The Bay Area and Houston are kinfolk. Two DIY areas that live and thrive on local music sticking to the top and staying there. They’re both robbed, pillaged and adopted by outside cultures to the point where they all blend together. Cooking dance? Bun B says Pimp C started it back in 2000, Lil B says he perfected it. Houston DJs know that you only play the remix of the Luniz “I Got 5 On It,” out of respect. Bay Area rap fans salute Houston OGs and DJ Screw to the point where out-of-towners who start living in Oakland, San Francisco and elsewhere put locals on game. So on and so forth.

As the NBA Western Conference Finals raged on between the now NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, artists including E-40, MC Hammer, Bun B, Slim Thug and more chose sides as the two teams battled for dominance. Friendly rivalry be damned though, in truth the connection between Oakland and Houston extends far beyond the confines of the court.

This is the tale of two cities, separated by distance yet defined by similar stories.


Still a relatively young genre, give or take 40 years, hip-hop has evolved with time. Finding its way through the early militancy of Public Enemy to defying a nation through NWA, an entire generation watched former dealers transition into Corporate America. The writing on the wall and the dollar signs that followed forced the mainstream to not only embrace the once taboo sound but to become the primary consumers of it.

Yes Hip Hop has changed, but there’s always an exception to the rule. Always room for those who refuse to march to a beat of anyone’s drum but their own.

When it comes to regional music there’s arguably no bigger rebels than Houston and the Bay Area; each refusing to conform to whatever wave the industry has chosen to ride in favor of cultivating their own distinct sounds. For the Bay that’s meant embracing a booming indie scene where its artists have flourished largely under the radar. In a system perfected by Too Short during the 80s, tapes were sold out of trunks and spread like wildfire from Vallejo to San Jose. A method Short and E-40 highlighted in the Jodeci assisted “Rappers Ball.”

“I walked from Foothill to Havenscourt to 67 & MacArthur/ To Freddie B. house to make tapes with my partnas/ Hit Arroyo Park, we had tapes for sale…” -Too Short

For Houston that’s meant creating a style so well known that it’s literally set them apart. There’s Texas and then there’s Houston, the city that birthed like Big Moe, Fat Pat and launched an entirely new sub-genre called screw music. But where there’s admirers there’s also imitators, resulting in blatant culture jacking that’s often resulted in a profit for everyone but the city the art is taken from. As the national spotlight dimmed on both, artists have struggled to reclaim a sound that they invented, as terms like “Thizz” and “Go Dumb” began floating freely by those who’ve never even heard of Mac Dre. Imagine that.

The Bay can credit itself for almost wrecking the Houston Rockets hopes for a title back in the ’80s. In Jonathan Abrams’ 2012 oral history of the 1980s Houston Rockets for Grantland, one particular hotel took center stage as the epicenter for almost every nefarious dealing imaginable at the time. The same arena we had to ask our current resident Bay Area friend Eddie Maisonet if it was still up and running during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. You know, the game where James Harden had 12 turnovers and the Rockets fell to the Warriors for good.

The league had to stop us from going to the Oakland Hyatt. You would walk in that hotel and you had the hookers, you had the pimps, you had the drug dealers. We didn’t have chartered flights then. We would go out to a club or a restaurant and with the two big fellows, with their celebrity status — and everybody was coming to see us play. We would go into a restaurant, if we went to a club, “Hey, man, that was a great game. I’ve got a little something-something for ya.” That’s how it was. It’s scary. That part of that life off the court was scary because you basically did not know who this individual was, trying to set you up. – Robert Reid

The Bay has acts, youth kids like Main Attrakionz that have bent their whims to incorporate bits of screw into their music. Lil B, more of a cult like leader has influenced more 21st century rappers than any other, has created enough repetitive material that much of the genesis of today’s viral rap wave runs back to him and “Wonton Soup”. Luniz member Yukmouth became one of the few non-Houston artists signed to Rap-A-Lot records that made any much so as a dent record wise. No two areas may celebrate their homegrown talent more, no two areas may celebrate the old in favor of the new more (well, except New York but that’s another story)E-40 has openly admitted love for Pimp C, even on Big Sean’s late 2014 smash single, “IDFWU”. The two of them recorded “Doin’ the Fool” and “Since The ’90s”, with 40 Water constantly bringing up praise to the Underground King of the South.

Maybe the most notable Bay meets Houston connection arrived in 1998. Scarface, arguably the greatest rapper that has ever been born within city limits teamed with Too $hort for the memorable “Fuck Faces” off of My Homies. Short, Bun, Hammer, Pimp, Face, they’re more like country cousins than anything. Pimp even gave sage advice to a young Bay Area woman just trying to make her way as a waitress through college.

It will forever be Town Business, the same way it will forever be slow, loud, and banging all through the trunk. Houston and the Bay have never been punks, not in the slightest. They’re a band of brothers and as the Warriors enjoy their championship parade, Houston will tip its cap to them. Until next year’s playoffs.

This article was co-written by Brandon Caldwell & Cecilia Smith.