HOUSTON - One man who has played a key role in the movement for change in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death is Houston rapper Trae tha Truth.
Before he led a 60,000 person march through the streets of Houston, Trae knew George Floyd from the Houston hip-hop scene and through philanthropy work.
"I was at home asleep," said Trae, recalling last May 25. "I was woke up by my god brother Rod, and he asked me: Was it Floyd?"
Trae says he clearly remembers when he was first told of the now infamous eight minute and 46 second video and realized that was someone he knew.
"When I seen the video—one, I was just disturbed by the video in general," said Trae. "Like, it really, really, really bothered me, but as I heard the voice, I’m like, that’s my people."
It wasn’t clear back, then the movement that was about to form.
"It was of course hard to tell in the beginning because we full of emotions—just the fact of Floyd being killed, but I think as time transpired, we started seeing it grow massively," said Trae.
Eight days after Floyd’s death, Trae tha Truth got with fellow hip-hop artist Bun B to do something special for Floyd’s family: a march through the streets of Houston in Floyd’s honor.
"I told Bun—I said, I think I want to do something for the family," said Trae.
An estimated 60,000 to 80,000 people decided to join.
"At that point a lot of us started feeling like this could be a turning point and a point in history that will change for our culture and everybody who went through the struggle to understand, and everybody who’s even been murdered by police," said Trae. "I mean it’s a change important in so many ways. It brought a lot of people together. It exposed a lot of people for who they really were in a lot of other situations."
Trae says one of those situations was the criminal justice system’s handling of protests he took part in after the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky later that month.
While some protests got violent, Trae was arrested during a nonviolent "sit-in" outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home in July.
"I ended up in jail and got two felonies," said Trae. "I wasn’t fighting nobody. I wasn’t doing nothing. I simply was sitting there."
Those charges were later dropped.
Trae Tha Truth first crossed paths with George Floyd in the early 2000s.
"I just know Floyd from the hood," said Trae. "I honestly couldn’t even tell you the first time I met him, because we was around each other so much."
Floyd was a big supporter of Trae’s music and charity work, and growing up in Houston’s Third Ward, he made his own rap music, going by "Big Floyd."
"Icon Talks and Porsche were honoring me, and he was there with me," recalls Trae. "And it was said that we were gonna change the world—in which aspect I had no idea at the time. In his aspect, now I understand his part. My part, I’m still working."
Trae was there with some of Floyd’s family when the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial.
"We still were nervous up to the point of them saying, ‘Guilty,’ because we’re so used to things being taken away from us," said Trae. "You know what’s crazy for George Floyd’s trial. They acted like the trial was about his past. It had nothing to do with his past. It had nothing to do with him period as before he got murdered, so how do you justify talking about that majority of the trial when we’re missing the fact of: you killed this man."
Trae shared his thoughts on police in general in the aftermath of the Chauvin trial.
"I can’t speak for every individual cop, because coming from where we come from, some cops actually come from the hood, and some of them understand," said Trae. "If you’re out here for what’s right, I’m not gonna bother you. I’m not gonna come in your space. You don’t come in my space, and we good."
Trae says he believes George Floyd’s race was a factor in his death, but says the movement for justice goes beyond race.
"I’m always gonna defend my people, but I also defend others too," said Trae. "I defend any and everything. If you wrong, you wrong."
His advice to other Americans: "You have to start caring," said Trae. "A lot of people don’t care, ‘cause it doesn’t affect them. It’s very important that you stand for something, stand for something or fall for anything."