2013 has found itself to be a twilight year in the world of hip-hop. This year many of hip-hop’s most influential groups are finding themselves at the 20 years anniversary mark. From Bone Thugs N Harmony creepin’ on a come up, to the iconic picture of 8 Ball & MJG “Comin’ Out Hard” in a smoke gray convertible Ben’z flying down Houston’s own Pierce elevated. This night brought us another 20 year anniversary it belonged to one of Houston Hip-Hop’s most renown rap groups, The K-Otix. A night that featured the groups return to the stage after 10 years away from collective performances. Throw in the legendary Pharcyde and you begin to see the stakes are high. Now you might ask why this matters in an often saturated music scene. After all this is a city that has many of its top hip-hop artist on MTV Jamz and BET’s 106 & Park, yet no one seems to know. There was a day… perhaps 20 years ago when landing a video on the iconic network’s meant you had arrived. Today it just means you still have work to do. So what does this mean for group a that has always went against the grain in a city deeply invested in its own culture?
I must say I’m admittedly writing this article from the perspective of a local underground MC. The artist that might not fit the mold of the candy painted rapper with a double cup. Im also writing from personal experience. One that started July 1, 2000 on my 20th birthday. You know the one where no one buys you a gift because you’re just not that cute anymore. Well that year brought one great gift. A phone call from a friend wishing me happy birthday and letting me know he got me a gift. As I hopped into the comforts of his 96 SS Impala, he handed me a very slim sloppily wrapped gift. Obvious from its size it was easy to tell this gift was a cd. Excitedly I opened this gift hoping for the newest SwishaHouse mixtape but instead I saw the image of Marvel’s Silver Surfer reading K-Otix “Universal”. My buddy pointed to the disc and said two simple words, “They jam.” As we road down the various Houston highways breaking down Phillie blunts and cracking open 16oz tall boys his words rang true, they did indeed jam. The music was incredibly enjoyable and at the same time confusing. How was this sound coming from a place like Houston, Texas? Who could possibly be listening to it? I even remember telling myself, their gonna have to sell this on the east coast.
The lyrics delivered on the disc differed from everything I had been raised on in Houston rap music. They took risk, they danced over The A.R.E.’S production like best friends nailing the Kid & Play dance perfectly. This was true hip-hop, not the type that people call hip-hop when its actually crap but you know “we just don’t understand what real hip-hop is”. Within a month of listening to the K-Otix, I found myself in a dark bar called the Rhythm Room with a co worker who would later become to be known as Nosaprise (Now an accomplished artist in the landscape of Houston Hip-Hop). As we walked threw the crowd drinking 2 dollar Lone Stars, my attention was soon turned towards the stage and the evenings master of ceremony. An eccentric fellow with long whipping dread locks calling himself The BBC. Low and behold the next act he introduced was the K-Otix. If you’ve ever been to the Rhythm Room you know that the stage was tall and it had a low hanging rafter beam. That made the stoutly sized K-Otix seem even more musically larger than life.
Long removed are those days and before this night the K-Otix had been collectively absent from Houston’s rap society. Behind the scene’s the K-Otix had turned down previous attempts to lure the group back to the stage. Two months ago local hip-hop veteran V-Zilla and show promoter Hector Del Valle of Lunaface Promotions reached out to the group about making their return with Large Professor. It was revealed that the guys were back in the studio working on their first album in 10 years, but weren’t quite ready to officially make their return. None the less, V-Zilla made the call one more time when it became clear Lunaface Promotions would be bringing the legendary Pharcyde back to Houston. Sitting on the couch back stage behind the iconic Fitzgerald’s stage V-Zilla explainED, “I made the phone call to D. (Damien Randall) and said, look I would love to get you guys on the show. I really think the buzz will be there. Whats the probability of reuniting?” He further explained it didn’t take long to get the call back saying, “Hell yeah, Lets do this”.
So now the stage was set. Houston Hip-Hop’s usual suspect filled Fitzgerald’s ready to see a group so many of them respected. Wouldn’t ya know it my old friend/co-worker Nosaprise found himself in the middle of a b-boy circle and that same host now removed of the long whipping dreads was back to the duty he held the first time I saw the K-Otix live. V-Zilla had just warmed up the crowd, spitting direct verses to soulful Otis Redding samples. 10 years soon becomes a blur as the K-Otix take the stage. The A.R.E. throws on the first beat and with that beat ending the question, “When will the K-Otix take the stage again?” They run threw hit after hit. Finding themselves in the unique position of performing a hip-hop set in front of a Houston audience that actually knows their lyrics. The crowd shouted, “Show em how its done” to “K-O”. The group never missed a beat. K-Otix’s producer & DJ The A.R.E. shared, “It’s like riding a bike, I was a little worried about knocking off the cob web’s but it’s natural. Once we got it flowing it was like we never left the stage.”
