Influential Houston rapper Big Pokey died early Sunday morning after collapsing on stage at a venue in Beaumont, according to media reports and his publicist. He was 48.
Big Pokey, whose given name is Milton Powell, had been scheduled to perform at Pour09 Bar & Rooftop as part of a Juneteenth celebration, according to a social media post by the club.
A statement on the club’s Facebook page asks that fans of the rapper keep him in their prayers.
In a statement, Powell’s publicist said he was well-loved by his family, friends and loyal fans. “Big Pokey will forever be ‘The Hardest Pit in the Litter,'” the statement read.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said while many described Powell as “low-key,” the rapper’s presence was “larger than life in helping to catapult our hip hop scene nationally.”
Video on social media shows Pokey breathing heavily into a microphone and falling backwards on stage. Onlookers rushed in to help him.
Shelby Stewart, founder of the nonprofit Houston Hip Hop Museum, said Powell left an indelible mark on Houston’s rap culture. His style and delivery embodied the “slowed down, chopped and screwed production” Houston is known for, she said.
“For Pokey, his deep, slow-flowing vocals complemented this style perfectly, contributing to the popularization of a sound synonymous with Houston,” Stewart said.
Powell was a founding member of Screwed Up Click rap group, along with DJ Screw, Lil’ Keke and Big Hawk. Stewart said their music captured “the essence of the city’s streets, addressing street life, hustling, and the struggle.”
“But most importantly, I think you can see a large part of his influence in his longevity alone,” Stewart said. “He wasn’t always releasing full projects, but he was constantly recording.”
“His legacy is cemented as a key figure in the city’s hip hop history.”
Powell is survived by two daughters and a son, his publicist said.