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Made in Texas: How Slabs became a symbol of Houston’s hip hop culture

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HOUSTONWelcome to Made in Texas, where we write about products made in the Lone Star State.

Today, we’re featuring the customized automobiles that are symbolic of Houston’s hip hop culture, Slabs.

What is a slab?

Slabs are modified vehicles outfitted with elbow wheels known as swangas, glossy candy paint and booming sound systems that originated in Houston.

Older American luxury cars like Cadillacs, Lincolns and Buicks are among the models customized due to their large bodies. Other customizations exclusive to slabs include neon or glass signs in the trunk and a fifth wheel mounted on the back of the automobile.

The word “slab” is said to be an acronym that stands for slow, loud and bangin', according to Business Insider.

The story behind slabs

The first vehicles modified with elbow wheels trace back to the 1970s, according to Slab Culture.

Slabs began to emerge in Houston’s African American communities in the mid-1980s and gained popularity in the 1990s thanks to the city’s hip hop culture and the new sounds of chopped and screwed music created by DJ Screw.

Chopped and screwed is described as a muddy, slow and somewhat psychedelic sound by Langston Wilkins, an ethnomusicologist, Houston native and slab aficionado in an interview with the Phantom Power Podcast.

Slabs owners would swerve through city streets playing the music of local rappers such as DJ Screw, Big Moe, UGK, Z-RO, Lil Keke, Slim Thug and Paul Wall, from the car’s explosive stereo systems to pay tribute to their neighborhoods, according to the Phantom Power Podcast.

“A slab isn’t just a type of car. It’s an entire experience, and it’s an entire culture, so it’s certainly special," Wilkins said in an interview with Business Insider.


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