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Houston Rappers Talk George Floyd's Musical & Community Legacy
The world has been shook by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. In the wake of his death, which followed the racist killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbrey, protesters around the country, as well as beyond our borders in London and around the world, have stood up against racial injustice experienced by Black people. Before Floyd's life was taken all too soon, he was a man loved by the countless people he lifted up in his hometown of Houston, the city he called home until he moved to Minneapolis in 2014 to better his life.
In Houston he was known as Big Floyd, the name he rapped under as part of the legendary Screwed Up Click, the crew of rappers who threw down bars for DJ Screw's game-changing "Screw Tape" mixtapes in the late-'90s. As a Fader article dated May 29 highlighted, Big Floyd's rap royalty was cemented in the minds of many Texans and fans of the screw tapes. Since his killing, fans have been sharing tracks featuring his bars, including "So Tired Of Ballin" (hear him hop on around the 14-minute mark) and "Sittin On Top Of The World," the latter from DJ Screw's 1996 mixtape Chapter 324 Dusk 2 Dawn.
A recent Rolling Stone feature underscores the impact he had in rap and his local community, through conversations with fellow Houston rappers Trae tha Truth, Cal Wayne, Paul Wall and Bun B. Wayne, who grew up with Floyd, even living with his family for three years, echoes the heartbreak the four artists feel with losing the generous light Floyd always shined out. "I ain't gon' lie it's devastating. I idolized him," he told the outlet. "[George] had no aggression to him. He wouldn't hurt nobody."
DJ Screw, a Houston hero himself, invented the chopped and screwed style of hip-hop in the '90s, a remix or sampling style where a record is slowed down with groovy, trippy results. He died in 2000 at just 29, but left behind a rich musical legacy of mixtapes, along with the Screwed Up Click, its wider Houston rapper affiliates like duo UGK, which Bun B was a part of, and the larger rap community his innovative sound inspired.
"It automatically ties him to a legendary legacy," Bun B says of Floyd's work with the Screwed Up Click. "By having that level of proximity to DJ Screw, you are automatically afforded a certain status in the city of Houston, and held in high regard."
Wall was part of Houston's Swishahouse crew, which also included Mike Jones, Chamillionaire and Slim Thug, the next wave chopped and screwed squad that saw a wider commercial success than the Screwed Up Click was able to with Screw's untimely death. He expounds on Floyd's legend status:
"[Floyd] would rap on tapes, but you would also hear other rappers say his name on tapes," Wall tells Rolling Stone. "For the people that would come, it would be people from everyday walks of life. His mixtape [Chapter 007:] Ballin’ In Da Mall, that's one of the ones where there's like legend behind the mixtape. He supposedly worked at Foot Locker, him and some other people. It was one of their birthdays. I think it was Big Floyd's birthday and they come, 'what you want to do for your birthday?' 'I want to do a Screw tape.'"
For years, Trae, who was part of the Screwed Up Click, organized community events in Houston with his partner Tiffany Cofield, and Floyd was always there to help. "George would actually drive [Tiffany]," Trae said "[He] would be there helping me hands-on. When I would come help the projects I would give them supplies, food, different stuff. He'd always be out there."
"He believed in people to a point it seemed he believed in people more than he even believed in himself," he added. Following a shooting that happened at one of his community events, Trae explains Floyd was one of the few people that stuck with him. "I was banned from radio worldwide. It will make 11 years this year. At a point, a lot of people left," he explained. "He randomly on his own went to protesting himself and doing videos saying everything that Trae do for the community; y'all trying to stop him and it's not right. He always spoke up for what's right, even when young dudes in the neighborhood may be doing some stuff that ain't cool. When there was a lot of killing going on throughout our city, he would always speak up, like, 'This ain't the way.'"
Trae, Bun and Wayne, along with Floyd's family, helped organized a march for justice in Houston yesterday, June 2, on behalf of the slain community hero. A few hours after the protest, Wayne shared his gratitude for the world taking notice and joining the fight for justice.
"That's the best part of it," Wayne said. "He shook the world. Big Floyd is really Big Floyd now. He's a martyr now."
Today, June 3, saw a positive update in the fight for justice for Floyd: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced all four former (they were all fired after the horrific video emerged) police officers will now be charged in the killing. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes, was initially the only person charged. His charge has been updated from third degree murder to second degree and the other three police officers have been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting.