Michael “5000” Watts started making mixtapes to get lunch money in school. More than a decade later, the Houston native stands as one of the city’s most significant rap businessmen. The Swisha House figurehead has chopped and screwed dozens of albums and singles, released platinum albums from Mike Jones and Paul Wall and helped pioneer one of the most influential movements of Southern rap in the last decade.
Given his impressive resume, it’s no wonder Watts was enlisted to serve as a mentor for the up-and-coming artists on the recent Red Bull Skooled tour, a seven-day jaunt that included stops in Watts’ native Houston and San Antonio, where he mentored emerging Texas artists Kydd, AD.d+, The Niceguys, Worldwide and DJ Sober before rocking a capacity audience at On the Half Shell.
While in San Antonio, Watts gave RedBullUSA.com an exclusive list of his Top 5 moments in Texas rap history.
5. Going to 106 & Park and Spring Bling
Michael Watts: I’d always seen the stuff on TV but I never guessed that I would be a part of this type of stuff. I never thought that I’d be involved with something where I could go on 106 & Park or Spring Bling and see our logo on the screen in front of millions of people. When it was happening, I was stunned. I was like, “This is a dream.”
4. Getting Fired From His First Radio Station
Michael Watts: It’s funny how it all happened, man. I had one of those PDs [program directors] and his mindset was that he didn’t want to let a radio jock get bigger than the radio station. In my mind, it was never like that.
When I was getting fired, the PD had the SoundScan in his hand for my first album, “The Day Hell Broke Loose.” He said, “I don’t know why you even stay here. The check that you get here barely pays for your lunch. You should go ahead on and pursue your career and move on to bigger and better things.”
I hated that because I did the radio station job because I just loved it. It wasn’t about the money. But when he said that, it stunned me. I didn’t know that because you’re successful at something that it could get you fired. I can understand getting fired because of lack of performance or if I did something stupid or cost the company money.
3. Releasing The “Who Is Mike Jones?” Album
Michael Watts: That was the first solo artist that I ever put out and his record went double platinum. I never really expected it to get to that point. That was a great moment for me right there. It was crazy for me and it still is today because when I started doing this, I never really did it to be big or to be famous. I still don’t let it get to my head because all that stuff doesn’t really matter to me. I really do what I love and I’m just blessed to be able to survive off of it.
2. Pimp C Concert Fresh Out Of Jail
Michael Watts: When Pimp C got out of jail, he did his first show at this club in Houston called Northside. That show meant so much to me. Actually, that was my first UGK show that I actually went to.
It was an historical event because Pimp had just gotten out. It was right around Christmas 2005 or New Year’s 2006. It proved that he hadn’t lost a step. UGK just being the great group that they are and to see that this man was out and that the legend was back, it was an energizing experience just to be there for that one moment in time.
1. The Release Of “The Day Hell Broke Loose.”
Michael Watts: That was in 1999. We had been putting out underground CDs for a couple years before that. We ended up getting a deal with South By Southwest. They actually ended up funding the record and that was the first commercial release that we dropped.
That record created a wave that started birthing the success of a lot of independent artists in Texas that weren’t on the Rap-A-Lot label. After that album, it seems like a lot of up-and-coming artists started getting deals on their own. Lil’ Flip, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, ESG, Lil’ Troy, SPM -- all of them got deals and a lot of artists started going platinum.
That broke the belief that if you were from Texas, you weren’t going platinum unless you were on Rap-A-Lot.
- For more info on Michael “5000” Watts, visit michael5000watts.com
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