Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Two Author-Curated Playlists for Go Ahead in the Rain

Originally posted to Largehearted Boy, these curated playlists by NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR Hanif Abdurraqib—author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Questoffer insight behind the music of A Tribe Called Quest, drawing from the music that inspired them and their sampling. Hanif writes:
I felt like it would be easier to pick a handful of Tribe Called Quest songs that I loved. Instead, I wanted to pick songs that showed the sounds Tribe was pulling from, and I wanted to pick songs by artists who committed themselves to building on Tribe's legacy in the years they weren't active. This book is, largely, about lineage and about how music can build pathways of curiosity and knowing. So, it made sense to populate a playlist with the music that Tribe chased after to make their own.



Spin these amazing playlists and don't forget that we are giving away ten copies of Go Ahead in the RainSubscribe to our email list by this Sunday, February 10th at midnight for your chance to win some book love by Valentine's Day!

Book Tour

Catch Hanif Abdurraqib's Go Ahead in the Rain tour this spring and summer!

Praise for the Book


  • New York Times: “[W]arm, immediate, and intensely personal...This lush and generous book is a call to pay proper respects not just to a sound but to a feeling.” 
  • Washington Post: “[R]iveting and poetic…Abdurraqib’s gift is his ability to flip from a wide angel to a zoom with ease. He is a five-tool writer, slipping out of the timeline to deliver vivid, memoiristic splashes as well as letters he's crafted to directly address the central players, dead and living.” 
  • NPR: "Go Ahead in the Rain is at once an extended critical essay, a hip-hop history, and a series of love letters to A Tribe Called Quest, and particularly to the group's two star MCs, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. . . . [Abdurraqib] has a seemingly limitless capacity to share what moves him, which means that to read Go Ahead in the Rain, you don't need to be a Tribe Called Quest fan: Abdurraqib will make you one. His love for the group is infectious, even when it breaks his heart."
  • Mancunion: “Abdurraqib...manages to write about music by making his language a type of music. He pays homage to A Tribe Called Quest in the only way fitting, with flow and charm and emotional rawness.” 


  • Nylon: “In his personalized approach to the group’s musical legacy, Abdurraqib articultes how the group helped to define his personal growth, helping readers appreciate the power that our favorite acts have in helping us create a durable sense of identity.” 
  • Columbus Alive: “Fans of Abdurraqib’s writing will recognize his ability to seamlessly weave together stories about multiple, often disparate topics. Whether he’s reminiscing about his failed attempt to master the trumpet as a child, or geeking out over the history of sampling in hip-hop, or dissecting a 2011 Tribe documentary, each story serves the larger purpose: recounting the life of A Tribe Called Quest through a fan’s eyes.” 
  • Student Life (from Washington University in St. Louis): “Thursday night, as poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib stepped behind the podium to read, the room was overflowing, with people crammed into the aisles and standing practically in the hallway to hear him read pieces that touched on everything from a fight in a New Haven pizza parlor to spades to the criminally overlooked Mary Clayton.” 
  • Pittsburgh City Paper
  • Bookin’ w/ Jason Jefferies Podcast
  • ShutdownFullcast Podcast
  • The Opus Podcast (about Jimi Hendrix). 



  • Lit Hub: “12 Books You Should Read This February”: “…the book promises to be a stunning blend of author and subject.” 
  • Austin360: “Pop Culture Coming in February”: “The outstanding poet pens an ode to one of the greatest groups of all time.” 

Winter Institute Recaps

  • Shelf Awareness: “’I would hope that folks in the back would move up closer,’ [Abdurraqib] said. “You don’t have to sit on the floor, but you can if you want. If we can all make a pledge to get closer to each other…Is that something we can do? If I come down there, can you come up here?’ The open space quickly filled with book—and music—people. As he says, the idea of a sample ‘is to hear the world differently.’” 
  • American Bookseller’s Assocation: “’That’s why books should be written,’ he said. ‘If we’re lucky, we’re building a life for ourselves just by existing and being in proximity with people who we love and care about. We’re building a life that deserves to be echoed into some corners after we’re gone.’” 

