Houston’s rap scene has produced a handful of national breakouts: Bun B, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Kirko Bangz. All talented. All fiercely repping their city. And all male.
TroubleSum is hoping to change that.
“There has been no female rapper to pop from Houston. We’ve never had that,” she said. “I’m just praying that I will be given the opportunity to set it off for Houston.
“Even if I’m not the one to just blow if off the map, I hope I pave the way. I hope I open some doors for the city. We have the talent.”
Tabitha Grant grew up in Belton and, as a teen, moved to Houston as a teenager, where the TroubleSum persona came to life. She’s worked hard to develop her brand and her talent, a unique blend of street swagger and feminine charm. She’s been featured on tracks alongside Trae Tha Truth and Bun B, both early supporters of her music, and has amassed a steady stream of fans via social media. (She’s a Twitter pro.)
But that defining moment still eludes her.
“I rep Houston wherever I go,” she said. “But me and Houston have a love-hate relationship. It’s kind of like a boyfriend. You love him to death, but he won’t act right. You have to leave him, and he has to see you with someone else in order to value you. That’s kind of how I feel about Houston.
“I can go to Atlanta (and get a great reception). In Houston, I can be at an event — ‘What’s up, Trub?’ and take a few pictures. It’s just not the same appreciation. Maybe I’m too familiar for them.”
“Stiletto to the Pedal,” her first musical project in two years, serves as a throwing down of the gauntlet, a fierce declaration of self. It’s highlighted by a series of fun, uptempo tracks and appearances by fellow Houston females Candi Redd, Surreall, Lexxi and Just Brittany.
Standouts include intro “Swag” and “Just Right,” both designed to fill dance floors; “Twist in My Hips,” inspired by a line in Tupac Shakur’s “I Get Around;” and “Maybe,” which addresses TroubleSum’s stance as an indie artist via soulful samples. (“Maybe it ain’t my time/Diamond in the rough/Maybe I still need to be shined.”)
“I was in a really good place when I was recording these songs,” TroubleSum said. “I’ve grown as a woman. I’ve grown as an artist. As Tabitha, I’m just really a girly girl. I love shoes. I love stiletto’s. I love shopping. I have a handbag fetish. I really want you to get a sense of who I am.
“People want me to rap a little bit raunchy, (harder), and that’s never been my style. I just think that there needs to be a voice in hip-hop for the women. For the girls that get up and that work, that are single parents, that love to shop. We need some realistic music about women, about what we go through, about the men in our lives who aren’t acting right, the baby daddies who are stressing us.”
Several songs could be radio hits with the right push and are as good or better than anything atop the charts. “Exxplosive” rides an unrelenting, military-style drumline, and “Rather be Alone” highlights the soulful vocals of Shei Atkins atop a booming groove.
But even without a much-deserved breakout, it’s likely the “Teflon Diva” will keep that swag in her step. With the right shoes, of course.
“Every bad chick, boss chick stands on stilettos,” she said. “The reason for the name ‘Stiletto to the Pedal’ is I am mashing on the gas. I’m not stopping until I get to the finish line.”
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Album of the year: Kendrick Lamar, “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” It’s nice for an artist to come along who actually has some depth.
Most unexpected iPod find: Phillips, Craig and Dean, Plumb, Natalie Grant. And I’m a huge Jimi Hendrix fan.
Favorite Christmas album: Mariah Carey! I love, love, love it. And my favorite song is “O Holy Night.” Mariah sings it with such emotion.
Dream collaboration: I like to shoot for the stars. I would have to say Jay-Z. He’s done so much for hip-hop.
Favorite late-night food spot: Mai’s (Vietnamese restaurant). I’m in there maybe twice a week. The no. 97, Bo Luc Lac.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Venue, 723 Main, No. 500
Tickets: $20; 713-236-8150 or venuehouston.com