Out of the Box

Banned from KBXX 97.9, Trae tha Truth takes his case courtside.

The Box responded swiftly and extensively: A ban was set in place on Trae, his music, any music he contributed to and any advertisements that featured him.

He became The Box's own Lord Voldemort, an archenemy never to be mentioned by name again. Trae had effectively set fire to his relationship with not only the city's sole hip-hop station, but also its parent company, Radio One, which owns and operates 53 total stations in 16 markets. And he used his budding career as kindling.

Trae tha Truth is one of Houston's most imposing musical forces, a bona fide legend in the harrowing streets of southwest Houston. He's backed wholeheartedly by not only the ABN, the Assholes by Nature conglomeration he started in 2003 made up of various gang members, rappers, family members and longtime acquaintances, but (seemingly) every disenfranchised soul in the city.

Trae poses for a moment on the courthouse steps with (L-R) Brother Deric Muhammad, Anthony Muhammad, his attorney Warren Fitzgerald Jr., DJ Baby Jae and DJ KleanCutt of the Kracker Nuttz, after announcing his intentions to sue KBXX, 97.9 FM.
Courtesy of Trae tha Truth
Trae poses for a moment on the courthouse steps with (L-R) Brother Deric Muhammad, Anthony Muhammad, his attorney Warren Fitzgerald Jr., DJ Baby Jae and DJ KleanCutt of the Kracker Nuttz, after announcing his intentions to sue KBXX, 97.9 FM.

It's never been hard to set your eyes on Trae. It probably never will be. He and the members of his camp regularly roam Houston with abandon.

Despite his growing status as a nationally recognized rapper — Trae's most recent single, a tinkering horror picture of a track called "Inkredible" that features Grammy winner Lil' Wayne and the corpulent-voiced Rick Ross, was selected as MTV's Jam of the Week during May — they continue to do so to this day.

Historically, the whole situation is a contradiction. More fame should mean more seclusion. But it's like the more famous he gets, the more visible he feels he needs to make himself.

Yet, for all the time he spends making sure that his feelings are accurately depicted and relatable in his music, for all the time he spends making sure his listeners can access him, he spends an equal amount making sure the media cannot. He's notoriously reclusive in that sense.

Mind, you can certainly score ten uncomfortable minutes on the phone with him when need be, or secure a few moments after a listening party for one of his albums. But trying to get a glimpse of the dynamics of his personal life? Not likely.

It makes sense, though. It's a defense mechanism of sorts. Nearly every important person in his life has, at one point or another, been the unintentional perpetrator of hurt. Pain seems to follow Trae around like a pilot fish.

When he was ten, he began shuffling sporadically between homes, staying alternately with his mother, father, other family members and friends. When he was 12 his older brother, the most important male in his life, was locked up for life after being convicted of murder. Around that same time, one of the women helping raise Trae, a woman he to this day refers to as his sister, was murdered. His younger brother, Jay'Ton, spent his 21st birthday in prison. In 2003, his older brother's girlfriend was murdered. When he was 25, a rap mentor and one of his closest friends, fellow Houstonian Big HAWK, was murdered.

Perhaps most devastating, though, was the one thing that couldn't have been prevented.

In 2003, Trae's former girlfriend gave birth to his firstborn son, D'Neeko Thompson. The baby was born with a chromosomal abnormality that resulted in both mental and physical defects as well as a dramatically decreased projected lifespan. The irony is immense: A man so proactive in helping other people's children is forced to sit passively by with regards to his own.

"You don't really feel a certain way," says Trae of when he first found out about D'Neeko's condition. "All children are a blessing. It's just hurtful to know what he's gonna have to go through, really. It's hurtful."

For whatever reason — pick any from the list of the aforementioned horribleness — Trae feels responsible for the well-being of those around him.

"When you come up how I came up," says Trae, "when the person that you look up to is gone...When I got into a situation where I needed someone to talk to, Dinkie [the nickname of Trae's older brother] was gone. Jay'Ton and I had to deal with a lot of shit on our own. I chose to not wanna see people go through that. Someone needs to be there. When you're on your own, that's a terrible feeling."

"He really gets the pain that our kids feel," says Marilyn Gambrell, former parole officer and founder of No More Victims, Inc., a nonprofit aimed at serving children whose parents are incarcerated. "He has supported us for the last three or four years. The kids just adore him. I can't begin to say what he's meant to us."

It's an attitude that extends past the work with the nonprofits that finds its way into press releases, all the way down to singular acts of kindness. Ask Devin Hebert.

Devin had always been a good kid, bright, handsome, popular, respectful. He was the quarterback of his high school's JV football team, the Jersey Village Falcons. He had good grades and a good attitude.

But through a bizarre and fateful blending of timing, force and sheer terrible luck, he broke his neck while trying to make a routine tackle during a game in October of 2008. He was immediately paralyzed from the waist down. He spent the next nine months in a hospital, undergoing countless surgeries and battling his way through rehab.

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