Book Trailers


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Hanif Abdurraqib's 'Go Ahead in the Rain' at Winter Institute

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Every year, the American Booksellers Association gathers independent booksellers together for professional development and author appearances at their Winter Institute meeting. This year's Winter Institute was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and hosted authors Reshma Saujani, Margaret Atwood, and our own author—poet, essayist, and music expert Hanif Abdurraqib. Hanif's keynote was delivered to a packed auditorium, as he read passages from his latest book Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest and emphasized how bookstores had shaped his life as a reader and a writer. The audience connected deeply to Hanif's incredible, writerly voice and his deep love for bookstores. Read Robert Gray's summary of the keynote address for Shelf Awareness.

Before the keynote, we scoped out the auditorium. Well be honest; everyone involved was a little nervous about how many people would show up to see Hanif. The room seemed huge, and the podium onstage quite formal—a far cry from the ice cream parlors and cozy, local bookstores Hanif's voice has graced at his readings in the past.

As booksellers started to stream into the auditorium, Hanif began to read Go Ahead in the Rain passages on stage, from behind the podium. At some point, attendance swelled and Hanif left the stage to read closer to the audience. He welcomed those who wished to come forward and sit at his feet, which were characteristically adorned in the freshest kicks.

The response on social media was overwhelming. In advance of Go Ahead in the Rain's publication date next Friday, February 1st, we gathered a selection of the social media love for Hanif and for his book to celebrate a truly masterful piece of music writing. A special thanks to the American Booksellers Association for inviting Hanif to give a keynote, which is a huge platform for a university press author. Most of all, though, our deepest gratitude to all the booksellers who engaged with Hanif and his book during Winter Institute this year. The University of Texas Press is honored to share Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest with communities of readers across the country and around the world.

And finally, a sampling of the Twitter love:

Follow Hanif Abdurraqib on social media for dispatches from his upcoming appearances (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram). Follow the University of Texas Press on social media for more books and author news!


Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018 in Book Awards and Distinctions

As we look back on 2018, we will be sharing our proudest moments here at the University of Texas Press. As a testament to the high-quality scholarship our authors have produced and the heroic efforts by our editorial staff, we are pleased to highlight the books, below, that have earned awards or distinctions in 2018.

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Tom Dillehay’s Where the Land Meets the Sea: Fourteen Millennia of Human History at Huaca Prieta, Peru

2018 Society for American Archaeology's Book Award 

"This volume is a foundational landmark, and can be used to teach students both at undergraduate and graduate levels to provide guidance for how to conduct and publish future archaeological research."


American Studies

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Stacy I. Morgan's Frankie and Johnny: Race, Gender, and the Work of African American Folklore in 1930s America

2018 Wayland D. Hand Prize (co-winner) 

“I am extremely impressed by this book. I think it will be a valuable addition to African American studies, American studies, cultural studies, and popular culture studies.”

James Smethurst, University of Massachusetts Amherst, author of The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance

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Holly Gleason’s Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives

2018 Belmont Award for the Best Book on Country Music 

“Woman Walk the Line radiates heartfelt sincerity, revealing how women in country music—world-famous and little-known, black and white, vintage and contemporary—helped shape the lives of many different kinds of women. It’s concrete evidence that country should and does belong just as much to women as to men.”

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—Ann Powers, author of Good Booty


Dawoud Bey's Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply

Paris PhotoAperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards Shortlist 

"Photographs from all of Bey’s major projects are presented in chronological sequence, allowing viewers to see how the collective body of portraits and recent landscapes create an unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States."

Photo-eye Blog

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Classics and Ancient World

2018 AAP Prose Awards, Classics Category

"Hunt, Smith, and Stok have produced a valuable and useful book…Especially as Classics continues to be a source of interest and even contention in the public eye, the history of the field should remain of vital interest to students…The present volume offers a rich and engaging starting point."

New England Classical Journal

Middle Eastern Studies

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Ahmed Naji’s Using LifeIllustrations by Ayman Al Zorkany, translated by Benjamin Koerber

2018 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Shortlist 

Using Life is a riotous novel about a failing state, a corrupt city, a hypocritical authority, but it is also about tequila shots and getting laid and smoking weed with your infuriating girlfriend and debating whether rock music died in the seventies and if Quentin Tarantino is a genius or a fraud. It’s a young man’s book. A young man whose youth is colliding with a dark moment in history.”

—Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books

2018 Khayrallah Prize in Migration Studies 

“A groundbreaking work that presents the social configuration of Arabic-speaking migrants and their descendants in a new and revelatory light. This study stands to be an excellent example of a global, connected colonial approach to migration and nationalism. It reconfigures Latin American and Middle Eastern studies in a sound and compelling way, highlighting the ways in which Mexico and the Levant participate in, and interact with, the same structures of power.”

Christina Civantos, University of Miami, author of Between Argentines and Arabs: Argentine Orientalism, Arab Immigrants, and the Writing of Identity

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Film, Media & Popular Culture

Linda Mizejewski and Victoria Sturtevant’s Hysterical! Women in American Comedy

2018 Susan Koppleman Award for Best Anthology, Multi-Authored, or Edited Book in Feminist Studies, Popular and American Culture Associations (PACA) 

"Here to meet all your funny female deep-read needs . . . a juicy read for those who love the many ways female comics use their art to question the patriarchy."


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Mark Heimermann and Brittany Tullis’s Picturing Childhood: Youth in Transnational Comics

2018 Best Academic/Scholarly work, Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Shortlist 

Picturing Childhood is a much needed and long-awaited interdisciplinary project that looks at representations of children throughout the history of comics.”

Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literature

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Jennifer Fronc's Monitoring the Movies: The Fight over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth-Century Urban America

2017 Richard Wall Memorial Award finalist (Theatre Library Association)

“Not unlike Facebook, the nascent movie industry resisted regulation; it fought back with self-imposed guidelines aided by the rhetoric of civil libertarians. . . . Fronc has written an engaging and balanced account of questions whose debating points remain relevant today.”

Shepherd Express

2018 AAP Prose Awards, Biological Anthropology, Ancient History & Archaeology category 
2018 Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize
2017 MLA Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, Honorable Mention

“This volume goes a long way toward explaining and interpreting Inca khipus as encoded political, social, ritual, and economic structures, and as such, is essential reading not only for all Peruvianists and students of ancient civilizations but also, because of the book's code-breaking arguments related to binary coding, hierarchy, and markedness, for scholars in those areas as well.”


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2018 Annual Association for Latin American Art/Arvey Foundation Margaret Arvey Book Award 

“Deeply researched and passionately argued, this book is a model for effective transnational scholarship. Much like her protagonists, Montgomery is a visionary.”

—Tatiana Flores, Rutgers University, author of Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes: From Estridentismo to ¡30-30!

2018 LASA Mexico Humanities Book Award 

“A rich history of how race was conceptualized and materially inscribed in colonial Mexico—and a pleasure to read. The book’s contributions are manifold, and it will be in conversation with other books in the field, while expanding the discussions with which the colonial period can engage.”

—Ivonne del Valle, University of California, Berkeley

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Amy Sara Carroll’s REMEX: Toward and Art History of the NAFTA Era 

2018 LASA Mexico Humanities Book Award, Honorable Mention
2017 MLA Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, Honorable Mention

“Incredibly smart, well-articulated, and very much needed. REMEX is not only an important contribution to the fields of Mexican and border visual cultural and performance studies, but it is the book that will move the conversations in the fields in new and provocative ways. It is the book many of us have been waiting for.”

Laura G. Gutiérrez, University of Texas at Austin, author of Performing Mexicanidad: Vendidas y Cabareteras on the Transnational Stage

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John Lear’s Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico 19081940

2018 LASA Mexico Humanities Book Award, Honorable Mention

“This superb study intertwines a history of artistic representations of Mexican workers on public walls and in labor publications with that of the artists who produced them. I know of no other work that attempts such an endeavor and, though it is an ambitious project, it is most successful. The wide swath cut by Lear makes the book important for a broad audience: those interested in the history of Mexico, the history of Mexican labor, and the history of Mexican art. The scholarship is impeccable.”

