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Kidd The Great: Houston Legend in Process

Kidd the Great was born and raised in Houston’s West End, an area that many people errantly consider The Heights these days, along the Washington Avenue corridor. As any Houston area resident can tell you, Washington Avenue was straight ghetto as recent as ten years ago, before gentrification took a foothold and created the Washington Strip Houston we now know, full of  condos and upscale bars.

I met Kidd The Great about two years ago by catching a ride in his taxi. This vehicle is unforgettable. It has a custom Bentley grill installed, chrome all around, 24 inch custom wheels, a Playstation 3, and custom surround sound with a 15 inch subwoofer in the trunk.

While riding in Kidd’s “Ghetto Fab Cab”, as he calls it, you can play video games, sing karaoke, or surf the web on his Wi-fi connection. If you’ve never seen a taxi with a tv monitor in it, this one has seven.

“I’m not just a cab driver. I provide a service to the community.” Kidd explains. “If someone is looking for a product or service, I’ll find it for you. That’s what I do.”

The Ghetto Fab Cab is not a novelty. It is the key to Kidd’s success, because he’s hasn’t put thousands of dollars into this vehicle to increase cab fare or get more customers. He’s doing it to promote his new album, “How I Be Liking My Mic”, and it’s working.

I was so impressed with Kidd’s skills when first hearing his tracks, I asked him for an interview over lunch, which turned out to be an all-day experience in the front seat of the Ghetto Fab Cab.

Kidd sold crack cocaine in his youth to get by, but doesn’t elaborate much on the subject. He’s 35 now, so you can guess that he was probably slinging rocks around the same time UGK’s “Hard to Swallow” dropped in 1992, which is pretty much an instructional guide on the masterful subject of slinging rocks. Those days are long behind him, but the experience was integral to his music.

Kidd has been rhyming as long as he can remember. He got his first start when his cousin and fellow rap artist J auRa introduced him to (now defunct) local label Unified Records. He joined Texas Ballers, a Southern rap team that enjoyed limited local success, with an album that was later chopped and screwed by Swishahouse. In the meantime, 2Tone, founder and producer of Texas Ballers, was in the process of discovering a young Hollywood Floss- Kidd’s best friend from childhood, who was raised with him as if they were brothers.

Kidd explains, “Hollywood’s a real producer. He saw what we were doing, wanted in, and jumped right in and ran with it. He’s a natural- you’ll hear his stuff on ESPN, read about him in XXL magazine. If you want one of his albums, you can get it at Best Buy.  He produced my new album and built most of these tracks you’re hearing.”

Kidd lists his influences as James Brown, George Clinton, Cappadonna, K-Rino, Elton John, Radiohead, Kurt Cobain, D’Angelo, Wu-Tang, Isley Brothers, and everything Johnny Cash has ever done.

“If you want to get into music, take it home with you and sleep with it. She’s your girl, and you’ve gotta wake up with her. If you neglect her, she’ll take off and find somebody else. ”

To hear more of Kidd The Great’s music, you can check out his website or pick up his album on iTunes.

The unusual evolution of headphones.

Chili Bob’s Houston Eats

Way before the blog you’re reading got started, there was Chili Bob’s Houston Eats. It’s not pretty. It’s got a blogspot.com suffix on it. His food photos could use some work. I think his first name is Bruce.

 

Here is his humble mantra. (Read in Kevin Spacey’s voice for added effect.)

I’m a food explorer and reporter, not a restaurant critic, a food nerd rather than a foodie or fooderatti. This blog records my excursions exploring Houston’s great diversity of eateries with an emphasis on ethnic and national cuisines, peasant food and neighborhood eateries as opposed to haute cuisine or trendy foodie hot spots plus some Texas specialties like barbeque and sausage. These are the sorts of places that make Houston such a great place to live and eat out. The blog is mostly about places that are new to me instead of old favorites and there’s a little emphasis on places in the southwestern corner of the city, where I live, but I do roam all over. I don’t make recommendations, I just report what I had.

Chili Bob is a mystery. He isn’t on Twitter. He doesn’t get nominated for anything. You won’t see him at any foodie functions. He doesn’t get invited to be a food judge at foodie events. He doesn’t go on Houston Chowhound food crawls or throwdowns. He will not be featured on Cleverly Stone’s morning show, or wear a navy blazer to a Culturemap gala.  He doesn’t enjoy handcrafted cocktails at Beaver’s on industry night.  If asked to participate in a Cadillac Challenge, I assume that he would respond like Edward Norton responded to his office manager in Fight Club.

No one  has ever seen a photo of Chili Bob.

Yet Chili Bob’s blog tells more about Houston’s food scene diversity than any other, aside of established food critics that do this for a living. Maybe even more so.

His blog is an unintentional testament to the diversity of Houston food.  Look at the categories on the left side of the page. Keep scrolling. And scrolling.

He finds everything. Every time I find a new taco truck, he finds a damn tunnel underneath it that leads to some Guatemalan turkey soup, Ethiopian beets, or  South Indian lentil donuts.

