28, rapper, Houston
Illustration by Andy Friedman

Two thousand five will always be remembered as the year that Texas hip-hop finally got its due. Sure, Houston’s Geto Boys were already considered rap legends, and Port Arthur’s UGK, through Jay-Z’s smash hit single “Big Pimpin’,” had already introduced the world to “them Texas boys comin’ down in candy toys.” But it wasn’t until three years ago, when Chamillionaire (given name: Hakeem Seriki) broke onto the national stage with his major-label debut (alongside records by Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and Mike Jones), that the rest of the world stopped to pay attention to the chopped-up and slowed-down version of rap that had been brewing in Houston for more than a decade. Known for his intense delivery and colorful wordplay, this Grammy-winning Houston native has proved the most successful from his scene, selling one million copies of his first album, The Sound of Revenge , and four million ringtones of his anti—police profiling hit “Ridin’.” His second album, Ultimate Victory , was released last September, and the fourth installment of his highly popular Mixtape Messiah series will be out in early 2008.

How would you grade last year’s hip-hop releases?

It was the most digital year of all of them. A lot of artists came out and had really big ringtones, but a lot of albums didn’t sell. We’re in an experimental stage right now, where everybody is trying to just figure out what is going to work, and it’s reflected in the music. There were a few albums that came out that I thought were pretty good.

What were some of your favorites?

The Scarface album. It might not even sell crazy numbers, but it was really good. That’s the key. An artist might have some big ringtone record or some big single, but then the album comes out and it doesn’t sell. It’s better to stay with who you are, so your legacy will look good. Scarface, I don’t think, has done anything in his whole career to tarnish his legacy. UGK was another one. They both completely stayed within their element.

Do you think that the Houston rap scene has come and gone or is the industry still

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