03.03.2011 in19:48 in People -->
Houston, Texas occupies a peculiar spot on the global stage, in the spotlight because of its importance to the global economy but rarely seen as anything other than a center of business. The perception of this southern metropolis is hardly any different within the United States. When it comes to the question of what Houston has to offer culturally, misperceptions invariably abound.
To some degree, there is merit to that. Master-planned communities blanket huge swaths of land, strip centers and office parks line the freeways and newly built condominiums swallow up some of Houston’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods in a block-by-block process of gentrification that eschews interest in the city’s history. To the eyes of visitors, Houston does not present well.
But Houston’s non-centralized and non-zoned geography present drawbacks that extend far beyond real estate value or cultural visibility. Poor civic services and one of the nation’s weakest public transportation systems, combined with its non-pedestrian friendly streets, long summers and unforgiving urban sprawl, have put many of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods on the fringe of an already polarized cultural dichotomy. Parts of Houston have, for decades, remained estranged from Houston.
In that, new cultures have sprouted within those pockets of the city. The neighborhoods of South Park, Fifth Ward and Third Ward have, over the space of the last thirty years, produced a culture centered around rap music that has flourished independently, in the process creating a sustainable economy of its own within the city limits. Houston has developed its own musical genres (the slowed-down sounds of DJ Screw and the horrorcore of Ganksta NIP and the Geto Boys), cultivated a car culture (slabs, candy paint, custom rims) and innovative approach to jewelry (diamond-encrusted mouthpieces known as grills), a homegrown vice (Codeine Promethazine cough syrup mixed with soda) and has encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit that has become commonplace among its artists. This has resulted in an independent scene where artists promote and release their own records, selling them directly to the fans to eliminate the middlemen and keep the money in the community.