Big Moe

Houston bred a growing scene of homegrown rap artists throughout the mid- to late '90s, and Big Moe became one of the first to break out of Texas and go national. Unlike most of the Houston rappers, who tended to offer a hardcore style, Moe offered a much more accessible one. He both rapped and sang, and his producers crafted smooth, melodic tracks that bounced along at a leisurely pace. Plus, he precisely balanced the fine line between the underground and mainstream. Moe's songs were often street-themed, with intoxicants being a prime theme; yet they were simultaneously radio-friendly and hook-laden, with his breakthrough single, "Purple Stuff," being a perfect example. Like many of his Houston peers, Moe began his career freestyling on DJ Screw's mixtapes before graduating to Wreckshop Records. The label released the big man's debut album, City of Syrup (2000), the title nodding to Houston's reputation for drinking codeine-laced syrup, which Moe pours from a Styrofoam cup on the album's cover. City of Syrup album featured a noteworthy hit, "Mann!," that Moe intended to be the Dirty South's answer to Black Rob's East Coast hit "Whoa!" His intentions proved successful, and listeners rewarded him with a reputation-establishing hit. A year and half later, Moe returned with his second album, Purple World (2002), the album that would introduce him to the world. It offered a who's who ensemble of Houston vocalists, excellent production by Blue and Salih Williams, and two versions of Moe's breakthrough single, "Purple Stuff." Plus, Priority Records distributed the album, ensuring that it would be everywhere, from the street corners of Houston to the Wal-Marts of suburban America. MTV even gave Moe's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory-themed video a few rotations. ~ Jason Birchmeier

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