The rap world and we at the Weekly were deeply saddened to hear of the untimely death of Houston rap legend Mr. 3-2 after a shooting at a gas station last week. While details of his death are sparse, his legacy is among the most underrated nationally of rappers who’ve had a prolific impact through innovative ahead-of-their-time music. Mr. 3-2, real name Christopher Barriere and otherwise known as “The Governor,” was only 44 when he passed, making him still a teenager when he made some of the most important and infectious records to come out of the Houston scene. As a tribute, we’ve assembled five of our favorites.
Convicts – “Peter Man” (1990)
3-2 first emerged as one-half of Convicts, his duo with future Geto Boy Big Mike, who would later go on to solo fame with his track “Havin’ Thangs.” Convicts’ self-titled album is a concept record from the perspective of, you guessed it, two convicts. There’s a certain song this album is particularly known for to the point where the rest of this record is more known for, but I’ll get to that in a second. The whole album warrants your attention, and my favorite track is the cinematic “Peter Man.” 3-2’s masterful flow knows where to speed-up and slow-down over his narrative effortlessly, even around sound effects.
Convicts – “1-900-Dial-A-Crook” (1990)
I could have made this entire list all Convicts songs because the album is incredible, but being this is a career-wide retrospective on 3-2, I have to mention “1-900-Dial-A-Crook,” a perfectly layered “crime hotline” style track whose concept would be replicated a decade later by Jay-Z’s “1-900-HUSTLER” which gave Freeway a career. Even without the Jigga footnote, the Convicts original is such a creative record, and indicative of the unpredictable fun that RAP-A-LOT Records was in their prime.
The Terrorists – “South Park Coalition” (1991)
A standard for just about all of the best Rap-A-Lot albums in the early 90s were the extensive posse cuts featuring at least a half-dozen guest verses from other members of the label’s roster. 3-2 (credited here and around this time as “Lord 3-2”) always killed these, and stole the show early with the first verse on The Terrorists’ banger “South Park Coalition.” Starting the show with a show-stopper, it speaks even more to his insane level of talent that this opening verse was only 12 bars long!
Blac Monks – “Buddah Nature” (1995)
When Big Mike joined the Geto Boys, 3-2 dipped out to Los Angeles to work with the Chronic-era Death Row roster. Adapting to the new west coast Compton style, he returned to Houston and formed the group Blac Monks, marrying the L.A. sound with a Houston aesthetic. With a weed-centric concept album, it’s further testament to how much 3-2 evolved as an artist, sticking to so many different themes for his full-length releases and excelling with them.
UGK – “One Day” (1996)
Finally, we have “One Day.” The signature track from UGK’s classic Ridin' Dirty album, it was originally a 3-2 song that he let the duo have. 3-2 still spits the first verse, and what an amazing verse it is! The hyper-localized intimacy of 3-2’s narrative is so specific, it makes the underlying themes even more universal. Easily one of the most important and impactful verses in the entire canon of southern hip-hop.
It can’t be overstated what an important record “One Day” is, and it wouldn’t exist without 3-2. On a personal note, I was living in New York in the mid-aughts, at the height of NYC’s own “if it’s not made in NYC, it’s not hip-hop” disrespectful defensiveness. As a Minnesota-born huge UGK fan, it’s rare I would get to indulge in my Texas rap fandom. The moments these would happen would often be through chance meetings from Texans or southerners passing through the city and stopping at whatever hip-hop club or event was happening that not. Always down for a good rap conversation, once I’d find out someone was from Texas, I’d start rattling off names. On some of these occasions, the mention of UGK would lead to their responding with immediately singing the hook from “One Day” and then the two of us going through 3-2’s verse word-for-word. That’s how powerful that record it, it’s connected enough with listeners to make anywhere it’s heard feel like home.