Ten years after the murder of John “HAWK” Hawkins, Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed May 8 “Big Hawk Day” in commemoration of the Houston rapper’s life and career.
The Beloit College Mindset List, a must-read for anyone who wants to feel time quickly slipping away, was recently published for the incoming collegiate freshman class, the majority of which were born in that magical year of 1997 (?!). While it might make some of us feel just a little bit older, the list is worth a read and always provides some eye-opening perspective.
Ron Nief, Tom McBride, and Charles Westerberg (the creators of the list) provide some real marvels, reminding us that, “Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.” They came into the world around the same time as Dolly the sheep and Michael “Prince” Jackson, Jr. In addition, these young’uns have never licked a postage stamp (#3) and, frankly, it can get a little confusing when old people say, “around the turn of the century” (#17). The one that makes these old bones ache a little more this evening? “The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.” (#26)
In a salute to the University of Houston Cougars Class of 2019, we have gone digging through the archives and share with you a few highlights from the year 1997 housed here at your University of Houston Special Collections.
And, no, we’re not trying just to make you feel old.
Whether it’s a rare book printing found at long last or piece of ephemera found in an archival collection by chance, those who visit the University of Houston Special Collections almost always find something they cannot wait to share with others. Here we celebrate what makes the University of Houston Special Collections so special–our Favorite Things.
DJ Steve Fournier was partly responsible for hip hop’s popular emergence in the Houston club scene during the 1980s, hosting rap contests and peppering his sets with more and more rap at Struts Disco, the Boneshaker, and the Rhinestone Wrangler. His papers include photographs, memorabilia, as well as performance contracts from emerging acts like Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice-T. In this particular instance, I’m fascinated by a contract drafted for a performance by “EAZY E/NWA” that maps out the terms for payment ($1,900 now, $1,900 at the show), equipment to be provided by Fournier (“2 1200 turntables, mixer and mics”), locale (“ULTIMATE RHINESTONE WRANGLER… 478 Parker,” Houston’s Northside?!), and the hour and date of the engagement (“12Midnight” on “Thursday – June 16, 1988,” over two months prior to the release of N.W.A.’s first studio album).
The incendiary Straight Outta Compton was released August 9, 1988 on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records. It enjoyed the commercial appeal of the recently-instituted “Parental Advisory” stickers, along with the unfiltered imagery of glorified criminal violence and hedonistic misogyny that more than delivered on the promise of something truly illicit. Against a backdrop of moral conservatism and prosperity gospel of the Reagan-Bush presidential arc, that forbidden nature translated into surprising and enduring commercial success. It was a party record for our victory in the Cold War, echoing from the edge of Manifest Destiny–Compton, California. A thunderous shot from the ghetto, it was brash, boisterous, aggressive, and is now universally acknowledged as one of the most important records in the history of hip hop (see #144).
But, in 1988, I’d yet to hear those three little letters and be jolted awake by their meaning and music. So, I still can’t help but wonder if the show ever came to pass. The old Ultimate Rhinestone Wrangler (a cavernous venue for a club that easily held over 1,000, it has since been converted into a storage facility) was just a stone’s throw from where I grew up and the idea that N.W.A. might have slipped in and out without me even knowing, makes them feel both so close and yet out of reach–the one that got away, the shows one never sees. Fitting I suppose, for a group that frightened and thrilled us, both then and now. With no signature at the bottom representing “EAZY-E/NWA,” I’ll remain curious to hear from anyone who attended and got a rare, early look at “The World’s Most Dangerous Group.”
Whether you have just been introduced via F. Gary Gray’s film or you are an O.G., who has always down for the C.P.T., you’ll enjoy seeing this contract in person along with all the other trips down memory lane waiting in the DJ Steve Fournier Papers.
categories: Houston Hip Hop
The newest accession to the Hip Hop collections is the Peter Beste and Lance Scott Walker Houston Rap Collection, and it is one that we here in Special Collections are very excited about! Houston Rap is the joint creation of documentary photographer Peter Beste and writer Lance Scott Walker. The book provides a vivid glimpse into Houston’s hip hop community through a thoughtful combination of photographs taken by Beste and excerpts of interviews conducted by Walker. Beste and Walker’s collection will provide insight into both the creation of the book and the relationships Beste and Walker developed with members of the community they were documenting.
The majority of the collection documents the book’s production and promotion and will provide behind-the-scenes insight into the authors’ work process. Items found in this part of the collection include a hard drive containing thousands of Beste’s photographs, nearly one hundred interviews conducted by Walker, hundreds of photo prints which were used in the editing process, and materials, like stickers and T-shirts, used to promote the book.
The collection also contains a wide variety of hip hop memorabilia and promotional material. Houston Rap and its companion book Houston Rap Tapes took nearly a decade to complete, and during that time Beste and Walker developed strong working relationships with, and collected materials from, a wide variety of players in Houston’s hip hop scene. Visitors will find T-shirts, posters, promo cards, signed photographs, and other collectibles (bobbleheads and grills!) featuring artists and groups like DJ Screw, UGK, Paul Wall and many others. There are also a handful of letters and song lyrics written by artists and given to the authors.
After processing, all of these items, and many more, will be available in the Special Collections reading room. We hope that hip-hop scholars, researchers, and any interested members of the public visit us and take a closer look!
The growth of the Houston Hip Hop collections at the University of Houston continues as Special Collections is happy to announce the completion of a preservation project linked to the Samplified Digital Recording Studios Records.
Founded in 1990 by Philadelphia native Keenan “Maestro” Mosely (also known as Keenan Lyles, professionally), Samplified Digital Recording Studios hosted some of the biggest names in local and national hip hop. While artists like Run-DMC, Ice T, and Master P were known to record at Samplified in their visits to Houston, the archive itself documents local artists like DJ Screw, 20-2-Life, and Point Blank who recorded there.
As the finding aid illustrates, the Samplified Records contain photographs, posters, invoices, and multi-track Alesis Digital Audio Tapes (or ADATs) spanning the brief, high-impact period of the late 1990s Houston hip hop scene. Complementing the recent announcement regarding the publication of the vinyl catalog DJ Screw used to shape the genre of chopped and screwed, the Samplified Digital Recording Studios Records hold several sets of tapes containing master recordings of DJ Screw. Julie Grob, curator for our Houston Hip Hop collections, has overseen the preservation of these highly fragile and at-risk ADATs, and in the future will be able to provide scholars and fans an opportunity to hear the individual tracks via listening copies in the Special Collections Reading Room.
We invite you to explore the rest of the Samplified Digital Recording Studios Records and all of our Houston Hip Hop collections during our normal research hours. Those interested in consulting with the listening copies from the recent ADAT preservation project should contact the curator of our Houston Hip Hop collections.