John Mraz, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, author of Photographing the Mexican Revolution: Commitments, Testimonies, Icons

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Mariana Mora’s Kuxlejal Politics: Indigenous Autonomy, Race, and Decolonizing Research in Zapatista Communities

2018 LASA Mexico Social Science Book Award, Honorable Mention

Kuxlejal Politics is a most eloquent testimony to the dynamic Zapatista struggle and to what an engaged academy can do when it genuinely walks along the paths of subaltern groups intent on defending their worlds. By theorizing and embodying a farsighted vision of decolonized and decolonizing research, Mora renews our commitment to the idea that another academy is possible and practicable. This work is a gift to us all by one of the most inventive exponents of Mexican anthropology at present, in the best tradition of Latin American critical thought.”

Arturo Escobar, Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Robert W. Wilcox’s Cattle in the Backlands: Mato Grosso and the Evolution of Ranching in the Brazilian Tropics

2018 Henry A. Wallace Award, The Agricultural History Society 

“This book fills a large hole in historical scholarship. English-language treatments of ranching history anywhere in Brazil are few and far between. It also makes a strong case for the importance of linking agro-pastoral studies to environmental specificity and to careful consideration of labor practices.”

Thomas D. Rogers, Emory University, author of the award-winning book The Deepest Wounds: A Labor and Environmental History of Sugar in Northeast Brazil

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Isabel M. Córdova’s Pushing in Silence: Modernizing Puerto Rico and the Medicalization of Childbirth

2018 NWSA Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize 

“A brilliantly written, accessible, and comprehensive analysis of the multifaceted social, cultural, and historical conditions that led to the medicalization of birthing in Puerto Rico, which enabled doctors to replace midwives. This history has not been written before. The research is original and unique and is a contribution to the fields of sociology, anthropology, history, and biomedicine.”

Iris O. Lopez, City College of New York, author of Matters of Choice: Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom

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Patricia Acerbi’s Street Occupations: Urban Vending in Rio de Janeiro, 18501925

2017 Warren Dean Memorial Prize in Brazilian Studies, Conference on Latin American History 

“This book makes a huge contribution to our understanding of street life and commerce in Rio de Janeiro and to the transition from flexible slavery to radically unequal freedom. Acerbi’s research is extensive and groundbreaking.”

Bryan McCann, Georgetown University, author of Hard Times in the Marvelous City: From Dictatorship to Democracy in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

An Oral History of Houston Rap: #TurnItUP in The Neighborhood

Today is the third day of University Press Week, and this year’s theme is #TurnItUP, signifying the ability of the Association of University Presses (AUP) member publishers to amplify knowledge. November 12-17, 2018 is a week for celebrating university presses and the value of knowledge and expertise. 

As part of University Press Week, our peer presses will be sharing blog posts focusing on various themes. Today's theme is #TurnItUP: The Neighborhood. Writer Lance Scott Walker's book Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop tells the story of the artists, DJs, producers, promoters, and record label owners coming out of the neighborhoods of Fifth Ward, Fourth Ward, Third Ward, and the Southside of Houston, Texas. These largely marginalized communities gave birth to Houston rap, a vibrant music scene that has produced globally recognized artists such as Geto Boys, DJ Screw, Pimp C and Bun B of UGK, Fat Pat, Big Moe, Z-Ro, Lil’ Troy, and Paul Wall.

Lance Scott Walker spent a decade interviewing key players in the H-Town scene, and the resulting interviews range from the specifics of making music to the passions, regrets, memories, and hopes that give the music life. In our podcast conversation, we address how police corruption and gentrification have impacted Houston neighborhoods; the complexities of gangsta rap; early rap battles among Raheem, Willie D, and Vanilla Ice; and the impact of the late DJ Screw. As part of the amplified new edition of Houston Rap Tapes, Walker also created custom maps of Houston that highlight major landmarks for the city's hip-hop culture.

As Willie D of Geto Boys writes in the foreword, “Houston Rap Tapes flows more like a bunch of fellows who haven’t seen each other for ages, hanging out on the block reminiscing, rather than a calculated literary guide to Houston’s history.” Join us as we talk Hustle Town.

This interview had been edited and shortened for clarity.

UT Press: So you and documentary photographer Peter Beste spent about ten years documenting a very special but often neglected hip-hop scene in Houston, Texas. Can you give an overview of what was going on when you first started the project, which the legendary Bun B has called the defining book on Houston rap?

