ABOVE PHOTO: BIG POKEY PERFORMS DURING THE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION FOR Z-RO at The Home of Blues in Downtown Houston on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Milton Powell, a Houston rapper who carried out below the identify Huge Pokey and is credited with elevating the town’s hip-hop scene, died Sunday, June 18, 2023, after collapsing throughout a present in Texas, in accordance with an area justice of the peace. He was 48. (Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle through AP)
By Gary Gerard Hamilton
HOUSTON — Huge Pokey, a preferred Texas rapper and authentic member of Houston’s pioneering Screwed Up Click on, died Sunday after a Juneteenth efficiency. Born Milton Powell, Pokey was 48.
Recognized for Texas and Gulf Coast hits resembling “Ball N’ Parlay,”“Who Dat Speaking Down,” and a verse on DJ Screw’s practically 36-minute iconic freestyle referred to as “June twenty seventh,” he collapsed whereas acting at Pour09, a Beaumont bar and nightlife house about an hour east of Houston.
Movies shortly circulated on social media of the rapper, who was featured on Megan Thee Stallion’s 2022 “Southside Royalty Freestyle,” taking a deep breath into his microphone earlier than showing to go out and fall onto his again. Pokey’s loss of life was confirmed to The Related Press by his publicist La’Torria Lemon, in addition to Tom Gillam III, a justice of the peace in Jefferson County, the place Powell was performing. Household and officers are awaiting post-mortem outcomes to study the reason for loss of life.
Huge Pokey, recognized by a slew of nicknames together with Huge Poyo and Podina, started to garner native fame within the late ’90s as an authentic member of the Screwed Up Click on, a buddy group-turned-rap collective led by DJ Screw. The trendsetting DJ developed the slowed, pitched-down music model referred to as “chopped and screwed” music that will finally grow to be synonymous with Houston, and whose mixtapes unfold all through the southeastern United States.
The sound reached a fever pitch within the mid-2000s as different fellow well-liked underground Houston artists like Lil’ Flip, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and UGK signed nationwide distribution offers and introduced mainstream consideration to the sound.
Pokey launched his debut album, “Hardest Pit within the Litter” in 1999, and “Da Recreation 2000” the next 12 months. It was a pre-streaming period the place music was regionalized, and the most well-liked Houston rappers might grow to be rich with out ever having to tour or get radio play exterior of the state.
Pokey grew up within the southside of Houston the place he turned a soccer standout at Yates Excessive Faculty, turning into very shut mates with George Floyd, the Black man whose homicide by Minneapolis police touched off world protests and a nationwide reckoning with police brutality and racism.
“This was my brother. And to take a seat there and watch my brother die — the legislation killed my homeboy in entrance of the world. We watched him combat for his life till he was lifeless. That was torture. He died a horrible loss of life, and that hurts,” Pokey wrote in an op-ed for the Chronicle printed days after Floyd’s killing.
Within the op-ed calling for police accountability, Pokey mirrored on his days taking part in highschool soccer with “Huge Floyd” and their a permanent bond.
“He’s from Houston, Texas, Third Ward, and he was pleased with it on daily basis of his life till they took it,” he wrote. “He was any individual. He’s obtained an entire neighborhood that loves him.”
Pokey took his athletic skills to junior school soccer powerhouse Blinn after which Abilene Christian College earlier than specializing in his emcee abilities.
Nationally, Pokey was most recognized for a featured look on Paul Wall’s 2005 debut hit music, “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” The refrain was sampled from Pokey’s verse on “June twenty seventh” during which he rhymed, “Sittin’ sideways, boys in a daze/on a Sunday night time, I’d bang me some Maze,” referring to the legendary soul band.
“June twenty seventh” is considered arguably probably the most influential music within the chopped & screwed cannon, and one of the essential songs in Texas rap historical past. The sound continues to be prevalent at this time with native Houstonians like Beyoncé and Travis Scott incorporating screwed components into their music, together with different large artists resembling Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and Bryson Tiller. Hip-hop famous person Drake, an avid fan of Houston rap, paid homage to “June twenty seventh” on his music “November 18.”
Pokey additionally crafted different Texas classics, dubbed as “nation rap tunes” by late southern hip-hop icon Pimp C, like “On Choppers,” and penned standout visitor verses on Huge Moe’s “Maan!”, a preferred Texas tackle Black Rob’s “Whoa!”
His final venture was 2021’s “Sensei,” referring to a different one in every of his nicknames and dubbed as his comeback album.
Followers, mates and collaborators took his loss of life arduous, with tributes pouring in from the likes of Paul Wall, Slim Thug, finest buddy Lil Keke, and Bun B, who referred to as Powell “one of the naturally proficient artists” in Houston.
“He’d pull up, do what he needed to do and head residence. One of many pillars of our metropolis,” Bun B stated on Instagram.
Powell leaves behind a spouse and three college-aged kids.