- Becky Tillett
While less confident and more obsessive artists may go five years between albums, Robert Houston, aka Black P, is about to release the seventh of his 10-year recording career. In fact, the Colorado Springs rapper originally expected to put out YMP more than a year ago, back when he posted the first of several videos that would end up preceding the actual album's release.
Why the delay? Part of it was writing new songs. The other part was business.
"A few managers and indie labels wanted to sign me to these crazy 360 deals," says Houston, "which take an ungodly amount of publishing, show and merch money."
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The album's current single, "Anatomy of Black P," is seriously intense, its intricate wordplay referencing everything from gun confiscation to celebrity culture to record industry exploitation. The tone harkens back to the rapper's early days in the group Fusion of Syllables, although Houston says there's no particular reason for that. "I just like to write what I feel, and this one just took a direction of its own."
While Houston is releasing YMP on his own Brass Knuckles label, his career has been anything but insular: He shot the music video for Krizz Kaliko's "Money Clock." He paired up with Dizzy Wright for "Silly of Me," which is now approaching 100,000 YouTube hits, while his TeamBackPack collaboration with three other emcees has racked up nearly 300,000 views. The rapper is also getting ready for a national tour that'll run from October to December, and continues to put together regional showcases for younger rappers.
"Being a promoter is crazy, then turning around the next month and being the main attraction yourself," says Houston. "It's all about balance."
2nd place: Che Bong
3rd place: Stoney Bertz