Damien who seems to be the “no nonsense” member of the group took command of the stage. This night would see the physically imposing MC lower his guard a bit. Showing a softer side of himself as he often showed his appreciation to the fans, friends and family who supported the group along the way. Damien spoke to me about that support saying, “They know It’s my first love and I’m very grateful they support anything that makes me happy. We’ve made sacrifices threw out the years for the benefit of our family. Which the music did take a back seat in certain cases and I can even say this for the other two guys in group. Our families are really behind us because they know this is what we love to do more than anything and that’s honest”. Honest – A fitting end to the statement, because that’s what the K-Otix have always been. Damien tries repeatedly to say good bye to the adorning crowd, but after 10-years, fellow MC Micah isn’t having it and neither is The A.R.E. As word is whispered that The Pharcyde is running fashionably late. Micah signals to A.R.E. for a track being shouted out from the crowd. Micah explains, “I was having fun, I kept hearing this guy in the crowd screaming “Questions”. So I was like we can’t get off stage without doing Questions, even if I don’t remember the words we gotta do that song”.
20 years all coming together. A moment to bask in the glory that is, was and possibly will be The K-Otix. Damien says “I’d be lying if I said we didn’t like the attention”. So was that it? Was this a full fledged reunion or perhaps just a one time hook between ex lovers? Speaking to the group immediately after stepping off stage none of them seemed to know, though all seemed open to the idea. The A.R.E. proclaims “I just wanna have fun again, get together and put out some 45’s & 12’s like we used to do back in the day. I don’t wanna worry about who’s doing what and who’s paying who. I just wanna have fun and make some new music, if it can take us back to Europe or Japan then thats fun”.
When I asked Micah about the next time we might see the K-Otix live he replied “We really need to get it together because people are really expecting something great”. He went on to say “I’m ready, Im always open to anything, anytime. I’ll go out there again right now the way I’m feeling”. Posing the same question to Damien he says “This really a big sigh of relief… for the last 10 years or so people have been asking for us to come back and every year its gets louder and louder. So this is sigh of relief in the since that we’ve silenced those voices. Even though I’m sure they will only get louder now”
So just like that a call from Houston’s hip-hop community was answered. The group had made their return. Would this mean things would be different? Could they come back and find a new generation of fans? Would they still struggle to gain the recognition that comes with being respected around the world, but overlooked in your hometown? Micah touched on this as he spoke of his affection for A.R.E.’s production. “Russell’s just doing what he does and he really doesn’t get the prop’s he deserves. That guy is incredible, he just produced for LL Cool J & Keisha Cole. He’s done so much for so many people and people don’t even know his name is on it”.
So how did the K-Otix accomplish so much with out bringing home the proverbial trophy. Perhaps part of the answer can be found from the perspective of hip-hop artist/student and one half of the ever rising Dirty & Nasty. Nasty state’s “I can’t front and pretend like I knew who the K-Otix where before two weeks ago. I know people look at Dirty & Nasty and think were both cultured, but what folks need to understand is, we come from the hood. Dirty’s from 5th Ward and I’m from Hillcroft West Airport. So we were exposed to the Dj Screw’s, 8 ball & Mjg’s, UGK’s thats what we came up on. We didn’t become exposed to cats like this till later, when we started pushing ourselves as Dirty & Nasty” he then says “I always have a great respect for the people that did this before me. You look at what they went threw and you look at what we go threw and its the same grind, it’s all universal. They made timeless music and it shows”
So now the time of night had come when only the bar staff and show promoter are in the club. The Pharcyde now heading back to the hotel’s. The K-Otix fortunate enough to sleep in their own beds. Perhaps this night without asking themselves the questions I’m sure they’ve asked themselves many times in the past 10 years. “When”??? Before making my last check for cell phone and keys, I sat down with Lunaface Promotions CEO Hector Del Valle to get his thoughts on the reunion he helped bring together. Hector remembers “This was amazing to me on a personal level. 12 years ago when I was doing my thing as an MC under Food For Thought I played with K-Otix. So this was surreal to me because it was just like seeing them 12 years ago. The same sound, same movements I don’t think these guy missed a beat. To see these guys come back after 10 years its a blessing, it was awesome”.
With promises of new a album that seems to be all thats certain with the K-Otix at the moment. Surely Houston’s diehards will call for more. This just doesn’t seem to be a group of guys on a mission to top past accomplishments. Nor do they seem set to come back and demand the respect some feel they weren’t shown. No signs of a midlife crisis or a need relive the good old days. They don’t seem determined to pull a Brett Favre or Roger Clemens and play beyond their age. There isn’t a touchdown to score and there isn’t a home run to hit. Just a band of brothers that left Fitzgerald’s a bit chaotic. If only for one night.