Donnie Houston is the MC of H-Town’s Hip-Hop history
Written by Bradley Clark on February 10, 2023
One night in August 1973, an artist named DJ Kool Herc set down two vinyl disks, scratching them in a way that sounded unusual at the time. He could not have guessed what impact that one moment would ultimately have on music.
Since then, other artists from around the world have pushed the boundaries of that sound, adding lyrics, melodies, rhythms, and soul to a form of entertainment that most today call hip-hop.
As the hip-hop genre turns 50 years old, Donnie Houston, a local Houston producer, DJ, content creator, artist, and historian, has gone out of his way to preserve every aspect he can about the sound, its people, and its culture.
“We had all of these amazing stories that weren’t being told,” Houston said, referring to the importance of keeping the legacy of hip-hop artists alive.
Houston’s passion for the hip-hop genre began early on in his life, mainly through his connection with the women in his life.
“My mom played a lot of Motown, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight,” Houston said. “My younger sister, she’s the one who introduced me to hip–hop. Run DMC, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, and Salt-N-Pepa.”
He said his mother and sister positively impacted his existence and wonders if they’ll ever understand their role in his musical journey.
“They played music so much,” Houston said. “It just infected my brain. It just took over.”
As Houston entered his adult years and attended Texas Southern University, the genre of hip-hop in Houston grew up right next to him. TSU’s radio station, KTSU, began to run “Kidz Jamm,” the only weekly radio program in Houston aimed specifically towards youth and hip hop with popular DJs like Lester “Sir” Pace.
“Anybody who grew up in Houston always mentions how influential Kidz Jamm was,” Houston said. “I was a kid listening to Kidz Jamm, recording off of Kidz Jamm every Saturday morning.”
As he progressed through life’s journey, he began a podcast in 2017 titled “What They Talkin Bout Podcast.” It focused on pop culture and the current events happening at the time. In 2019; however, he completely re-invented his podcast, renaming it “The Donnie Houston Podcast.” He was determined to zone in on the legacy and history of hip-hop, especially here in his hometown.
“There’s a void to be filled here in Houston,” he said. “When I started this podcast, all of these stories started to come out. One led to two, then four, then eight, and so on and so forth. And here we are, over 200 episodes later, and there’s stories still untold.”
Another artist named Wickett Crickett was integral to the hip-hop scene here in Houston. He helped multiple hip–hop artists across the city find a stage. Like Houston, he was also a media personality, artist, producer, and historian. While the iconic artist passed away in 2015, Crickett’s impact, and the impact of many other artists, still resonates with Houston. As a historian, he hopes his podcast can emphasize this impactfully.
“The ones that are still here, they tell me that I’m doing a great job,” Houston said. “I tell them that’s the only thing that matters to me. This is the foundation that you guys laid. You guys went through so much, the good and the bad, everything to get to this point. My main goal is to make sure that I’m allowing for their stories to be told properly.”
As the next 50 years of hip-hop approaches, Houston hopes to see the next generation celebrate Black culture through hip-hop and their creativity.
“I want to see it continue to grow,” Houston said. “Kids are going to continue to come into this world and be more creative than the previous generation. You just never know. There’s always a new kid with a burst of creativity and new things to bring to the table.”
As for Houston himself, he wants to be remembered as a man who was passionate about preserving the legacy of hip-hop throughout his city.
“I just want people to remember me as someone who had a real genuine love for the culture,” Houston said. “Whether it is as a DJ, producer, or journalist, I hope that they remember me for the real love I had for this culture.”