Last May, his first mixtape, I Am Question, created a national buzz when it was selected for MTV.com’s Mixtape Monday segment and topped 1,000 downloads. His latest effort, the Midget In the Trunk mix tape, sounds even smoother, thanks to input from DJ Nappi, Evil Empire, and Austin’s Rapid Ric. On the disc, the self-proclaimed “future of the South” displays intense lyricism and broad range, including R&B-tinged tracks such as “Part of Me,” featuring Trey Songz and “I’m Trill,” with Eddie B on the hook.
Question lists an array of influences ranging from LL Cool J and Public Enemy to U.G.K. and the Geto Boys. His first disc even featured cameos by Bun B and Lil’ Flip. With music-industry vets Zach Katz and Jon Shapiro backing him, Question is due to sign with a major label any day now, but the father of two remains intent on elevating the Alamo City as a whole.
“That’s the entire purpose of this, is to get with everybody who’s doing the individual scenes and crossing into all of them, ’cause it’s still music at the end of the day,” he says. “You got Eddie B who does R&B, you have producers here, you got some really good DJs. A lot of people don’t know about the scene here in San Antonio so I think it’s important for everybody for it to get known, to come together and let the world know what we got going on.”
2. Marcus Rubio: One local artist’s response to witnessing this high-school, chamber-pop phenom shift from guitar to violin while navigating around tape loops he’d prepared in his bedroom, was to snort, with tongue-in-cheek envy: “I hate him!”
Rubio’s talent is remarkable, but what impresses you most about him is his encyclopedic knowledge of music and the unerring taste he applies to that knowledge. His ideas are so fully formed and confidently executed you temporarily forget that he’s barely old enough to drive himself to gigs. It’s only the giddy, wide-eyed wonder of his songs, the way he embraces his own youthful sadness, and the boyish quality of his soft, warbly voice that remind you that Rubio is merely getting started. With production help from Buttercup’s Joe Reyes, his sophomore release, Rhapsody in Plaid, was one of 2006’s understated delights.
3. DJ Tech-Neek: As a longtime battle DJ and member of the hip-hop trio Paint By Numbers, Rene Quiroz, aka DJ Tech-Neek, is a respected fixture in the SA underground community. Having already lived in far-flung locales such as Germany, Virginia, and Louisiana, Tech-Neek is proud to call San Antonio’s South Side his home and represent the Prhymemates collective. With Cros-One, a vital cog in the P.B.N. machine, recently relocating to Georgia, Tech-Neek is set on stepping out on his own and reaching a wider audience.
After shining on Paint By Numbers’ Certified Quality album, Tech-Neek is gearing up to release his fourth LP, Lord Meems: Episode 1, a solid mix CD that moves from Native Tongues-style jams to classic street anthems to hip-hop ballads through tight blends. The free disc is slated to drop on Valentine’s Day, and showcases the eclectic sounds often associated with Prhymemates projects paired with Tech-Neek’s fresh cuts.
“I don’t really like to do mix tapes, like mixing them on the computer,” shares Tech-Neek. “I prefer to do it live because I think it has that live feeling almost like radio mix-shows back in the day. I wanted that same vibe and wanted to make it more of a personal mix tape. I want to hear the pops on the record. To me that makes it more authentic.”
4. Johnny “Pro” Compton: One of my favorite songs of 2006 was actually the intro to local emcee Johnny “Pro” Compton’s ambitious debut album, The Show. The track, titled “Welcome to the Show,” is an infectious mash-up of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” with producer Crush Grooves greeting listeners while channeling the purple one.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called music. An electric word music, a lot like love, it lasts forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you there’s something else. Hip-Hop. Hip-hop is more than music. It’s a movement. You can always hear its voice day or night.”
With one intro, Pro and Crush Grooves have done more for Prince/hip-hop relations than his royalness accomplished in an entire catalog.
The 27-year-old Compton is no slouch on the mic either. Packed with 13 tracks, The Show rides the momentum of its opening with consistent production and clever rhymes. Cuts like “Right Now” and “Come On Now” capture a vibrant chemistry between emcee and producer that should only flourish through additional projects. Pro plans on following up The Show with a second LP this summer, and is determined to take a proactive stance when it comes to wack hip-hop.
“I get tired of hearing stuff on the radio, too,” Pro says. “But I think a lot of people get caught up in just, I want to complain about it all the time. When was the last time somebody really called in to the radio station and said, ‘Hey this new Common just came out.’ Even if you called up and get ignored, at least you made the effort. It’s like people that complain about the government but don’t go to vote.”