The #HTownRapBattle was exciting for Houston rap fans because it gave some shine to some much-deserving Houston rappers. But how do we sustain that shine? According to many, it’s by collaborating with each other.

What’s it all about, Houston?

If you’re like many Houston rap fans, you were glued to your phone or computer to check out the beat battle between BeatKing and XO, then faster than you can say, “Awwready,” Houston rappers had entered the game with the #HTownRapBattle. I was giddy at the notion that we would finally get to see a ton of Houston talent posting more than just photos on Instagram about how they were the best, and we would actually get some bars to back up those claims. Honestly, I was just giddy that Houston was trending for something other than the weather.

I am so proud of Houston talent! I must have watched artists flow for hours, and my heart swelled up with pride for my city and its amazing hip-hop talent. However, after watching upwards of 30 flows, my heart shrank and actually grew a little sad because…so? What do we do next, Houston rappers? How are we going to capitalize off of the massive success of this movement?

WE know our rappers are much more talented than half the rappers that come out of other cities. WE know that other places are biting off the H-town sound heavily, and that each coast owes us for at least one aspect of their hip-hop culture. WE know that the South is appropriated much more heavily than any other region when it comes to hip-hop, but that’s not enough. The rap battle was wonderful to showcase the talent that others may not know about, but it’s our job now to sustain the buzz and never let that flame die out. If we just let this be another short-lived trend that was fun for a summer, what was the point of doing it at all?

When asked about the importance of the #HTownRapBattle, Houston rapper Propain said, “I think it’s important because it’s brings a wide range of attention to the artists. And honestly not just up and comers but even some who are considered vets, because new hip-hop fans are created every day and they might have not heard of some of the more seasoned rappers. Overall, I think it is good exposure for anyone who takes advantage of it. Free promotion in exchange for you showcasing your talent.”

Local rapper Doeman agreed, saying, “I think it was more important for the city to show talent – not just up and comers, but even those who been on.”

Newer rappers like Tim Woods, Doughbeezy, Lyric Michelle, and Tobe Nwigwe shared their skills right up next to Houston rap legends like Lil’ Keke, Mike D, and Slim Thug.

If exposure was the goal, it was certainly accomplished. On Instagram alone, the hashtag has been used 2,781 times and counting! Everyone has had a chance to throw their hat in the ring and show them it “ain’t too many punks dine here in H-tine.”

Getcha hands up if you a baaaaller: The good ol' days of Houston hip hop collaborations.

Getcha hands up if you a baaaaller: The good ol’ days of Houston hip hop collaborations.

But like any positive movement, there was a negative side. This hashtag brought out the haters in droves. The comments section of so many artists’ videos was a mess. Some artists went as far as to use the entire minute given to them on IG as a diss track for other Houston artists. We heard way too much of rappers comparing themselves to other rappers, or calling each other “lame” (in so many words) for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, as of late, Houston artists are not known for working together for any significant period of time to accomplish the world domination that they could attain. Slim Thug mentioned on his Instagram that Houston rappers only got “real money” when they got together. He contrasted our rap scene to Atlanta’s hip-hop scene, where everyone is helping everyone else succeed. According to Slim, our biggest problem is that we don’t “respect our neighbors.” “You wanna get some real money,” he said, “you gotta work with your neighbors and don’t hate on your neighbors.”

As bleak as it sounds, Slim has a point. Call it pessimistic, but I call it realistic. Of course, every rapper thinks he’s the best, but truth be told, the music that comes out of Houston reaches more people when it involves a collaboration. In no way am I saying our rappers must depend on that, or that their music isn’t good enough to stand alone, but there is something to be said about the massive success seen by UGK, ESG, Slim Thug, Lil’ Keke, and the many more who realized the key was working together.

Perhaps the sustainability of Houston rap is in the togetherness that is reminiscent of everything else we do here in the South. The creative community as a whole thrives off of multimedia merges – the local videographers come through for the local artists who use local models in their videos, and so on and so forth. Imagine what it would be like if all Houston rappers thought along those lines and perhaps only worried about money after releasing a slew of successful tracks. Houston is such a unique city in every aspect, and it would be a shame to see it turn into another one of those “crab in a bucket” cities where everyone is trying to pull everyone else down to reach the top.

Houston, we’re better than that. Show ’em how we do down here in the dirty souf and let’s cash out together. Don’t let this flame fade. Become the monster of music you were created to be.

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, and I will say it again:

Souf sia 4 lia.