Keeping Up Is a Crunky Trip
GOING THROUGH the morning’s digitals, a headline caught my eye: “Big Pokey, of Houston’s Legendary ‘Screwed Up Click’ Dies after Collapsing at Juneteenth Show.” Am I wrong to have questions?
Please understand that I am of an age accustomed to being out of sync, and I probably wouldn’t need to ask too many younger than me before someone could explain the headline. Nonetheless, the disconnect was jarring. I felt I should check it out myself.
First of all, one is sad for Big Pokey’s family. At this writing, the cause of his demise is unknown pending toxicology. We do know that he was one of the last of the founding members of the musical group Screwed Up Click, a good number of whom having been murdered, incarcerated or overcome by recreational drug use.
Screwed Up Click we learn is a story in itself. Although I’m not certain from whence the “legendary” comes, the group achieved regional fame in the early1990s under the leadership of hip-hop personage DJ Screw.
Mr. Screw . . . how does one say this . . . “invented” the instrumental technique known as “Screwed and Chopped” or “Slowed and Throwed.” This, if you can follow, is a method of defeating the exact engineering of expensive audio equipment by scratching and otherwise distorting the output so as to replicate the sounds of a fire at a large zoo.
Anyway, the only part of all this of which I was dimly aware was the Juneteenth part. It began appearing uninvited on my Google calendar several years ago. The holiday, depending on your point of view, appears to be either a day set aside to hate white people or a day to celebrate Republicans having freed the slaves of Democrats, take your pick.
Listening to Big Pokey’s masterpiece “Fire,” I assume he was celebrating the former but I cannot be sure:
Build an empire, the boss of the street game
Stack it up real pretty, I’m sicking all my change
Fame is a trip, people can back stab you
Gotta watch your back, cause somebody could grab you
Stay on no cases, and counting the big faces
They’ll be working for your vote, in all kinda places
The glock stay crunk, and lit up at all times
But it make it heavy, that’s why I’m getting mine
Who can improve on that?
Still, we can hope that this next generation learns to merge disparate cultures, races, nationalities, communities, musical styles, whatever, in a way that preserves their unique arts, customs, charm — what is truly beautiful in them rather than what is merely narcissistic or purposely abrasive to the others. And we can hope they can do so without succumbing to envy, resentment or hatred of their neighbors, some of whom inevitably will have made better life choices.
For all of his talent, Big Pokey, aka Milton Powell (1975-2023), may he rest in peace, did not move us in that direction. — tcl