibbons recites the lyrics with vivid imagery that helps listeners visualize an actual desert, reminiscent of Joshua Tree, California.

4. Teezo Touchdown, “I’m Just a Fan”

If you would have told teenagers in the mid-2000s that rappers would be the ones leading the pop punk revival of the 2020s, we would have held up our copies of Punk Goes Crunk and thanked the rappers of the future for saving us. Teezo Touchdown is poised to become the nail-faced voice inside the heads of emo kids the world over when he sings “Don’t mind me I’m just a fan on the wall!”

Reggie

Image: Juan Neito

5. Reggie featuring Smino, “Avalanche”

Reggie is among a new class of artists expanding the definition of what Houston music can sound like. If you’d been following Reggie’s trajectory, this is the collab you’ve been waiting for. “Even when my downs feel like an avalanche,” sings Reggie, sounding like Andre 3000 in church, “Somehow everything in my life feels like it’s heaven-sent.”

6. Lebra Jolie, “Now What”

It hasn't been since Yung Wun gave the world “Tear It Up,” has a rapper eaten up a marching band brass with such voracity. “My foot hurt, prolly ’cause it’s on hoes necks / Lebra got now, fuck who got next,” raps Lebra Jolie. With a song and video as impressive as this, she might have now for the foreseeable future.

 

Rodney Crowell’s “Something Has to Change” was immensely relevant to the times of the ongoing pandemic.

Image: Joseph Llanes

7. Rodney Crowell, “Something Has to Change”

Released in July, Crowell’s “Something Has to Change” was immensely relevant to the times of the ongoing pandemic and social injustices across the country. On the ballad, he sings about the gluttony and pain, but hopes for a better tomorrow. Crowell calls upon our humanity in his lyrics, “where life has a purpose, faith has a voice.”

8. Esteban Gabriel, “Buenas Vibras”

A corrido toast to the friends you came up with, same ones you ended up making money with. You don’t need to know much Spanish to know the song title translates to “Good Vibes,” and you don’t need to know any Spanish at all to feel those vibras.

 

KenTheMan is confidently claiming her spot.

Image: Cameron Perry

9. KenTheMan, “I’m Perfect”

“North side, we in this bitch,” raps KenTheMan, and when she does it it’s more of a royal decree than just a simple lyric. Ken is confidently claiming her spot among the new class of Houston rap heir-apparents. 

10. Rich O’Toole, “17 Wild Horses”

The four-on-the-floor drums, the warm-summer-night-with-a-breeze guitar riff, the Tom Petty influence is very apparent, and very welcome, on Texas country veteran Rich O’Toole’s big 2021 single. “She came in like 17 wild horses,” sings O’Toole, “Back against the wind.” It’s one of those songs you can visualize as you listen again and again, and again.

LE$

11. LE$, “How Bout Now”

Following the release of his collaboration project, Distant, with Bun B, Le$ put out the impressive Stay Down EP. “How Bout Now” was a standout track on the project, where the laid back emcee gets the last laugh from those who once doubted his talents.

12. Maxo Kream, “Cripstian”

Maxo Kream is rounding out a successful year with the release of his third studio album, Weight Of The World. As one of his most experimental projects to date, the opening track, “Cripstian” is a vivid narration of his life, following the passing of his brother, Money Madu and the birth of his daughter. 

Lily Aviana’s voice is heaven-sent.

Image: Austin Smith

13. Lilly Aviana, “Seasons”

Lily Aviana’s voice is heaven-sent, but there’s some sin in there too—and thank God for that. “If the season changes, love,” sings Aviana, “All I ask is that we could keep in touch.” We don’t think she’s asking too much.

14. Thomas Csorba, “Crystal Eyes”

Thomas Csorba shows the meaning of true love in his song “Crystal Eyes.” The ballad serves as a tribute to his wife, as the couple recently tied the knot last year.

God Body Bingo

Image: Jequan Smith

15. God Body Bingo, “Last Time”

God Body Bingo stands as the representative for the northside of Houston. His single “Last Time” is from his debut album Off The Books. Utilizing his “PRAISE” motto, he divinely speaks about how he’s set apart from the rest, and describes the evolution of his manhood.

16. Doeman Dyna, “Brown Soul”

The title of this song is no false advertising, we’ve got a Mexican dude rapping over a soul sample, and it’s beautiful. “I was brought up eating beans and rice / buttered tortillas and migas, right? / I wish my abuelo could see this life,” raps Doeman on this triumphant thesis statement of a song.

 

Houston emcee Siddiq.

Image: J. Smith

17. Siddiq, “Pulp Fiction Freestyle”

Houston emcee Siddiq strengthens the ties of the South and West coasts through his collaboration project The Triangl3. On “Pulp Fiction Freestyle” Siddiq raps confidently over a King Most beat, speaking for Acres Homes.

18. Kam Franklin featuring Kareem, “Baby Please Don’t Go”

Kam Franklin, and Kareem joined forces to create a bluesy track that leans on notes of country and gospel, transporting listeners from the modern metropolitan city we call home, back to a simpler time.

19. Uncle Tino, “Orange”

What if Three 6 Mafia and UGK’s megahit “Sippin On Some Syrup” was an R&B slow jam? Well, you’d be listening to Uncle Tino’s “Orange.” A stand-out from Tino’s Color Fool album, it’s “Sippin’” meets Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and Tino throws in a rap verse for good measure.

20. Alaina Castillo, “Lips”

Alaina Castillo has made a successful career as the Mexican-American singer has captured the hearts of thousands on Tik Tok. On her hit single, “Lips,” the 21-year-old singer and songwriter passionately sings about a long distance relationship and the need for physical touch from her significant other.

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