Local Love: Mark Drew
Photo: John M. Wells Jr.
How crazy would it be if you found out from the record labels how big hip hop is in Houston? I’ve had reps from major labels all confirm to me that Houston, Screwston, or whatever you want to call it is considered one of if not the largest hip hop market in the country. So now that you know that, it should be no surprise that there are constantly new rappers coming up and releasing new albums here. One of those new rappers, is Houston’s Mark Drew. Drew has guested on songs with Guilla, as well as been hustling his own work. His album, “Sleepwalking Through Reality” was just dropped on Monday, and it’s pretty amazing. Distancing himself from the past hip hop of Houston while still incorporating jams from rap’s past and future; Drew figures out a way to add his own storyline to Houston’s rich rap history paved through his own style.
It should be noted that Drew has what I’d call a natural flow to how he drops rhymes. The album opens with the synth bassline meets simplistic piano sounds of “Sleepwalking” before Drew shakes things up with an auto-tuned backing vocal mixed with a hint of electronica. Before you know it, he’s dropping lines with a quick and intense pace. A bit of auto-tuned singing in the chorus slides in before he’s back to attacking the mic. This gets followed by the funky guitar of “Crack” where Drew quickly hits the mic. The track has a funk meets trap kind of pace mixed with a slice of chopped and screwed vocals in the chorus. By the third verse, Drew has Magno do the rapping duties, which rolls in like it was meant to be. I won’t lie, this song was stuck in my head for days after I heard it. In a nod to the past, Drew opens the third song, “Grey Goose and Dope Beats” with a similar guitar track to that of “No Sleep Till’ Brooklyn.” The song is simplistic, consisting of primarily a vocal track. That’s not a bad thing as Drew solo is just as entertaining than he is with any background tunes.
When the slow jam style of “Slums of The City” kicks in, you should realize that Drew could easily be one of the faces of Houston’s hip hop future. Complete with well mixed in samples and a simple piano track, Drew brings in Houston’s Roosh Williams who completes the H-Town vibe of the song. He goes collaborative again with the steady sound of “You and Me” which features up and comer Guilla. It’s apparent fast that Drew crafts his words just as skillfully as he crafts his backing tracks. The song has a simple sound but is made deeper with lyrics about drug use and abuse. Around the seventh track, “Go Off,” you’re deep into the album and you should already be hooked. Drew keeps it light and slow on this song, while mixing R&B with hip hop in his rhyme flow, while the song has a hint of an edm backing track. Drew bring the sexy voiced tenor of Brian Angel in on the following song, the catchy and hook heavy “6 In The Morning.” When I first saw the tracklisting, I was a little puzzled by the amount collabs on the release. But when you see them done like Drew does them, it all makes sense. He still commands the track, with little nuances from whom he features on each song. Drew closes the album with the most impressive song on the album, “Can I Vent.” The song has a very old school R&B funkiness to it, while just Drew raps atop the old school sounds. He quickly takes the pace from a slow jam to a danceable track with the quick beats fueled by his quick rhyme flow.
When it’s over, you should realize that Drew uses future sounds mixed with some of the old school to craft his own sound. In a time where some of Houston hip hop feels like it’s caught in a time warp; Mark Drew uses new talent like Roosh and Guilla to pave the way for a new generation of hip hop in Houston. You can catch Mark Drew at his album release party over at Warehouse Live on Friday December 19th. The all ages affair will feature Raj The Rapper, the doors are at 8:00, and the tickets are between $10.00 and $15.00.