Torii MacAdams never forgets his Hot Take Protective Lenses™
The artwork for Trinity Garden Cartel’s Don’t Blame It On Da Music shows the group on their knees, handcuffed, looking at a man half covered by a white sheet. Standing behind the trio are Houston police officers. Real ones. A photographer captured the officers responding to a car alarm, and they were later superimposed without their permission on the album cover. Rap-A-Lot Records was forced to attempt to recall retail copies of the album, and Don’t Blame It On Da Music would be the group’s only album on the label. That didn’t deter member D of Trinity Garden Cartel (Yes, he went by “D of Trinity Garden Cartel”), who’d release Straight Texas Hoodlum the following year.
Straight Texas Hoodlum landed firmly in Houston rap’s adolescence. During the mid-1990’s, Houston’s signature sound began coalescing. 1995’s Straight Texas Hoodlum hews a middle ground between ESG’s incredible and wildly underrated Ocean of Funk and Scarface’s The Diary*. D’s raps about gruesome acts of violence, imprisonment, and death are backed by a mix of paranoiac heaviness and laid-back g-funk instrumentals. When Straight Texas Hoodlum was released, Houston rap hadn’t yet fully submerged itself in a pint of drank, but it was at least knee deep in gin ‘n’ juice.
“Straight Texas Hoodlum,” “For You World,” “Hood Song” (which interpolates The Brothers Johnson’s version of “Strawberry Letter 23”), and “Have Nutz Have Money” are all highlights of the album, and all bear the mark of the West Coast’s signature sound. Houston rap music has been more similar to the scenes in Los Angeles and the Bay Area since the early 90’s, and Straight Texas Hoodlum is no exception. On the album’s cover, D stands next to a red lowrider, feet askew, dressed in baggy Dickies, and white Chuck Taylor’s– a g-funk uniform if there ever was one. He’s also dressed in an Houston Oilers cap, matching Apex jacket, and is backed by the outline of Texas. These are the two halves of D of Trinity of Garden Cartel, a rapper grounded in Houston, but with a g-funk twist.
*The legendary Mike Dean, who worked on The Diary, also engineered Straight Texas Hoodlum.