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Book Review: Houston Rap


Book Review Houston Rap By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker Reviewed by Tom Leininger Rap is a window into life. Whether it is the life of the East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South or Houston, the music is speaking the language of the area, each in its own dialect. Houston rap is a melodic with slow rhymes. Peter Beste and Lance Scott Walker tell the story of the rise of rap music in Houston, Texas in riveting words and pictures.

Houston Rap. By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker.
 Sinecure Books, 2013.
 
Houston Rap
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Houston Rap
Photographs by Peter Beste, text by Lance Scott Walker
Sinecure Books, 2013. 272 pp., 209 color and 63 black & white illustrations, 8½x11¼".


Rap is a window into life. Whether it is the life of the East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South or Houston, the music is speaking the language of the area, each in its own dialect. Houston rap is a melodic with slow rhymes. Peter Beste and Lance Scott Walker tell the story of the rise of rap music in Houston, Texas in riveting words and pictures. If you have a passing interesting in music or modern culture, owning Houston Rap is a necessity.

As he has done before with his previous book True Norwegian Black Metal, Beste was able to penetrate a community not entirely welcoming to outsiders. Bun B opens the book by vouching for Beste and Walker, giving credence to their involvement and the depth of the project. He adds that they told the story with respect.

Houston Rap. By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker. Sinecure Books, 2013.

This book goes beyond being a photography book and takes an anthropological look at Houston. The poverty of the neighborhoods, the role of women, drugs, guns, the economics of urban daily life in the 21st century are all covered. This is more than just the story of hip-hop in Houston, it is the telling of generational stories; how the rap game started with the Geto Boys in the early 1990s through today. Kids are on the periphery of many pictures. Generations are also used to tell how drinking Promethazine with Codeine (aka syrup or Drank) is a unique to Houston problem and facet of the story of Houston rap. DJ Screw, one of the pioneers, is closely related to syrup use. When he died, some in the media pointed to syrup being the cause. Houston rap is not a simple story to tell. Poverty, drugs, economics, neighborhoods, family, and sex are all part of the story.

Houston Rap. By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker. Sinecure Books, 2013.

The rough textures of the particular wards in Houston are shown in a neutral manner. Beste brings forth a realistic view of the homes, clubs, shows and lives of those who have created Houston rap. Beste has a knack for making portraits that bring the viewer into the personal space of those being portrayed. He takes us to the domino table at a Black Panther Fish Fry, into a drug dealer’s bedroom in South Park and to an abandoned car wash to photograph a woman named Choice. The pictures exude attitude and reality. 

Houston Rap. By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker. Sinecure Books, 2013.

The book’s strength comes from Beste’s interests in the subcultures surrounding the music. The details he brings to light reinforce the stories being told. Paired with the photographs, the book becomes a rich reading experience, and the book’s size makes it intimate. The timeline of Houston in the back is fascinating and fills in gaps to explain why Houston became the city it is today.

Houston Rap. By Peter Beste & Lance Scott Walker. Sinecure Books, 2013.

Houston Rap goes beyond the stereotypical view of hip-hop culture. Beste’s portraits are direct and powerful. The stories told by the people pictured grab you by the throat and pull you into the place. Most of all, the book opens the door to a unique dialect of hip-hop, giving greater context and understanding. Not all parts of the story are neat and tidy, but it is told with respect for those who are living it. —TOM LEININGER


TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.

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