Read and enjoy.

http://chilibobshoustoneats.blogspot.com/

Juke Boy Bonner – “Houston, The Action Town”

Michelada Mishaps

My friends Ryan and Amanda invited me to their wedding in Dripping Springs, Texas last month. The bride and groom are both into camping, so they rented out a campground deep in the gorgeous Texas country, and asked their friends to enjoy the wedding, party like maniacs,  and camp out under the stars.

In preparation, I went to Spec’s Liquor in downtown Houston on a mission to buy a variety of canned beer six-packs to share with my old friends. Picked up everything I could find in cans. Southern Star Pine Belt, Karbach Hopadillo, Ska Modus Hoperandi, Oskar Blues Old Chub, New Belgium Shift, Brooklyn Lager, and Maui Big Swell IPA. This is why I always get invited to parties.

While shopping around, I came across a styrofoam cup labeled “Don Chelada Michelada Mix”.  As you can see, it also reads “Beer Booster & Hangover Helper”.

A little bit of background here- I’m a michelada freak. I don’t care what kind of crappy beer goes into it, a michelada is always awesome, as long as it doesn’t come in a can. I’ve had the glorious opportunity to judge michelada (and bloody mary) contests years back, and I regularly make them at home.

Looking at this 24 ounce styrofoam cup, you can only imagine the conversation between the company’s owner and their graphic designer.

Owner: “I need something that represents Mexico. Something that will make this product appear to be ultimately authentic; something that will conjure images of colorful villas, the rich sounds of a mariachi, the fear of a bullfighter, the scent of fresh masa.”

Designer: “How about a Mexican?”

Owner: “That’s brilliant!”

Designer: “With a sombrero and a mustache.”

Owner: “We’re so glad to have you on board.”

As far as the statement “Beer Booster & Hangover Helper” goes,   I can’t argue with it. Micheladas are great for both of these purposes.

 

I googled the product name and found their website. It’s kind of a mystery, really. It doesn’t say where they’re from, or who they are. The About Us page is blank. Everything is blank, except for the page where you can buy these cups. Their Twitter account has been taken down, but there a Facebook page. On the Facebook page, the owner holds internet auctions for cases of michelada kits.

To rate the Don Chelada on a level playing field with other micheladas, I would need to find a hangover. A wedding party at a campground would do the trick. After partying til 3 or 4 in the morning around a massive bonfire, after all the beer I brought was gone and the kegs were blown, I walked into the wilderness with a sleeping bag and called it a night. The next morning, with a bastard of a hangover, I removed the cellophane and peeled back the paper lid on the styrofoam cup.

I expected some kind of liquid packet inside, but the bottom 1/4 inch was full of a dried, red seasoning powder. And a rock.

Why is there a rock in the michelada mix? I took it out and looked at it. It weighed as much as a rock, and looked like a rock. I tasted it. Rock.

Maybe they put rocks in the lightweight cups to weigh them down, so they don’t topple from the counter if someone bumps into it?

“Maybe they know something I don’t”, I thought, choosing to drop the rock back into the cup and give it a try.

I was out of beer, so I opened some stranger’s icechest and scored their last two Negra Modelos (it’s a 24 ounce cup, so I had to take two.)  In a cocktail bar, they moisten the rim of a glass in order to get the seasoning or salt to adhere. Since this is a dry styrofoam cup, they had to use some kind of adhesive to get the seasoning to stick. I carefully poured the cold beers into the cup. Most of the seasoning just floated to the top, even after a stir. The item I formerly thought was a rock floated too. I’m still confused about the floating gray rock.

The first sip was a mouthful of seasoning, but it wan’t hard to see that coming. It was terrible, but I took a few more swigs just to see if maybe it just needed to mix a little better. Nope.

A sleepy guy with red eyes and a ponytail walked up.

“Hey, you know what happened to my last two beers?”

“No, but you can have the rest of this michelada if you want.”

“Solid.”

I walked away in classic “walk away from a massive explosion without flinching or turning around” action hero mode, with the correct knowledge that he would spray it out through his mouth and nose.  None of us can be Bruce Willis, but we can all improvise by creating our own moments. Don’t look back.

When I got back into Houston, I had a few questions for Jay Francis, one of Houston’s most intrepid food adventurers, who also moonlights as a fortune teller on the Southwest side of town.

Stepping through the colorful beaded door curtains, I walked over to the stereo and turned the volume down on Ananda Shankar’s “Streets of Calcutta”, which was playing at full volume.

“Never interrupt a man in meditation”, Jay sternly warned, as he covered himself with a kimono.

Jay is the guy you call when you’ve got food questions. He’s been everywhere, he knows how to pronounce everything, and apparently can see into the future. He explained that the combination of tequila, lime and salt was originally initiated as a prescription for influenza. I was hoping to find the origin of the michelada, but we weren’t able to put it together.  I didn’t notice them during my time in Mexico, and Jay didn’t see them either.

