Photo Cred: Shea Serrano

When the crowd finally started thinning out around 1:15 AM, the second annual Houston Hip Hop Music Fest had by and large made good on its promise to act like an underground all-star show rather than the believed third wheel between the Swishahouse Reunion at House of Blues and Game 5 of a contentious NBA Finals.

Early on attention was justifiably diverted towards the large flat screen television near the bar while acts slowly began putting the show in gear. The setlist went about twenty acts deep, with some artists getting skipped over thanks to not exactly following the preset rules. Leave it to Ken 2 The Fool, the night’s emcee and king of adlib comedy to keep everyone in check with his usual brand of roasting including knocking on rappers, fans and even acting as a backup dancer during what was arguably the performance of the night.

With the HHMF playing like it was the Super Bowl of underground hip-hop in the city, the staggered feel of the show could be seen on the attendees, some of whom who had been there since SeanoPhresh’s opening set which had the Mo City born emcee knocking back a whispery yet choked double time flow alongside a live band.

Natural smart alecks, both Kelz and Mr. C who came together to put on the show chopped breaks in between sets and they lasted about all of fifteen seconds. In a sense, if you were a fan in attendance, you were getting nothing but rap music thrown your way for hours with little time to catch your breath. At least RIM maintained their title of being the only group to have a member in Jordans and another in a football jersey menacing enough to knock out a single track before getting their time short.

The short breaks continued into Yung Truth’s set. Truth, ragged on by Ken for having the face of a thirty something but the rap name of a teen, bulldozed his way through two cuts from his From The Dirt mixtape including stand out “Hit The Pedal” with its slight copy of Lex Luger but has enough of a twangy kick to keep the untrained ear at bay. Before he touched on HTP, Truth took to the mic and made the first public announcement of the night, telling the crowd “If you’re gonna watch the game, at least shut the fuck up while I’m rapping!”

A noticeable moment when looking at Truth’s set was how easy it segued into Authentic Snoopy’s set. Snoopy, who’s Everything Ain’t Enuff project drops in a few weeks has improved greatly live since we last saw him covering Best Rapper In Texas. Must have been all of that energy he delivered during his Sucka Free set last month. From a freestyle over Kanye West’s “Take One For The Team” and his own “Hello”, Snoopy stalked around the crowd with a bounce, stepping atop of the stage’s furniture to deliver lines and even cook during his rendition of “Hustle Hard”.

From B New’s declaration that he makes “good music” which is almost like saying I like to breathe when it comes to rapping, the Fest sort of lulled in its first middle portion, even though Scotty who insisted on referring to himself as 12-Gauge Scotty became the first artist of the night to rap without an instrumental backing him. A small crowd of handlers in front recited every word along with him while his set continued on, irritating some women in the back who clearly looked like they were on the Gloria James list.

However, back to back energetic performances from K Dogg who decided to kick stools around while delivering “Tear Da Club Up” and provide Twitter worthy quotes outside of his adlib of “I Ain’t Bullshittin’” and Kritikal who along with Show took the scene back to a crunk era mosh fest that compelled Ken 2 to take his shirt off and join them pulled everything back from vertigo. Krit’s performance won over the crowd who were busy hoping LeBron James would either fail or produce in the clutch (he did the former instead of the latter, again) via standing atop of speakers, running into the crowd, you name it, he did it. Even delivered a public service announcement by calling for unity and “no plex” in the city. The Kritikal performance made it hard for DICE to try and top even if he was probably the first artist all night to cater to the females.

The awkwardness of DICE’s set following a near “knock your head off fest” from Krit led to the appearance of Tawn P, who shocked not only us by wearing heels & having her hair up as if she was just on date but then turned around and used that same getup to turn into a hurricane on stage. Yes, Tawn P, the little firecracker who has been wowing audiences with the likes of Black Thought came on a serious hip-hop tip, wopping her way through cuts from Big Daddy Kane, Nas (Hip-Hop Is Dead), & Jay-Z (The Ruler’s Back). Naturally, it only would be at this particular moment that the Houston Press took over coverage from that point as we had to dip for a brief moment.

Meaning, yes – we missed Dante Higgins’ deliver the first “crowd knows all the words performance of the night” as well as Undergravity’s moving around on “Southside Summertime” from their Space Jams tape. Not to mention O.N.E’s performance where he even dropped Blago punchlines that would immediately say he’s capable of more than above average metaphors. By the way, we saw WildCard and wanted to see the crowd go ape for “Wild” but alas, that didn’t happen either.

So when we did walk back to Midtown Lounge, we heard the drums and repetition of a familiar tune: Doughbeezy’s “Pass The Swisher”. Coming straight from the House of Blues where he was an opener for the Swishahouse show, The Beez’s double routine immediately showed the difference between his position in January and his position now.

The crowd immediately recognizes him, lights up when their favorite song comes on and damn near compels him to attempt just the standard Jay show (just rap for a moment, let the crowd fill in the rest of the verse). Instead, Dough kept it as humble as he could, ripping through his “Pimpin Pens Flow” as well as bringing on KAB Tha Don for their rendition of “Blow Up” from Reggie Bush & Kool-Aid. It was Dough’s last song before he exited the stage which also sucked out the rest of the crowd.

That’s the thing with Dough, anytime he performs as one of those guys you definitely need to see his performance makes an area turn into a vacuum. For that one moment, your crowd will be at capacity watching a 5’6” guy with a bald fade freestyle in his typical “no pen, no pad” fashion. Once he’s done – that same crowd will begin to thin out, leaving you scratching your head every time. It’s The Doughbeezy Effect and when it hit both the ever improving Overdose and KAB Tha Don for his solo set, he could only scratch his and continue on.

By the end, it was maybe a crowd of a solid committed twenty, including D-1 who had been scheduled to perform earlier but was skipped over. With a drained crowd mostly led by myself & Ken 2 hitting the Southside, D’s set might be remembered only because his hype man had a Spongebob piece & chain around his neck. Not as ridiculous as a box of Frosted Flakes but still not as terribly played as a wood chain.

But that’s what happens at a festival geared towards those who may very well end up on the same stage Michael “5000” Watts had his birthday celebration without a few invited guests was earlier that night. At least there was a bit of ”be yourself” attached to HHMF2 as there were few live bands and plenty of spirited verses from all involved. Maybe they’ll give me a shirt next year.