Rel the Chosen, Beautiful Music 2
Perhaps what makes Houston such a unique hip-hop destination is its almost exact-center proximity to the coastal hubs that first created her. Like a dank hoagie from Geno’s in Philly, the meat of the H-town sound is slathered, lathered, and drenched with the gooey goodness of that golden dairy product from the East and West, respectively. Houston hip-hop swims in a rich, decadent sauce; au jus tastes better when it soaks in the steak from whence it came. Rel the Chosen understands this homogenization, proving it with his sophomore release, Beautiful Music 2.
Beautiful the music most certainly is, and the rhymes follow suit, but what casts this record as a solid listening experience is how both of those components are fueled by the influences of Cali and NYC while at the same time arranged and displayed through the unmistakably distinct Houston filter. Rel’s lyrical styling is region-specific, with steadied tempos, monotonal yet not monotonous.
However, it would be impossible not to invoke the folks over at Quannum Projects, Murs, Living Legends, and other West coast MCs when discussing all aspects of the vocals here. But maybe that’s the smooth soul and R&B music, which this album is bathed in. The enjoyably funky breaks instantly conjure up visions of pristine sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, a gorgeous creature sunning herself on a Sponge Bob beach towel. The seductive soulful sound of the ’70s and ’80s simply accompanies hip-hop lyrics better than anything else.
Ahmad knew this when he borrowed Teddy Pendergrass for “Back In The Day” (borrowed itself by Rel on the track “Back In Da H”), and so did Biggie when he pulled from The Isley Brothers to craft “Big Poppa.” Rel continues the trend, the blend, the chopping and mixing of modern vocalism with sweet classic hooks. Old fuddy-duddies like yours truly appreciate this coming together of generational genres. No doubt we lean toward these types and steer very clear of the boring and uninspired “radio rap” cackling throughout your neighborhood nightclub and wannabe gangsters’ overpriced, shitty car stereos.
Hip-hop can no longer claim sole residency (if it ever truly did at any point). The Internet is responsible for this. She roams the country a la Jack Kerouac, spreading truth to the open and willing earholes of discerning listeners. There’s New York flavor dripping off cats in the Twin Cities. Some committed fiends in the panhandle of Florida write rhymes like Sir Mix-A-Lot, and yet they flow eerily reminiscent of Del the Funky Homosapien or Chali 2na. Hell, travel to South Dakota and you’ll find some white boys who took Wu Tang and married it with DJ Shadow.
The point, of course, is that no singular locale, state, or territory owns and exclusively operates any one particularly irreplaceable style of American hip-hop. These are open source, they way the gods originally intended them to be. Those same gods seem to favor Rel, as he survived a near-fatal car accident back in December of last year. Now on the mend, Rel the Chosen is set to triumphantly return to the Houston music scene later this month, with a live show at Fox Hollow on June 19th.
In step with the relatively new trend of hip-hop records flowing from track to track like a good indie-rock album, Beautiful Music 2 dances playfully between a foundation of old-school rhythmic samplings and new-school Houston beats, leaning more heavily towards the former. Rel the Chosen appears to be set for local stardom, and it will be interesting to chart the growth as an unswerving artist on a future release. All the signs are there that Rel can become an indispensible member of the hip-hop community here. You might even say he seems “Chosen” for the task.