Lance Scott Walker: Peter Beste said, "Hey, I'm gonna do this project. I'm coming back to Houston to take photos, but this is way bigger than just photos. You're a writer.” I was writing for the Houston Chronicle, and he said, "You should join me and interview people and then provide the text component to what I'm getting with the photos, because it's way bigger than the photos and the stories need to go with them.” It was right before everything broke in Houston, before Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Slim Thug. All of that was breaking in 2004, or was leaning toward that, and then in 2005, by the time we had the project in full swing, that's when that scene really popped and we were on the front side of that wave. It meant that when everybody else came streaming into Houston to write about what was happening, we'd already been doing it.

UTP: You've done some restructuring of the book, so let's talk about how you decided to structure the book.

LSW: So I broke the book up into five sections. The first section is called Foundation, and that goes all the way back to the ’70s. That's talking to some of the people who were producers and rappers early on before you had rap records in Houston. A lot of the people who were produced in the first rap records in Houston were funk and boogie producers. I wanted to touch on what was there before rap. Rap didn't just materialize out of nowhere; there were people who were making music that was going to become the beats, the backing tracks for rap, and it had a totally different feel.

The second section is called Rhinestone; it's built all around the Rhinestone Wrangler night club, which is really the first scene in Houston, and a lot of the early Rap-A-Lot artists were involved in that scene. They developed in that scene, they flourished in that scene, they became battle rappers in that scene, they became better lyricists in that whole scene. That's all mid-’80s to late ’80s; that takes us all the way up to the ’90s. Then I did a section on the South Side.

It's not that people weren't making records on the North Side; in fact, the North Side started making records first, but the South Side started to really shine in the ’90s, and there are simply more neighborhoods in that part of Houston where rappers are coming from. Then I did a section on The Future.

Some newer artists like Big Gerb, OMB Bloodbath, B L A C K I E, Cal Wayne, and I also interviewed Dr. Robert S. Mohammad in that section, which may be an odd fit, but there's something that makes it fit. So that’s how I broke it up, into sections of town but also eras.

UTP: Talk a little bit more about battle rapping at the Rhinestone Wrangler.

Steve Fournier, University of Houston Special Collections
LSW: So, OK, its rank wrapping. The Rhinestone Wrangler was a nightclub run by a guy named Steve Fournier, who I interview in the book, started right around 1985. So in 1985, 1986, 1987, that scene really flourishes. He only played rap. He was open five nights a week, only playing rap, and on Sunday nights, they would have a rap contest. 

More than battle rapping, it was rank rapping. So it would get really personal, really nasty. And some of the rappers really developed a sharp tongue in that setting. Willie D was one of them, you know; Rick Royal from Royal Flush, who I interview in the book; Raheem, he was part of that whole scene, and was one of the first Houston artists to be signed to a major label; Sire Jukebox from the original Ghetto Boys.

Willy D certainly would win for weeks on end, the Royal Flush, Romeo Poet. Vanilla Ice would drive down from Dallas and get into those battles. So it was deserving of its own section in the book because it was such a hotbed of talent developing and a new art form for so many people.

So there were lots of people who were grabbing on to this new culture, this quickly developing and ever-changing culture. Really right before crack cocaine came around, and what did crack cocaine give us? It gave us gangsta rap. So it's a really unique snapshot of maybe the last little bit of innocence in hip-hop.

UTP: If you feel comfortable, would you mind talking about the concept of gangsta rap and what that represents?

LSW: Well, I don't know that I could say what it represents to those who make gangsta rap, because that's a very internal thing. But suffice to say that in all of my interviews, it comes out as a document of their surroundings. You know, “This is what I was seeing.” And in some cases, “this is what I was a part of.” I think the really beautiful thing about doing these interviews, in some cases fifteen to twenty years after the fact, was that I'm doing interviews with forty and fifty-year-olds in some cases, who look at it very differently and can really, really pull back and tell you, with a very deep and rich perspective: Number one, I'm still alive. And they're grateful for that. Because so many of them will tell me stories about people they know that got involved and stuff and they aren't here anymore. And also, to survive and to be able to orient your life in a different way.

Some of them, when they have kids or when they get married, or when they just grow up, and just go, “Wow, you know, I can't keep doing that. I can't keep being a part of that. I can keep being around that.” It doesn't mean I don't still talk about it in my music.

