Michael “5000” Watts:
Catapulted into the public eye with their sleeper hit “Still Tippin’” in 2005, the Houston, TX-based Swishahouse roster suddenly found themselves in the national spotlight. No one benefited more than label founder and prominent local DJ Michael “5000” Watts, who unofficially became the poster boy for chopped-and-screwed music after the legendary DJ Screw’s death. Chopped-and-screwed eventually grew to be an international phenomenon, with Watts administering his signature audio molasses to dozens of retail releases for acts as diverse as Japanese rappers Teriyaki Boyz and Cali rockers the Transplants.
While Houston’s buzz waned in 2006, Watts has recharged his batteries with the recent release of The Day Hell Broke Loose 3, the third installment of the series that planted the seeds for the label’s success. Still, rumors of financial disputes between the label and their biggest-selling artist, Mike Jones, persist. While Jones’ droning flow and catchy phone number are absent from recent Swishahouse releases, Watts insists that the rapper still has business dealings with the label.
Despite the lack of support from one of his best-selling artists, Watts plans on making 2007 a big year for Houston, with releases from Screwed Up Click member Lil Keke, Archie Lee, Paul Wall and Paul’s wife, Crystal. XXLMAG.COM spoke with the DJ about the Mike Jones situation, the birth of Swishahouse R&B and what the House that Watts built has planned for the new year.
Paul Wall feat. Lil Keke & Archie Lee “They Still Don’t Know”
Lil Keke feat. Juelz Santana & Archie Lee “On What We On”
Lil Keke feat. Crystal “In These Streets”
All taken from The Day Hell Broke Loose 3, in stores now.
The single from The Day Hell Broke Loose 2 was “Still Tippin’,” which was a massive crossover hit. The new compilation is out and it doesn’t really seem to have a single out. Was that planned?
Actually, right now we’re seeing exactly what the street is doing, and we’re going to run with that. Because when we had The Day Hell Broke Loose 2, we were running with a different song than “Still Tippin’.” So what we did was flipped that “Still Tippin’” single into a single for Mike Jones, since it was already hot in the street. So this is the plan that we have for this record right here. That way, when we do shoot for the next single, it’s a proven fact—this is what people want and we have a high chance on winning.
Speaking of Mike Jones, there are a lot of rumors circulating about how he’s not repping Swishahouse anymore. He’s not rocking the chain and he’s only been shouting out Ice Age, his own company. What happened?
We not A&Ring his project that’s coming out right now, but we still got a deal. Our deal is still there.
Are you guys still cool?
It’s a business deal, you know? We’re running a business here.
Business aside, is there a reason he’s detached himself from Swishahouse?
Actually, that’s a Mike Jones question. We’re still doing everything that we did from the beginning, so nothing’s changed with us. I think that’s more of a Mike Jones question.
If it were up to you, would he still be…
If it were up to me, as far as I’m concerned, everything that’s our job to do, we’re still doing the same job. Nothing has changed.
He isn’t on The Day Hell Broke Loose 3, though.
No, he’s not.
But you’re still going to be releasing albums with him?
Yeah. We’re still releasing albums and everything.
Mike Jones recently recorded a freestyle with Chamillionaire, his former enemy. You guys have had sort of an adversarial relationship with him, no?
I don’t. Adversarial relationship—that was between Chamillionaire and Mike Jones. I never had any animosity towards Chamillionaire.
A lot of people expected Paul Wall to sell more than Chamillionaire. Were you surprised at Cham’s huge crossover success?
Chamillionaire is talented, man. I’m not surprised by that at all. He’s smart. I’m not surprised he did the numbers that he did. I been working with him for years, before he popped and I know what kind of talent he has.
Paul’s second album was supposed to come out in 2006. What’s the status now?
It’s coming out March 27. We’re finishing it up right now so we have more than enough time to market it.
Is there a single in mind?
Yeah, we got one called “Break ‘Em Off.” We haven’t serviced it yet. But that’s the first one we’re gonna push for.
Paul’s wife, Crystal, makes her debut singing on The Day Hell Broke Loose 3. Is this your entrée into the R&B game?
Yeah, we want to try it out. She’s pretty good with understanding what we’re doing. She has talent and we wanted to give her a shot.
You do any chopped and screwed R&B?
It’s crazy that you say that. I do a radio show in Houston, Texas, [KBXX] 97 on The Box. Every Sunday night from 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock, I do two hours of chopped and screwed R&B music. It’s really big out there in Houston. But our main thing is we’re going to push her as a regular artist and do our thing with it and see how it works out. We can’t put a date on it but we’re looking forward to it.
Is Paul active in her career?
I’m pretty sure he is; they’re married. She’s on a couple songs on Paul’s new album. She’s got some work on Keke’s new stuff too. She gets involved with a couple undergrounds and everything. She’s doing some hooks, doing some regular songs, she’s actually rapping. We did a Gangsta Grillz from Drama with Keke, right? She’s actually rapping on it. She’s a multi-talented girl. Besides Crystal, we have Archie Lee, Cootabang, we have some brand new cats by the name of E-Class and Yung Redd.
Tell me a little bit about the new artists.
Archie Lee, he’s been down with me since day one, when I first started doing this Swishahouse movement. He did a couple things and signed with us and now he’s getting ready to drop a new record called Hollyhood.
Cootabang is really street. He’s a new addition to the cast. One thing about what we’ve been doing is we’ve been commercial. We haven’t been having a lot of strong street stuff like it was before. Like when we first started out, our shit was all mainly street-based. And Coota, he’s street. He has his own style that you’ve never heard before.
Yung Redd, he’s one of those fly, laid-back cats. As a matter of fact, Yung Redd did a little ghostwriting for Flip and some more artists. He didn’t really get exposed off that, but our main thing now is to expose him to the mainstream.
E-Class is from Dallas. he has a style of his own. He’s a mixture—street and reality. He’s not one of those people whose main focus is being fly. A lot of his stuff is just being real. He has a different style that we’ve never worked with before. That’s one thing I like about the roster we have right now. Nobody’s style is like each other.
Who are you looking to work with next outside of the Swishahouse camp?
I got a call from Jeezy a couple weeks ago. I’m looking forward to doing some work with him, maybe next year.
Texas veterans like UGK are finally getting their props. Are you trying to cut a similar path for Lil’ Keke?
UGK, they’re like the originators of Houston culture before it got exposed to the mainstream. But Keke, man, a lot of the styles that people have been doing out here from Houston, it came from Keke and another group called Street Military. They were just not really exposed to the mainstream outside of Houston. The name of Keke’s album is going to be Loved by Few, Hated by Many. That’s coming out next year.
Last year was a really big year for you guys. It seems like 2006 has been toned down a little bit.
Yeah, 2005 was a…we slowed down off the streets. And right now we’re really gonna pick up and put more out on the streets. A lot of people been asking for it. I feel like the streets really need what we’ve been putting out.
Do you think the mainstream viewed Houston as a trend? Is it going to be difficult to reenter to spotlight?
If you’re hungry and put out good shit, people will always respect that. Our stuff has been buzzing for years, so it’s more than just a trend. People respect our music because it’s actually good.