Houston rapper Big Pokey dies at 48 after collapsing onstage in Texas

Big Pokey sits and shakes hands with Paul Wall, who is standing.
Big Pokey, left, died on Sunday. He is pictured here with fellow rapper Paul Wall.
(Bob Levey / Getty Images)

Big Pokey, the pioneering Houston rapper who helped transform the city’s hip-hop scene, has died after collapsing onstage Saturday. He was 48.

Big Pokey, whose legal name was Milton Powell, died Sunday, a representative for the musician confirmed in a statement provided to The Times. No cause of death was given.

For the record:

4:05 p.m. June 21, 2023A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Big Pokey was 45 when he died. He was 48.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our beloved Milton ‘Big Pokey’ Powell,” the statement read.


“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.’”

Guitarist Carlos Santana, 74, collapsed during a Tuesday concert in Michigan and was treated at a hospital.

July 6, 2022

Judge Tom Gillam III, justice of the peace for Jefferson County in Texas, confirmed Tuesday to Texas’ 12News that preliminary autopsy results did not indicate a “pathological cause of death” and that final results are pending toxicology tests.

News of Big Pokey’s death surfaced shortly after a video of the “Who Dat Talking Down” artist abruptly falling on his back during a Juneteenth show at a bar in Beaumont, Texas, began circulating online.

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March 11, 2018

Big Pokey was among the original members of influential Houston hip-hop collective Screwed Up Click. He was also known for his solo work, including his 1999 debut album, “The Hardest Pit in the Litter.”

“The City of Houston and I extend our prayers and condolences to our own Screwed Up Click legendary rapper #BigPokey family and friends,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted on Sunday.

“Though many called him ‘low key,’ his presence was larger than life in helping to catapult our hip hop scene nationally. We are grateful.”


Big Pokey grew up on the south side of Houston where he played football at Yates High School and became close friends with George Floyd. After Minneapolis police killed Floyd in May 2020, Big Pokey penned an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle mourning his longtime friend and urging the public to “start holding these policemen accountable” for their violence.

“This was my brother,” he wrote. “And to sit there and watch my brother die — the law killed my homeboy in front of the world. We watched him fight for his life until he was lifeless. That was torture. He died a horrible death, and that hurts.”

“He’s from Houston, Texas, Third Ward, and he was proud of it every day of his life until they took it,” he added. “He was somebody. He’s got a whole community that loves him.”

Jennie has released a statement after abruptly exiting the stage at a recent Blackpink concert in Melbourne because she wasn’t feeling well.

June 13, 2023

In recent years, Big Pokey had remained active on the Houston hip-hop scene. He released his latest studio album, “Sensei,” in May 2021, as well as an EP with fellow Houston rapper J Dawg in March 2023. He collaborated with another Houston rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, on the song “Southside Royalty Freestyle” from her 2022 record, “Traumazine.”

Houston rapper Bun B, who has recorded with several members of Screwed Up Click in the past, paid tribute to Big Pokey on Instagram, hailing his contemporary as “one of the most naturally talented artists in the city.”

“Low key, humble mountain of a man who moved with honor and respect,” Bun B wrote.

“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.”


Big Pokey is survived by his wife and three children.

Associated Press contributed to this report.