UTP: Because it’s still the truth. It’s still the truth for a lot of people.

LSW: Right, it’s still the truth. And whether some people might look at it as glorifying it or not, it's still storytelling. It's still biographical for a lot of people, and I would have to imagine, being an artist of any stripe, that it’s cathartic. People tell me some stories in the book that are really tough, really, really rough stories. Wood from the Screwed Up Click told me about his mother becoming addicted to crack, his house burning down. She's addicted to crack for the better part of a decade, maybe longer, and he finally wrestles her out of that life and gets her into a house, and he says in the book, “I got her back, but she's not my same mom.” You can't wash away what drugs do to people, you just can't. But, we're alive.

UTP: Let’s talk about how Houston works. With police corruption, all of that. Do you want to talk a little bit about how thorough a document your book is of how Houston treats these neighborhoods?

LSW: Well, I don't think anything could be thorough. I don't think anything could reflect the conditions in the neighborhoods. I tried to touch on different parts of that. Certainly, corruption is a big part of it. Getting pulled over by the police. The police tell you, "Oh I know you, I know who you are. Let's go to an ATM.” That's a real story. That happens.

You look at the health in the neighborhoods. Let's go the grocery store. There isn’t one. You know, it is deep and it is in some cases very dark, and I don't think that there's any way that you could possibly document everything, or even a fraction of what people go through, what they have experienced in their lives and certainly what police corruption brings to the neighborhoods or the blind eye that the city turns to those neighborhoods, how that manifests and how that affects lives. When you go into a neighborhood and you don't feel like . . . and certainly the residents don't feel like the city cares. I'll go drive through River Oaks, and I won’t find any patches in the streets because they’re new. But I drive through South Park, and “Oh wow! That pipe is still leaking right out into the street.” It’s been three weeks.

Your Willie D interview in 2017, he talks about the chemical companies who are
Willie D, photo by Peter Beste
dumping whatever into the Fifth Ward. Unbelievable.

LSW: Yeah. Dr. Robert S. Muhammad and I talk about just the freeway design in Houston. What neighborhoods do they go through? What neighborhood does highway 59 go through? It goes right through Fifth Ward. What about I-45? It goes right through Fourth Ward. As a matter of fact, not only did it go right through Fourth Ward but it separated the church from the community. The church is still there—Antioch. It's right in downtown Houston surrounded by gigantic skyscrapers. But you have to walk across the freeway to get to the neighborhood that it used to serve. And by the way, that neighborhood is mostly gone. Gentrification is certainly a nebulous idea for some, but then for others, it's a very stark reality. “OK, well, I live in a shotgun house that five generations of my family have owned and I'm not selling. There's these beautiful old bricks in the street that have been there for a hundred years in Freedman’s Town, and now there’s this gigantic, three-story silver building next to me with a garage door that opens and a car disappears into it and it closes and I never see the person who lives in there.

People are being bought out or they're being built next to, and then their property taxes go up and they're forced out. How do you control it? I don't know. And I don't think anybody in the book even has a solution for that. I wouldn't expect them to. All I can do is put a light on it, and try to go deeper where I can and talk about those subjects. Well, how much of a reality is this? I know it's a reality. So let's go a little bit deeper; let me keep asking you about it. And you start to unfold all this stuff that couldn't even come out in the music.

UTP: What do you hope people will take from the book?

LSW: The more people understand the perspectives of people that they're listening to, or maybe in some cases not listening to, the more they'll understand about themselves. That's all I tried to do with the books. Say, somebody like your uncle or your dad or your mom or whoever it is that cannot listen to hip-hop to save their lives. OK, well, read this.

You don't have to get past the accent; you don't have to get past what you call the “noise” of the music. Learn something about another person. Then maybe you learn a little something about something that they've experienced or just the trauma they've experienced. Like I said, either the effects of crack cocaine or, you know, syrup? Codeine/promethazine. All those kinds of different things factor into people's lives in a different way. And so that gives them a chance to open up. And all I can hope is that people will read that and that there's some mirror in there somewhere. I would hope that there's something in there that resonates with somebody you maybe couldn't think you had less in common with.

UTP: You and Peter Beste donated a lot of material to the University of Houston Libraries. Do you want to talk about that collection?

