Somehow, someway, there were worthwhile records left off our OCD year-end litanies. Accordingly, we’re spending the next few days paying tribute to the rap, R&B, and African records that slipped beneath the surface.
Earlier this year, Shea Serrano, the illegitimate son of the former Cuban Cleveland Indians slugger and the most underrated rap journalist extant, sold me on Preemo with this pitch: “his choice of rap name is terrible, but that’s about it. He released an album called Concrete Dreams in April. It was phenomenal — easily the best hip-hop album to come out of Houston thus far this year. It was better than Devin’s, better than Paul’s new one, better than Ro’s, it was even better than Bun’s mixtape that wasn’t a mixtape. Plus, he’s Mexican, and I love Mexicans. I mean, have you ever eaten a chimichanga? That shit is delicious.”
He’s right, chimichanga’s are delicious and Concrete Dreams deserved the national recognition that it never received. Locally, it became a cause celebre among the Houston Press and various underground heads, with three separate articles touting the Mexican-born rapper born Aaron Beltran (it finished at #2 in the publication’s year-end list). Following a decade of label deals and de facto shattered hopes, Concrete Dreams marked the Brownsville, TX-raised rhymer’s official introduction — a 19 song collection studded with Sly Stone samples, interstitial clips of Inside Man, meditations on fatherhood, coming to grips with irrational realities, and the occasional Easter Sunday seduction of Venezuelan women who watch telenovelas.
With a springy conversational flow poised between Kid Cudi and Devin the Dude, Preemo’s style strikes an equilibrium amidst the regional Chevrolet rattle and the hyper-melodic new school. See album highlight, “Crown and Coke,” where a “So Whatcha’ Want” sample slowly melts like ice cubes in the titular drink, blending perfectly with psychedelic country-rap guitar riffs and Beltran’s four-shot slur. He couldn’t have selected a more apt title — Concrete Dreams is the story of a man focused on unshakable realities, while keeping his mind afloat and his eyes busy. –-Jeff Weiss
MP3: Preemo-“New Pistol”