The birth of the michelada is a mystery. The word “michelada” can be broken down into three Spanish words, “mi chela helada”, which basically translates to “my ice cold beer”. This is one possibility behind the name. The almighty beverage has been traced back to a family from France that resided in Jalisco, Mexico, that held huge drunken mega-parties I wasn’t invited to and mixed up beer and salsa. The Michelada name has also been attributed to a General Augusto Michel who kicked ass in the Mexican Revolution, and commonly brought his soldiers to a cantina in San Luis Potosi to get them hammered on spicy beers. Also, there are a few Canadians who believe they invented it.

“Why the history lesson?”, you may ask. We study history so we don’t make the same mistake twice.  The Don Chelada Michelada Kit is a mistake that should never be repeated. I want to find a historic building downtown and chisel this into the facade in Latin.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

If the powdered michelada kit was this bad, what should a good michelada taste like? We’ll get to that later. The picture right there is the Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, next to a Kershaw Ken Onion Leek 1660CKST with a SpeedSafe ambidextrous assisted opening system. This is a great knife that has no business resting next to this wretched beer in a photograph, but if anyone offers you this beverage, the Leek is a highly recommended tool if you’d like to ventilate one of their lungs or puncture an internal organ or two.

Call me crazy, but I didn’t expect this beverage to be terrible.

It is.

It pours an unappealing orange-pinkish color, and it smells awful. For a more vivid description of the taste of this beer,  AV Club did a great job.  I’m not going to even explain the taste of this beer, because I really don’t want to revisit the experience. It really is that bad. If someone tells you they enjoy the Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, they are simply lying to you. Here’s another review of this revolting fluid by some psycho named Aaron Goldfarb. Knock yourself out.

The traditional michelada is an outstanding daytime beverage that definitely shouldn’t come in a gluey styrofoam cup or come out of a can. If you’ve tasted one of these monstrosities (or if you read one of the above reviews), don’t let this dissuade you from the magnificence of the real thing.

My favorite michelada comes from a mix that can only be found at Connie’s Seafood on Airline. You can pick up a bottle of it for $5. Drop a spoonful and a half into the bottom of a glass with a salted rim, and fill it with an ordinary beer and a squeeze of fresh lime.  Some people prefer it with ice. If you have a favorite michelada recipe, or a favorite place to buy micheladas, please share it!

***UPDATE!***

Commenter “Moe” explained the gray rock, and claims it is a “saladito”, or dried plum. (see comments below.) Not to alarm anyone, but there’s an FDA warning against imported saladitos dating back to 2009, citing that they contain lead. How lead gets into dried plums is anyone’s guess.  To be fair, if we all went by FDA’s rules, food would be pretty boring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo and Ignacio Zaragoza

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! If you’re not completely tanked on beer and seven-layer dip already, I’ve got something fun for you.

Remember an older blog post where I interviewed Ben Johnson, the mastermind behind “Badass of the Week“? Yesterday, he offered up a nice history lesson on the origination of Cinco de Mayo, appointing Ignacio Zaragoza as this week’s Badass.

It’s the best account of the history of Cinco de Mayo I’ve seen so far. No idea why they banned this guy from writing history textbooks for kids.

Enjoy!

G&T For Mayhem

In this dark world of corrupt Yellow Cab drivers, tow truck vultures, and politicians with deep pockets and dark secrets, a swarm of evil has infected our landscape. Auto-tune technology has destroyed our airwaves. People are afraid to visit a bar or restaurant without first looking it up on Yelp.  Women are wearing Uggs.

Although the future may appear to be hopeless, the answer lies in anarchy, chaos and destruction. Fear not the Karsdashians, the Adam Levines, the Regis Philbins and Ryan Seacrests of this world; for their time is limited. Stand up and fight for mayhem, and we can take the law into our own hands.

A special thanks to BuildaSign.com for their great work on these.

Les Blank on the Mexico-Texas Border

Every Houstonian worth their salt is a fan of Lighnin’ Hopkins, the Texas blues musician who made his career in Houston’s Third Ward in the late 40′s. Just recently, I found an amazing YouTube snippet of a 1968 documentary on Mr. Hopkins, by a film guy from Florida named Les Blank, called “The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins.”

Les Blank is a really interesting character, who has filmed dozens of documentaries on music cultures around the world since 1960. One of these is Chulas Fronteras, which heralds the rich culture on the Mexico-Texas border in 1979, way before FOX News and reality shows such as Border Wars existed.

You can watch the entirety of these videos on UC Berkeley’s site, or talk to Les Blank himself.

 

 

 

Thanks to @cwolffman for this gem.

 

Jimmie Rodgers – “Pistol Packin’ Papa”

“You can never take from me, my silver mounted gat.”

I thought Cypress Hill coined the term “gat” in the 90′s, but evidently it’s been around since the early 30′s. Listen to every word of this song, and the parallels to modern rap music will blow your mind. Enjoy!

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