Houston is known for Texas hospitality and finger lickin’ barbecue, but if you’re any sort of music fan, you also know the city has long left its mark on the hip-hop music scene.
As the home to legendary record labels Swishahouse and Rap-A-Lot Records, the signature chopped and screwed sound, and stars like Bun B, Scarface and current chart-topper Travis Scott, H-town is an important stop on the music map.
Hip-hop fans, take note: These destinations are must visits on your next trip to Houston.
Founded in 1986, Rap-A-Lot Records has been integral in bringing Houston hip-hop to the world. The record label helmed by impresario J Prince introduced fans to artists such as the Geto Boys.
Arguably the most successful Houston rap collective, the Geto Boys garnered commercial acclaim with their 1991 hit “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” which also inspired countless artists like OutKast, the Notorious B.I.G. and Kid Cudi.
DJ Screw ushered in the chopped and screwed sound — which slows down the tempo of tracks and uses techniques like skipping beats and scratching — that put Houston on the hip-hop map.
Although it began in the ’90s, it’s still heard today, influencing out-of-towner artists like Drake and A$AP Rocky. In a 1995 interview with Rap Pages (as reported by The Guardian), Screw described the trend as this: “The Screw sound is when I mix tapes with songs that people can relax to. Slower tempos, to feel the music and so you can hear what the rapper is saying.”
DJ Screw died in 2000, but his music legacy lives on in his record store Screwed Up Records & Tapes, where you can pick up some records and learn more about his life.
Celebrities like Kanye West and Beyoncé (who’s originally from H-town) have been seen wearing diamond-encrusted teeth. Grillz, as they’re known, are a staple of Houston and a signature fashion statement.
Rapper Paul Wall — who happens to be a jeweler — has helped take this trend to the masses and offers his grillz at Johnny Dang & Co jewelers. Check out designs in 22-karat gold, dripping diamonds as well as custom pieces that everyone wants in their mouths.
“Wanna be a baller, shot caller … got sprayed by Ike, I hit the highway, making money the fly way.” Lil Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller” is a perennial favorite to play while driving on I-610 or the Beltway.
In Houston, car aficionados love their “slabs,” old-school cars souped up with rims, trunk-rattling audio systems and colorful candy paint jobs. Head to Lil Ike’s Auto Collision, which specializes in custom paint jobs. As the company shares on its website: “We do wet CANDY paint jobs you can brag about to your friends and tell them it was sprayed by the REAL ‘IKE.'”
There’s no shortage of fried chicken spots in Houston, but Frenchy’s is a hip-hop favorite. Local rapper Chamillionaire (of “Ridin'” fame) has name-checked the chain in several songs, including “Hometown” and “Feels Good.” Beyoncé has shouted out Frenchy’s in her music, too. When she was in her hometown recently, the superstar made a requisite Frenchy’s stop.
Mercy Night Club
Mercy Night Club in downtown Houston is the premier spot to see the city’s young stars partying and performing. Drake, an honorary H-Town resident, created a pop-up experience here that was attended by Travis Scott and Donald Glover. Other buzzy names that have made appearances include Playboi Carti, Tory Lanez, Lil Uzi Vert and YG.
Dago’s Tattoos is known for inking plenty of Texans, but did you know it’s responsible for one of the most iconic hip-hop tattoos of all time? In 1992, Tupac Shakur visited the shop, and the owner, Dennis “Dago” Coelho, gave him his signature“Thug Life” ink across his torso.