Like a trusted label or a friend with impeccable taste, a strong promoter is an advocate for a certain kind of sound; even if you’ve never heard an artist’s work before, a promoter’s cosign ensures that their music is at least in the right neighborhood of taste. But unlike a friend or any streaming logarithm, a promoter brings the magic of live entertainment: the thrills, memories and bad smells of people coming together.
Over the past few years, I can’t count how many arresting new rappers I’ve come across thanks to Miguel Nelson of Ghost Pizza. By and large, the Ghost Pizza aesthetic involves dark and forward-thinking hip-hop, work that challenges the grain of Big Rap or predicts the field’s next movement. On Saturday and Sunday night at Paper Tiger, GP presents two shows that affirm his status as a tastemaker in San Antonio rap.
On Saturday night, Seshollowaterboyz bring a gloomy and mutating aesthetic. The quartet of Bones, Chris Travis, Xavier Wulf and Eddie Baker, the Sesh crew merges the sounds of Memphis and Houston with the devious textures and bad lighting of internet rap. With a stage presence that absorbs attention like a black hole’s appetite for light, a venue’s floors are in harm’s way during a Sesh posse cut.
On Sunday, Maxo Kream relays tales from the underworld of a sprawling and struggling Houston. On the tasteful, heavy trap beats of The Persona Tape, the 25-year-old rapper narrates life in the city’s vacants, interminable highways and roughest wards. In Maxo’s Houston, Xanax appears to be the drug of choice. The album acts as a shorthand dictionary for references to Alprazolam — Kream “handles bars, but no bicycle” and keeps “25 to life inside the cabinets in the kitchen.”