Big Pokey at the Lil KeKe Legends Only Listening Party Dinner at Five Central Houston on February 08, 2022 in Houston, Texas.

Big Pokey at the Lil KeKe Legends Only Listening Party Dinner at Five Central Houston on February 08, 2022 in Houston, Texas.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Big Pokey Was the Sensei of Houston Rappers

Big Pokey, who recently passed away at the age of 45, was a pillar of Houston rap who'll always be remembered for his natural talent as an emcee.

Sensei. Poyo. Podena. Hardest Pit In The Litter. Born Milton Powell, these aliases are but a glimpse into the persona of the Houston rap legend known as Big Pokey. Born Milton Powell, the rapper passed away after collapsing onstage during a performance in Beaumont on Sunday. He was 45.

Big Pokey, a true maestro of his craft, showcased a mastery that transcended boundaries. Each moniker he adopted represented a different facet of his artistic prowess, a testament to his versatility and creative genius. Whether he assumed the role of Sensei, imparting wisdom through his lyrics, or transformed into Poyo, a charismatic force commanding attention, Big Pokey consistently left a lasting mark on the minds of his listeners.

The beloved Houston emcee rose from the streets of Third Ward, bringing with him a unique style and lyrical skill that captivated listeners far and wide. Pokey was one of the late DJ Screw’s trusted friends and creative collaborators as a member of the Screwed Up Click. His work with Screw, Fat Pat, and Lil' Keke created a wave of newness that hip-hop hadn’t seen before, their contributions to Houston’s defining chopped and screwed sound ultimately altering the hip-hop landscape.

What makes Big Pokey’s death so poignant is the sense of loss within the Screwed Up Click, and the broader rap scene of Houston. With the recent departure of Big Tyme Recordz founder Russell Washington just three months prior, the collective impact of these losses becomes even more profound. It serves as a somber reminder of the diminishing presence of influential figures who shaped the Houston rap scene, leaving behind a void that is difficult to fill.

“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,” Bun B wrote of Big Pokey on Instagram. “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.”

Beyond Pokey’s work with the S.U.C., it was his solo work that truly showcased his artistry. From his seminal album Hardest Pit in the Litter to the subsequent releases that followed, he consistently delivered raw and honest narratives. He was never the most boisterous or gaudy in his raps, but it never took away from his commanding presence. His voice resonated with authenticity, and his verses effortlessly painted pictures of the realities of street life. He possessed a rare ability to weave tales of struggle and resilience, transporting listeners into the heart of his experiences.

Beyond the accolades and the acclaim, Big Pokey remained true to his roots. He was a family man that loved making people laugh, and sharing his love for Zummo’s sausage and cooking bacon in the oven. He never strayed from his authentic self, staying connected to the very streets that birthed his art. His commitment to his community and his unwavering dedication to his craft served as a testament to his character and integrity. One of the most salient parts of mourning Big Pokey is that so many people have such fond memories of his character, kindness and, of course, his impact.