George Floyd’s name will always be synonymous with a movement, but what many are only recently learning is the movement he facilitated during his life: music.
Floyd was a musician in his hometown of Houston, Texas, before he moved to Minneapolis.
His friends and collaborators remember him as a “positive-vibes” figure and local freestyle hero. One of his rap collaborators, Chris Ward, shared that “[Floyd] was a big brother to a lot of people. He was a peacemaker. A mentor. Just a positive vibes-type person. A real great guy, man, all around.”
He went by the name of “Big Floyd” by all those who knew him, and gained notoriety after local musicians recognized his freestyle talent. Shortly after Floyd met DJ Screw, who was known for the “chopped and screwed” technique, he became part of Screwed Up Click. The unique musical form slowed down a record’s sonics to an extreme point, usually 60–70 beats per minute, and originated in Houston’s rap scene in the 1980’s and 90's. Chopped and screwed features would go on to influence mainstream hip hop. Floyd was featured on six of the group’s tapes and never failed to reference his hometown, inspiring many others who would go on to be rappers and musicians.
DJ Screw’s tapes “inspired many like Floyd to try their hand at rapping between other pursuits. It was an era before CDs, MP3 downloads, and social media, which has made keeping the memory of these foundational talents alive a ‘vocal tradition [that] gets passed on from one person to another,’ according to Paul Wall.
“[Big Floyd] would rap on tapes, but you would also hear other rappers say his name on tapes. Big Pokey saying something about Big Floyd. Lil’ Keke saying something about Big Floyd. Mike D saying something about Big Floyd,” Wall begins. ‘For the people that would come, it would be people from everyday walks of life. His mixtape [Chapter 007:] Ballin’ In Da Mall, that’s one of the ones where there’s like legend behind the mixtape.’”
Floyd also continued supporting his community, keeping in touch with other aspiring musicians and rappers. Rapper Cal Wayne, who considered Floyd a big brother, was one of them:
“Any song I made, you hear who taught me: George ‘Big Floyd.”
When rapper Trae’s music was “banned from radio stations following a shooting at a community event he organized, Floyd supported him when many artists and supporters had fled.”
Trae spoke about the experience, commenting that he was banned for 11 years:
“At a point, a lot of people left. They didn’t want to talk to me. They didn’t want to have no affiliation, because I was going through a tough time as far as being blackballed. [Floyd] randomly on his own went to protesting himself and doing videos saying everything that Trae do for the community; y’all trying to stop him and it’s not right. He always spoke up for what’s right, even when young dudes in the neighborhood may be doing some stuff that ain’t cool. When there was a lot of killing going on throughout our city, he would always speak up, like, ‘This ain’t the way.’”
Chris Ward also suggested that Floyd would have been pleased to see change enacted in his name through the Black Lives Matter movement: “If I know Floyd, I know this: If he knew that this happening to him would change the world or the way people would act about the whole situation, in a positive light, he would be all right with that.”
There’s no shortage of sources speaking about Floyd’s mentorship, encouragement, and overall positive influence on his community.
His former classmates and teammates also remembered Floyd as a talented and warm friend. His former high school coach noted that “‘he was a tall, skinny kid who told me he was a basketball player. But he was big, and you could see his potential. His friends on the football team convinced him to come out, but he really didn’t have a football mentality.’
According to McGowan, the biggest challenge for Floyd was that he was too nice. And that left the coaches with limitations on where they could play him on the gridiron.”
Other friends and colleagues expressed Floyd’s hopes for the future.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, wrote, “Twin,” I promise I won’t let this BS ride…anybody from Houston/Cuney Homes u know this was my brother. Can’t let this ride. All hands on deck. Rest Easy Twin.”
One of his teammates, Ed Barlow, even expressed how Floyd’s constant support helped him succeed in his basketball career: “When I’d come home, I’d see him and he’d say, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ ” Barlow said. “He seemed happier for me than I was. He would tell me, ‘You did this for us,’ and that really made me feel so special because what I was able to accomplish was largely because of him.”
Undoubtedly, the legacy George Floyd leaves behind will continue to speak volumes.
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