LSW: Peter Beste and I donated a huge amount of our archives to them. I donated audio recordings of interviews. I donated transcripts of interviews, plenty of stuff that didn't make it into the book. Peter donated lots of photos. Tons of ephemera, t-shirts, and fliers, and stickers, and CDs. You know I donated tons of records.

UTP: It's an important record, historical record.

LSW: Yeah, it's more important to me for somebody to be able to go into that collection, especially when you have something like a university where young people are coming in all the time. And maybe they're going to school for two or three years before they learn that that's there, but then, “Oh, oh, I wanna go check this out.” Maybe they’re from Memphis or Birmingham, or wherever, and then they go back and say, "Oh, I'm gonna do this for Memphis.” Or Virginia Beach, or Charleston, or West Virginia. It maybe gives people an idea: Dig deeper into your community. Doesn’t have to be about rap. It could be about Cumbia. I think anyone could do a “tapes” book for any kind of scene.

UTP: Let’s talk about DJ Screw and the sound he created that has come to define Houston.

LSW: DJ Screw was a hugely influential, late DJ from Houston. He died eighteen years ago. He made tapes in his house. He had people come over and freestyle on his tapes. The freestylers on his tapes may have been rappers, may not have been rappers. An entire culture began to build around the tapes he was making. He would play two copies of the same record on the turntables, one of them a little behind the other, and he would chop back and forth with his fader between those records to repeat verses. He would wind stuff back to repeat words. Really an incredible DJ.

Screw would record his tapes into an 8-track and then, from that tape, into another tape, and he would slow it down in the process. He slowed the records with the pitch control, but most of his slowing-down process involved slowing it down into the tape deck. If you have ever been to Houston, it's a very hot, slow city. And that sound really, really resonated in Houston, but more so even than that, the culture of Houston came alive on his tapes. Because we're talking about some people who weren't professional rappers, or artists, or lyricists, any of that.

So what were they going to talk about? Maybe in some cases they were talking about what they were doing, legal or illegal, but really a lot of times, they were talking about their neighborhoods. And so, if you're from the neighborhood of Yellowstone and you hear Big Pokey rapping on tapes, talking about Yellowstone, you’re proud of that. You’re talking about this street and that street. South Park, Dead End, Kennedy Heights, Fat Pat, Big Hawk, Big Moe in Third Ward, Yates High School, all these things come in to life on the tapes. Candy paint—that's cars painted with a little bit of metallic flakes in the paint—customized cars. They call them slabs because they’re building it from the ground up. But it's the whole culture coming to life on the tapes, and that really, really hooked the entire culture of Houston together in so many ways. And that's not to say that everything in Houston reflects DJ Screw; it's just a part of it. DJ Screw was so prolific that everything came together in a way that they really brought a lot of people on board and made a lot of people aware of what was going on in Houston.

Let's talk about the maps.

LSW: They're sort of a quiet addition. I did a map of the North Side. I did a map of the South Side, which of course doesn’t have everything in there. They're sourced from anybody I could get locations of things from: night clubs, streets, neighborhoods, areas of town. These maps can give you a sense of how the city is laid out, and how one neighborhood might be related to another, or how the North Side is sort of structured and how the South Side is structured or not structured.

UTP: This is a map that people haven't seen before. This is an interpretation of the areas that people haven't seen before, right?

LSW: Exactly, all maps are political. And the political bent that I wanted was to try to represent as much as I could in those maps and maybe drop a few things in there that give people food for thought. I put Moody Park in there. That doesn't have anything to do with rap music, per se, but that was the scene of a riot in the late ’70s that was the product of police brutality. And so that is very relevant to the book. And maybe somebody might look and say, “Well, why is Moody Park in there?” And then they look it up. “Wow, OK, now I know.” And I hope there's a few nuggets like that that people find on the maps. There's a reason for everything that is listed on the maps. There’s a reason the map points to Atascocita and to Rosharon because those are prisons that are referenced in the book. People just got out of prison and I'm interviewing them. “Where have you been?” “Rosharon.” I hope the maps say a lot more than this was here, this was there. I hope the maps enrich the book, and in a way that makes people dig a lot deeper.

Further listening and reading:

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