After floods ripped apart the home of Paul Wall's mother, the Houston rapper is back home, rolling up his sleeves. Within five days of the destruction, Wall's got a list of appearances locked in to raise funds and gather supplies like clothing and diapers for displaced Houstonians. He said he's in the beginning stages of planning a massive benefit concert.
Through the emotional morass, one image kept returning to him: The words "Be Someone" graffiti painted on a railroad bridge just above the flood's waterline. "To see the water creep up to it, it's an image where it's like they're on our ass trying to bring us down, but they can't," said Wall. "Our survival game is too strong for them."
Wall is one of several H-Town rappers defending their hometown with music and muscle. Whether or not they were still residents of Houston proper, native rappers responded to calls for support in force: on social media, through supply runs and crowdsourcing donations.
Rapper Bun B, who resides in Houston, announced he will headline a call-in telethon in addition to giving out "free verses." Z-Ro's somber "Houston 2Gether" became the first rap about the tragic flood – and song sales went to the relief efforts.
"It's sad as hell," says Chingo Bling. The rapper-turned-comedian organized a crowdfunding website with the goal of raising $50,000 to flood relief. Bling is donating the proceeds of his show this weekend to the fund, he said.
Rapper Dice Soho, who hails from Missouri City, a Houston suburb that got hit by both flooding and a tornado, pledged to cover hotel rooms and groceries for the victims. "We gotta help the city," Soho said from Los Angeles where he's finishing up his debut album. "It's the anxiety of not being there, and seeing all the pictures, it's some shit you don't expect," he said.
Rapper Trae the Truth went for a more visceral approach since he was living in Houston when Harvey hit. He got on a boat, where the streets were lined with motors instead of bumpers, as rescue teams patrol for survivors. For the first few days of the storm, Trae wore a life jacket and donned a military poncho, helping pull people from flooded homes. His own mother had to be evacuated from her home in Beaumont.
"To be honest I was just doing what needs to be done," Trae said. He remembers one home that had 14 people inside, but only six came out. Trae recalls having to make his own decision to leave his home last weekend when Harvey's destruction became more severe.
"There was no more ground, it was only water. The water was rising. At that point, you watch it get bigger and bigger – and closer and closer, and you just realize ain't shit I can do, man. Then you realize you have to go," Trae said. "It ain't really about me, my youngest son, he's only 7. His safety was before me trying to ride it out."
Like Trae, popular Houston DJ Mr. Rogers, went door-to-door in his Houston neighborhood the Pearland suburbs. With a group of athletes and rappers such as Propain and Le$, they doled out supplies and fast food to survivors.
"People were starving," said Rogers, "no matter what their tax bracket was."