Houston is mourning the loss of a true icon as the city remembers the life and legacy of hip hop legend Big Pokey. His powerful presence and undeniable talent played a pivotal role in transforming Houston’s rap scene capturing the hearts of music enthusiasts worldwide.

Just a week before this year’s DJ Screw Day on June 27, a day that holds deep significance for Houston’s music history, Big Pokey’s untimely passing became a bittersweet moment serving as a poignant tribute to the profound impact of Big Pokey’s legacy.

Hundreds of fans packed out the Southside Sporting Club for Screw Fest, rolling up in candy paint low riders, custom-made memorabilia, artwork, and positive energy joining fellow Houston hip hop heavy weights Lil ’Keke, Lil’ Flip, and E.S.G to pay homage to DJ Screw, Pimp C and Big Pokey.

“To be able to celebrate Big Pokey on June 27 along with his passing and be able to celebrate the culture all in one is a beautiful thing,” said Lil ‘Keke. “I’m always going to put forth the best efforts I can do to be my brother’s keeper.”

Lil ‘Keke and Big Pokey often appeared together on songs that showcased their lyrical prowess and chemistry. Their collaborations extended beyond the studio, as they often performed on stages together. As Lil ‘Keke stepped on the Screw Fest stage, he filled the void of Big Pokey’s presence spinning his biggest hits, while the crowd danced, cheered, and chanted the lyrics word for word, just like the good old days.

Humble Beginnings

Milton “Big Pokey” Powell grew up in Houston’s Third Ward. As a teenager, he found solace in both football and music, attending Jake Yates High School where he excelled as a player while nurturing his love for hip hop. Little did he know that his passion for music would lead him on a groundbreaking journey that would shape the course of Houston’s hip-hop scene forever.

In the early 1990s, Big Pokey became one of the original members of the influential Screwed Up Click, a collective founded by DJ Screw. The group’s unique sound, characterized by slowed-down, chopped, and screwed techniques, would become synonymous with Houston’s hip hop identity. Big Pokey’s deep, resonant voice and compelling lyrics painted vivid pictures of the streets he called home.

“We went to school together, that’s how deep we go. We both played on the football team together,” said rapper and producer Papa Reu. “I’m an island boy [Trinidad and Tobago]. I taught these guys about the Caribbean, and was the first international influence at Jake Yates High School. He was a big part of my journey; these are memories I can never forget.”

Big Pokey solidified his legacy through his notable contributions to two of Houston’s most iconic songs. He delivered a memorable verse on DJ Screw’s tape in 1996, and then years later in 2005, he seamlessly connected his lines from the mixtape to Paul Wall’s breakout hit.

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Besides putting out his own music, he has featured on songs with Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Mike Jones, Lil’ Flip, Megan Thee Stallion and others.

He released his debut album, “Hardest Pit in the Litter” in 1999, and “Da Game 2000” the following year. His last project was in 2021, referring to one of his many nicknames, and dubbed as his comeback album.

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Bittersweet Farewell

UGK rapper Bernard “Bun B” Freeman shared a heartfelt message on Instagram describing Pokey as a “low key, humble mountain of a man who moved with honor and respect.” A man who was “easy to love and hard to hate.”

Pokey collapsed on stage during a performance at Pour09 club in Beaumont on June 17, and passed away at a hospital a day after, a representative for the musician confirmed in a statement. Pokey was 48.

“I love him and I miss him… We’re going to keep this movement alive,” said fellow Screwed Up Click member, D-Red. “He was cool. He was fun and just was about his music and he was about his legacy.”

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Screwed Up Click’s Lil’Flip recently dropped a tribute to his friend reminiscing about his bond with the late rapper. While his physical presence may be gone, Lil’ Flip said Pokey’s music will continue to inspire and uplift generations to come.

“This is what we work for… to spread generational wealth, bring together brothers and sisters from different neighborhoods, and we all be able to feed our family,” he said. “And no matter where I’m at, I’m reppin’ for DJ Screw.. [Big] Hawk, Fat Pat, and Big Pokey, all the legends everywhere I go.”

Big Pokey leaves behind his wife and three children.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...