Houston Rap Icon Big Pokey Dies at 45

Big Pokey, an icon of the Houston, Texas hip-hop scene and original member of the hip-hop collective Screwed Up Click, has passed away at the age of 45.

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In the early morning hours on Sunday (June 18), Big Pokey –born Milton Powell– fainted during a performance at Beaumont, Texas’ Pour 09 Bar. The rapper later died after being rushed to a hospital. The cause of death is currently unknown pending autopsy results. 

The rapper’s publicist shared a statement on behalf of his family (quote via Pitchfork). “It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our beloved Milton ‘Big Pokey’ Powell. Big Pokey passed away on June 18, 2023. He was well-loved by his family, his friends, and his loyal fans. In the coming days, we will release information about his celebration of life and how the public can pay their respects. We ask that you respect his family and their privacy during this difficult time. Big Pokey will forever be ‘The Hardest Pit in the Litter.’”

Powell had long been an integral part of the Texas city’s music scene, first beginning to rap alongside local producer DJ Screw in the early 1990s. He released his first full-length album, Hardest Pit in the Litter, in 1999.

Since the news of his passing, tributes to the rapper have poured in from the music industry and beyond. Houston’s mayor Sylvester Turner bid a heartfelt farewell to the local legend. “The City of Houston and I extend our prayers and condolences to our own Screwed Up Click legendary rapper #BigPokey family and friends,” Turner wrote in a tweet. “Though many called him ‘low key,’ his presence was larger than life in helping to catapult our hip hop scene nationally. We are grateful.”

Fellow Houston rap legend Bun B also took to social media to honor the late artist. “I wasn’t ready for this,” he wrote in a post on Instagram. “One of the most naturally talented artists in the city. Low key, humble mountain of a man who moved with honor and respect. He was easy to love and hard to hate. He’d pull up, do what he had to do and head home. One of the pillars of our city. If heart of gold was a person. Iconic member of the SUC. There will never be another and will be missed dearly. We love and honor you Sensei. Rest in heaven.”

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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