Most people are surprised to learn I like hip-hop. Let me clarify — I like certain kinds of hip-hop that appeal to my pop sensibilities. Growing up with artists like the Black Eyed Peas and Outkast was the perfect time for me to indulge and get to know this diverse sector of music. Perhaps that’s what makes 3Bubble and J.Gray so appealing — that melding of dyed-in-the-wool hip-hop with a melodic edge certain to attract listeners of every ilk.

Because of their diverse sound, I knew there had to be more lurking beyond the surface, so I asked these two Houston artists to talk about five influential albums and songs. Take a gander below, and be sure to check out their new full-length release Live From the Pentagon, out now.

1. Room For Squares, John Mayer

Hearing this song for the first time sparked the desire to go out and explore other artists from different genres. You feel soul accents throughout that resonate from where we come from but you also connect with him, the artist. Something you don’t see very much then and now!

2. “Liberation,” Outkast

How can you listen to this song and not get inspired to go into the studio, lock all doors, and create until your eyes get dry? This song infused so many dynamics all into one time capsule. Incredible singing, incredible rapping, brilliant instrumentation, and genius spoken word. This is one of the greatest songs ever made, period! We’ve learned how to infused multiple elements into our songs and a lot of that inspiration came from here.

3. “Someday,” Scarface

We grew up listening to Scarface. Being from Houston and him having legendary status most of our lives, it was inevitable. This song is powerful, a blessing. The Neptunes track is only icing. What he did for us on this song was write exactly what he was feeling without any fears of backlash and he gave you a clear channel into his mind, heart, and upbringing. That’s an important way for the artist to connect with true fans and to build a relationship with the listener.

4. Sometimes, Bilal

He opened our eyes up to the possibility of genre-less music. Blending neo-soul and scatting vocals, with thoughtful poetic lyrics, wrapped in live hip-hop, blues, jazz and gospel instrumentation. Pure Genius. It sparked a fuse in our creativity. Still does!!

5. March Madness, Future

Regardless of your personal preference, Future’s ability to become another instrument inside the beat is undeniable. It’s a skill. People rap on top of the beat, or below the beat. Very few rap inside the beat. His musicality and lyrical honesty is what we model ourselves after.

 

Listen to “No Lie” from Live From the Pentagon: