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5 Questions: Cory Mo Delivers Country Rap Tunes

A relationship with Pimp C and Bun B changed everything

Houston is no stranger to the kind of moments that seemingly bubble up out of cities for extended periods. Atlanta is having its own right now with Future, Migos, 6LACK, Deonte Hitchcock, Yung Thug and countless others pushing the culture in places hip-hop hasn’t seen before. Los Angeles had its own with the rise of TDE, Nipsey Hustle and YG in the last half-decade. It’s all cyclical, these things have happened in New York, the Bay Area, Chicago and Miami over and over in the last 30 years, but when it happens in Houston, it’s special.

The South rarely gets the love it deserves for delivering paradigm shifting albums and epochs because so much of the coverage of the culture comes from the coasts, but Houston is one of those cities that artists from everywhere need to capture if they’re really going to make it.

The first huge Houston moment came with the Geto Boys, who pushed the boundaries on hip-hop storytelling to edges few rapers have dared to even consider exploring since. Scarface, Bushwick Bill and Willie D were responsible for influencing several generations of southern hip-hop artists, including the legendary Underground Kings in Pimp C and Bun B.

As Pimp and Bun grew their stranglehold on the Houston sound, they began turning to rapper/producer Cory Mo to bring Country Rap Tunes to life through his pristine ear for sampling soul classics and hard hitting drum patterns. Cory Mo parlayed his relationship with Pimp and Bun into a discography that can go beat for beat with your favorite producer.

Cory Mo and his brother, Mike Mo, owned and operated the hottest Houston recording studio during one of the biggest moments in Houston hip-hop history when guys like Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones and Chamillionaire were all you’d hear on the radio no matter what part of the country you’re from.

These days, Cory Mo runs his studio out of Atlanta and hosts the Country Rap Tunes radio show with Bun B and runs Just Sayin Clothing, a collection of t-shirts, hoodies and hats that essentially captures the essence of who Cory Mo is and where he comes from.

Wanderset sat down with Cory Mo to talk about Houston, his relationship with Pimp and Bun and how he and his brother built the hottest studio in H-Town.

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Wanderset: How did you get started doing music?

Corey Mo: Well, I started doing music many moons ago. I started rapping in the fifth grade. My older brother was in high school. He was in a rap group. So he was in the 12th grade and I wanted to be like him. So I started rapping and ended up winning a few talent shows at school. Fast-forward a few years later it turned into me learning how to make beats.

So originally man, it was really my older brother who inspired me to do everything. He was really good friends with Pimp C Back in the early 90s. They was real close. He ended up buying Pimp C’s Cadillac from him and they got real cool. He kind of just pushed me onto Pimp C like, ‘you got to listen to my little brother. You got to check him out.’ From there, Pimp C kind of took me under his wing and just taught me everything he knew.

Wanderset: When you started making beats, did you have a music background? Did you play any instruments, or is it just kind of something you just picked up because you had a feel for it?

Corey Mo: Well my grandfather used to be in the choir my uncle played drums. I used to I used to always play around on my uncle’s drum set. I used to get on his nerves doing that and then play on my grandfather’s organ every now and then as a kid. I never thought it would turn into anything, but I was always messing around, I was always fascinated by it.

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Wanderset: For some of your early production, what were you drawing inspiration from? Were there any styles you were trying to emulate until you found your own sound?

Well I mean I was really trying to just satisfy Pimp and Bun. I was trying to produce beats that they would like. I think I bought my first beat machine in like 99. I would sample a lot, you know? I would play keys and just play around with the whole country rap tunes type of sound. I used to listen to a lot of old Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson.

I was always in the soul music because as my parents used to listen to so you know I used to sample a bunch of old-school soul stuff. I used to really really like to dig into crates on them samples, man. My biggest inspiration is just pulling up the old samples and just catching a vibe.

Wanderset: Just from listening to those old records and hearing Pimp say it all the time, Country Rap Tunes is kind of the sound of Houston. What is it about the city that gives the music that feel?

Country Rap Tunes is really just another name for southern hip-hop that Pimp came up with. You know, being from Texas everybody wants to create country rap tunes because that’s that old UGK, Geto Boyz feel. A lot of people don’t know, but it really started with the Geto Boys. It’s that old Willie D, that old Scarface with the live baselines and funky old samples. It all started with the Geto Boys, and you know, Pimp and Bun just took it to another level.

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Wanderset: You said Pimp took you under his wing when you were young. How did your relationship with him and Bun develop over the years?

It was really just a family thing. It was more than music. You know, it was just some regular shit, man. It was way more than music. They taught me more than just music; they taught me morals, ethics, loyalty, right from wrong — you know, just a little bit of everything. It was just a constant everyday thing. Just being around them boys from going to the mall to kick it with broads all the way to smoking and going to sleep. It was just a way of life for me.

Wanderset: How did their relationship with Pimp and Bun put you in position to work with artists on a more national level like Z-Ro, Face, TLC, CyHi and Talib?

I mean it definitely helped out. Anyone who wanted to come to Houston to work with Pimp or Bun had to come to me and my brother to record them. If Rick Ross or Talib Kweli or Too Short came to Houston and wanted to work with Pimp and B, they’d have to call me. I definitely gained a lot of lifetime relationships just by having the main recording studio that they worked out of.

I was already working with a few artists before I started with Pimp. You know, cats like Big Mike and Slim Thug and a few other people before I really started working closely with UGK. I had Chamillionaire, Paul Wall — they was already recording at my studio. But once that Pimp C’s solo album came out and then that Devin The Dude album came out, the whole city was looking for beats.

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Wanderset: Can you talk a little about like that era when guys like Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Mike Jones and Paul Wall were owning the airwaves in the early to mid-2000s? What was it like in Houston during that time?

It was off the chain, man. Sheeiit, it was prime time because I had the studio where everybody went. It was just constant, man. I might have Mike Jones in the studio at 2 o’clock, Chamillionaire would pull up at 6 and Slim would pull up at 8 and Pimp would pull up at 10. I was always crazy, like, ‘who finna come up in here now?’ I never knew who was about to ring the doorbell next, it was off the chain. For a good, solid couple of years, Houston was crazy.

Wanderset: How did you and your brother build the studio that everyone wanted to be at during that time? What made you guys the spot?

We used to promote the hardest. We used to create these little demo flyers and put them on people cars after the concerts. We used to always be at talent shows passing out flyers, giving away studio time. We got cool with radio DJs so they could shout us out. It was just constant promotion. And when people found out that UGK recorded there, we had to start turning people away. Early on, though, it was just us passing out flyers all day, every day.

Wanderset: Let’s end with your clothing brand. Why the name Just Sayin?

I picked Just Sayin mainly because the clothing line is just a bunch of sayings. But it’s more than just a clothing line, I do custom prints on shirts, hoodies, hats and socks for other people’s clothing lines, as well as their merch. I’ve been doing this for a while. The first shirt we ever made had M.A.D Studios on the front — and M.A.D stood for Money At the Door, and on the back it said, ‘Fuck You, Pay Me.’ People loved them, and once those started to sell, we just stuck with it and have kept it going ever since.

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