H-Town MCs Freestyle Their Way. Lil Keke’s Off The Top Rap Is Far From Screwed Up (Video)

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Houston, Texas veteran Lil Keke recently appeared on Sway In The Morning. A onetime protege of DJ Screw, this Southside MC has more than 20 years of stock in the game. A member of the Screwed Up Click, Keke made many of his cult-lauded singles like “Pimp Tha Pen,” DJ DMD’s “25 Lighters” (embedded below), “I’m A G,” and “Southside” before he signed to Swishahouse Records in the 2000s. Back in 2013, when Beyoncé returned to her hometown to remix a hit with H-Town’s finest, Keke was on her song.

Off the mic, Keke has done a lot for H-Town, too. In 2015 the man also named Marcus Edward received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his community service from President Barack Obama.

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Having just released single “Legend Talk,” Keke spoke on Sway. Before leaving, the DJ and staff asked if the guest if he wished to freestyle. The veteran responds, “Like I tell y’all: y’all are different from us [in Houston], up here. We don’t do [it the same way]. Like, I hear people come in here and kill this thing; I be thinkin’ to myself, ‘How do they remember all that?’ In New York, man, they got skills From the Battle Rap era…we don’t do that. We don’t have that kind of culture,” he says. “Our freestyle is different. It’s top of the head! Ain’t no memorizin’, ain’t none of that!” As he says that, DJ Wonder drops in a blend with H-Town hi-hats and The Soul Searchers’ “Ashley’s Roachclip” (which Heads may also know from Eric B. & Rakim). The beat is perfect for Keke to demonstrate.

At 1:00, Keke shows the masses what a freestyle from Houston sounds and feels like. With his booming vocal, he slows his delivery to rap about New York, Shade 45, DJ Screw, and shouting out JAY-Z and Beyoncé. Sway cannot contain himself as Keke demonstrates. “Screwed Up Click’s finest / Call me the captain / 2-1-2, freestyle, now what’s happenin’? / I be goin’ hard, lookin’ at the buildin’ / Young Don Ke, six stories, made a million / I wouldn’t give a damn / Watch the drop slam / Hard as a mothaf*cka, I be goin’ ham,” spits the MC. Although his bars can be perceived as simple by some measures, the way he rides the beat and commands his cadence is absolutely MC’ing.

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Last year, Keke dropped a special 20th anniversary edition of his breakthrough solo debut, Don’t Mess With Texas. The LP features Scarface, Z-Ro, and a number of deceased H-Town legends including Screw, Fat Pat, Big Moe, and Mr. 3-2.

#BonusBeat: DJ DMD’s “25 Lighters,” featuring Pat and Keke: