About 40 flickering flames lit up the warm, Houston dusk as friends, family and fans gathered at the gravesite of legendary Houston rapper Big Hawk. Five years ago prior to that day on May 1, 2006, the man known to his family as John Edward Hawkins was killed after he had planned to meet up a friend’s house. Hawk had apparently arrived before the friend and walked to the side of the house, where he was shot several times. He died at the scene.
The police have yet to arrest a suspect in connection with his murder. In front of Big Hawk’s final resting place is his brother’s grave, another regional superstar rapper Fat Pat, who was killed in 1998. But instead of mourning the deaths of these two musical martyrs, today is a day of the celebration of their lives, the ones they touched and the influences that will last forever. Both brothers were members of the late DJ Screw’s rap collective the Screwed Up Click.
Long faces but strong chins align the faces of fellow Texas rapper Bun-B, Swishahouse Records rapper Redd, underground legend E.S.G. and various members of the Screw Up Click. Coming up with Screw, Hawk and Pat like brothers, fellow SUC member E.S.G. was by their sides since the days of making the infamous grey tapes at Screw’s house. And he keeps their legacies alive through his music.
“I remember being at Screw’s house telling both Hawk and Pat that they both need to start writing songs instead of freestyling so much,” E.S.G. recalls that following Monday after noon in their beloved Sunnyside neighborhood on the South side of Houston. He is draped in a black t-shirt with Fat Pat and Hawk’s names emblazoned across the front. A pitch black baseball cap with the word “Houston” on the front in a rainbow of colors tilts off his bald-faded dome.
“Houston loved Screw so much and Hawk so much and Pat so much because we were the only voices that the South side had. We spoke to the people and Houston loved us for it.”
And that love shows through the power of their CD sales- especially E.S.G. With 12 albums to his credit and more mixtapes to even count, E.S.G. is the only artist to sell more than one million collective independent albums and still counting. As an original member of the late great DJ Screw’s legendary Screwed Up Click, he wrecked countless freestyles dating back to the grey tapes first used at the beginning of Screw’s career. And added to that, the Everyday Street Gangsta played a major factor in the popularization of the Lone Star State’s signature “chopped and screwed” style.
“In music years, we’re veterans but in the real world, we’re still baby gangsters. That’s why the shows still be rocking,” E explains. “You always get that one person who come in there that may not know the history. They done heard but they don’t really know. A cat might be from a whole ‘nother region of the United States and come down with his family. They be like ‘who is that?’ ‘Oh, that’s the Screwed Up Click.’ They see a show and be like ‘gotdamn, these niggas jamming.’”
Born Cedric Hill in Bogalusa, La., E. grew up a student of hip hop culture. He started rapping at 12 years old and at 17, he left his comfort zone at home and enrolled in school at University of Louisiana at Lafayette to pursue a degree in communications. But after two years in school, he withdrew from the University, relocated to Texas and made his home on the south side of Houston. There, he put all of his efforts into making his dreams of being a rapper come true.
E.S.G.’s debut release Ocean of Funk dropped in 1995, featuring his breakthrough single “Swangin’ and Bangin’,” and its accompanying “chopped and screwed” remix album. Building upon the success of the album, E’s sophomore effort Sailin’ da South was released later that same year. Distributed by at-the-time powerhouse Priority Records, the album included reissued versions of single “Swangin’ and Bangin’,” “Crooked Streets” and “Smoke On.”
Shortly following the success of both albums, E.S.G. got caught up on the other side of the law and had to serve time behind bars on a drug charge. Returning home from prison in 1998, he came back with a dark album for Return of the Living Dead.
Then one after the other, E.S.G. came back to back with classic albums Shinin’ Grindin’ (1999) and City Under Siege (2000), as well as a chopped and screwed remix of the latter. He also joined forces with Swishahouse Records alumnus Slim Thug for the highly respected duo album Boss Hogg Outlaws in 2001. Never making his audience wait too long, E.S.G. has blessed his fans every year with a new album or mixtape to keep them satisfied.
“I ain’t never had a job,” he adds. “I’ve been in quarter-million-dollar houses since 1999. I ain’t never had to punch a clock. Thank God I haven’t. But it’s all from this craft, from music.”
And E.S.G. sticks firm to what he does the best on his forthcoming G.O.A.T. Entertainment/ Fontana/ Universal album release The Owner’s Manual. Enlisting the talents of fellow Houston heavyweights Bun-B, Paul Wall and Slim Thug, the man known to his Twitter followers as Cedric Sosa gives the people the same brand of hard-hitting ghetto funk that has made his career blossom longer than your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.
“Every mother fucker in the music industry besides Russell Simmons that did boss shit got game from (Rap-A-Lot CEO James “Prince” Smith) Lil J, Tony Draper, Master P and Jermaine Dupri. Bosses are made down here,” he breaks it down. “If you’re trying to be a boss, you need my album. That’s why it’s called The Owner’s Manual. You ain’t always gotta worry about an A&R. You can be your own A&R. And my album can help you to do that.
He carries on, “Music used to be about uplifting and giving you some good shit. Nowadays, it’s sometimes about the quickest and the simplest and the dumbest shit that a nigga can say. That’s what they want to hear.”
The album’s lead single “Internet Thugs” featuring fellow SUC member Z-Ro has already caused an uproar online, poking fun at the cyber-gangsters of the world. “The music, Internet and TV have a lotta people losing their minds,” he says. “You can’t be a Blood because Lil Wayne is a Blood. It’s crazy nowadays. A lot of people emulate what entertainers do or what they see on TV. It’s never the nigga that starts the shit that gets shot. It’s always the innocent people.
He sums up, “Music used to be about uplifting and giving you some good shit. Nowadays, it’s sometimes about the quickest and the simplest and the dumbest shit that a nigga can say. That’s what they want to hear. My album is to let people know there is still good music out there.”
Story written by CARLTON WADE