It's an ineluctable truth that keeping up with #longform and #mp3 on the Internet is an impossible task. But the flip side to this hornet's nest of things flashing for your attention is the long tail of modern-day underground culture. Buried deep within a labyrinthine maze of broken links, hastily formatted webpages, Youtube videos with less than 5,000 views, there is transcendent internet magic just waiting for someone stumble onto it and share it with the world.
Enter Viper and "You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack," which the Chicago Reader highlighted last week both for its idiosyncratic sonics and creative approach to grammar. It's a title that demands attention but it's also a hell of a trip, a hypnotic anchor oozing with ominous, sluggish menace via Viper's tar pit bubble of a voice and that glitchy, needle-stuck-on-the-record "beat." (Sort of like SALEM, but without all of the authenticity issues.) Some further time with Viper's discography revealed upwards of a dozens of mixtapes, many of which are on Spotify, filled with plainly-titled gangland koans like "That There's A Stash Spot" and "I Sell Dope Boy," all of which varies in quality—he, too, was unable to escape the Auto-Tune craze—but the best songs using his molasses flow and consistently eerie production (most of which he does himself) to evoke a hyper-stoned lassitude. I'm sure "You'll Cowards" was forwarded around because of the title, but make no mistake: this is cold as ice, astonishingly pleasurable drug music that's deeply rooted in the chopped n' screwed sounds of his Houston hometown. Who cares if you'd never mistake him for a lyrical gymnast?
Originally written in 2007, "You'll Cowards" has shot up past 50,000 views on Youtube and seems destined for a second life as a slice of outsider art, crowning Viper an alternate reality Lil B, were the Based God a perpetually slowed-down gangbanger. (Two representative quotes, left through Viper's YouTube account: "It's good to see my extreme underratedness in the rap industry has not gone unnoticed…even in the twilight of my career" and, "The era of the real is at hand!") Viper is on Twitter, too, and after a quick back-and-forth he agreed to an interview, which he requested occur via text message.
Noisey: What was the motivation behind writing "You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack"?
Viper: I wrote "Cowards" when I had just got jumped into my gang 5-9 Piru. I was selling a little crack with my gang brothers and we had to always test the whip on a batch of work by taking a hit to make sure it was an A-1 batch before we closed out a batch before we closed out a batch or we'd sell out slow. I was still in college and making music at the time but I was slanging, too. I made the song just to tell people not to be judgmental in life especially when dealing with drugs or being judgmental to drug dealers. I've done every drug there is to do and even though I'm a successful real estate dealer I dabble in a few drugs every now and then with my gang brothers or friends just to show I'm still in touch with the streets and I don't walk around with my nose up.
In a nutshell the motivation behind "You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack" was this: though drugs aren't for everyone we shouldn't be judgmental of those who do them 'cause pointing the one finger at them points four back at us.
How do you feel about the song going viral as an introduction to your music?
I'm glad "You'll Cowards" is going viral because it's helping to push the Viper Movement. My other videos like "Grindin' Well" with my patented 2-hand gangser dunk on a 10 foot goal in Houston's 3rd ward or videos like "Her Systems Bumpin'" where I show my appreciation of women and other of my songs like these are more representative of my style and rap swag than "You'll Cowards" and depict more of my truer, inner essence. However, "You'll Cowards" is bringing publicity. And yeah, any publicity is good publicity in this game of rap and hip-hop.
Your voice is super deep—do you put any effects on it?
My rap voice is my natural speaking tone. I'm a big guy—6'2, 230 pounds—so I have big and deep vocal cords.
Do you still live in Houston?
Yep, I still live in Houston (my home town).
You rap about tough things in a way that's a lot more direct and unambiguous than other rappers. What's your life been like?
Yeah, when I went to the penitentiary I learned a lot about survival and a lot of rappers nowadays never experienced that. Not that that makes me harder than rappers that have never been to the joint, just crafted different. In the joint I was at my lowest point in life so I learned to channel my negative energy toward the positive and I think that's what shows in my lyrical style and makes it more raw than most.
Other than the pen, my life has been good so far. I had a good upbringing, the son of a preacher and a secondary school principal that spoiled me pretty good. They stressed education so I got a degree in business from University of Houston and I have a growing real estate organization and a growing music fanbase, so yeah, life has been good for me so far. I've been blessed.
When did you start rapping? Do you do your own production?
I started making music tracks and rapping as a teenager but put it on the backburner to college, but then came back to it strong after graduation. I have written over 3,000 songs. I wrote over 300 when I was in T.D.C. [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]. (I had more free time on my hands to write in there :-) )
I have been playing the piano since I was 6 years old so I do the majority of my own tracks. Like for "You'll Cowards," I used a Triton keyboard. But now I use a Motif and a Phantom to make the majority of my tracks.
Do you play shows?
I do shows but I haven't done one in a while. I've mainly been concentrating on production and I don't have a manager right now. However, I'm always down for touring so any promoters out there I'm down for whatever, so hit a thug up.
There's a lot of chopped n' screwed in your sound. Do you have any memories of being in that scene in the '90s?
Yeah, I grew up jammin' Screw but I also knew him personally so his slowed down musical style will always be a part of my rap music swag, and you'll feel that when you listen to my music. I wasn't really promo rapping then but I knew a lot of guys in the '90s scene. Me and DJ Screw were cool and I was in a movie with him called 5th Ward. Also I was super tight with Big Mellow and to this day I'm tight with the Botany Boys. I was a South Side baby so I was always linked in with S.U.C., Presidential Records, Wreck Shop and Short Stop. All the North Side cats kicked it with Swisher House so for the most part I never really linked in with too many of those guys; however, I'm still down to collaborate with whoever.
Where can Noisey readers find your music?
Thank you guys for this interview and if anyone wants to hear any of my music just google me—Rapper Viper—and a lot of my stuff will come up, or just Filetube me and check out my mixtapes. Also you can follow me at @RapperVipper. Thanks again you'll, peace and God bless.
You'll cowards don't even follow Jeremy Gordon on Twitter - @jeremypgordon