The first time I heard the classic Geto Boys song, “My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me,” I knew right then that I would be a fan for life.
What I didn’t know is that the Geto Boys were just the tip of the iceberg of a hip-hop scene so raw and radical that the rest of the USA could hardly comprehend what was really going on. The Geto Boys were the group that sparked a contained explosion on the streets and in the heavy-duty hoods of Houston. Photographer, Peter Beste (shooter of the seminal Vice book, True Norwegian Black Metal) and writer, Lance Scott Walker, spent the better part of the last decade exploring the ghettos, hoods, and backstreets areas of Houston compiling an honest, immersive, and truly compelling account of the people, places, and situations that make Houston hip hop one of the most misunderstood and universally underappreciated aspects of hip hop culture. The book is a real-deal art piece that is a must for any fan of hip-hop or real street level photography—truly bad ass in every way. Monster Children got in touch with Lance Scott Walker to find out how, when, and why a book about Houston Rap simply had to be made.
People ain’t been educated on fightin’ back unless it’s some street shit, like fighting your neighbors or beating up… fighting your family members, killing your best friend. And nobody like… fightin’ the government, the city. “What you mean, fight the city? You mean like… Houston against me? – Willie D, Geto Boys
What about Houston’s Rap history compelled you to write this book?
Well, the idea came from Peter, who wanted to do a photobook about Houston Rap. He grew up here and wanted to shoot photos of all the guys he grew up listening to as a possible follow-up to his True Norwegian Black Metal book. As he started shooting, he quickly realized there was a much bigger story that simply couldn’t be told only with photos. He brought me on the write the book. From then on, any time he’d come out and shoot, I’d go along with him and do interviews with the subjects. It became something bigger than either of us thought, that’s why we spent so much time trying to do our best to tell the whole story.
What about Houston rap makes it different than say, New York, LA, or Atlanta rap?
Houston is often overlooked in the rap world even though it’s the forth-biggest city in the nation. I feel that it’s an underappreciated and sometimes forgotten. Houston had its breakthrough artists in the early days like Geto Boys of course, but for the most part Houston just did its own thing. The Houston rap scene seemed to grow within itself, creating it’s own style, it’s own economy, it’s own way of doing things, sort of ‘cookin’ in it’s own kitchen’ if you will.
Seems like the name synonymous with Houston rap is undoubtedly Geto Boys, what’s their part of the story?
Geto Boys set the stage for the inner-explosion of Houston rap. But James Prince of Rap-a-lot Records was really the mastermind behind Geto Boys and really the guy who jump-started the whole Houston scene. James Prince and the Geto Boys kept true to their Houston roots and really showed everyone who came after them how to do things independently, whether it be recording, releasing albums, and that’s probably a part that of why Houston has such a huge but insular scene.
Geto Boys are still living and performing in Houston right?
Yeah and that’s another reason why they’re so respected in this city—still playing shows, still together, still relevant, and still inspiring so many rap artists from Houston.
From the intimacy and obvious hard-core element in some of the photos in this book, is it safe to say you and Peter got in to some pretty heavy situations?
Yeah, I mean, at first, we were just two white boys going in to notorious neighborhoods like Fifth Ward, Third Ward, and South Park—there were times that felt very dangerous and occasions where some of our subjects just didn’t know what to think. Like, ‘what the fuck are these two white boys doing in our hood shooting pictures and writing down notes’? Put it this way, at first, we got very good at explaining why we were there, but after time, word spread and we started to really immerse ourselves in the scene which is another reason why we got so many intimate and honest photos and interviews with these characters that are usually very guarded.
Beyond the music, what’s the message?
We like to think that this is a realistic look at what life is like in the Houston rap world. It explores what daily life is like for the people that make this music. Hopefully it will help people understand why rappers say the sings they say, and how this music is a real description of the hardships, challenges, and struggles that some of these guys go through every day. On a grand scale, we hope it will show people who maybe aren’t hard-core hip hop fans that they actually might have a lot more in common with the people that live in these communities.
Houston Rap is available now and demand is high, so click here to come up on your copy before it’s gone.