According to Eastdown Warehouse's Adam Rodriguez, his friend Gerardo Martinez Jr. could have been a comedian. He had a quick wit and won people over easily. Fortunately for Houston rap fans, Martinez chose music instead. As Big Gerb, he was one of the city’s most promising young artists. When he died unexpectedly last month, music fans here and anywhere else Gerb’s music was enjoyed were floored.
As we’ve seen time and again this year alone, music fans take these passings to heart. Sometimes it helps to gather to celebrate what the fallen artist gave us all, which is what Rodriguez and some of Big Gerb’s closest family and friends have planned for Saturday at Eastdown Warehouse. Billed as the “Big Gerb Going Away Show,” the night will include music from more than a half-dozen acts, including Gerb’s Hongree Records crew, the Hongree Mobb. It will serve as a fundraiser, too, with proceeds earmarked for Gerb’s mother and family, Rodriguez said. And, of course, it will be a chance for fans and friends to get together in tribute and to attempt to make some sort of sense from losing such a gifted young artist.
“It sucks to lose anyone in life, and it sucks even more to lose a friend who never had anything in life handed to him,” says Rodriguez, who first met Big Gerb in 2000 when they were both Jefferson Davis High students. “He worked his ass off for everything he had and as an artist that had big dreams, in a Houston rap scene that is hard to come up in and odds against him — he was a Mexican-American rapper from an inner-city ghetto — he didn't have the luxury of people wanting to help him with his music career. He didn't ask for handouts, he didn't build GoFundMe accounts to seek help. He wanted to do everything on his own and work for it.”
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That work started in earnest in 2007, when Big Gerb tabbed his brother and a friend to form the Hongree Records crew; respectively, they were Swisha Man and Spiktakula. It didn’t take long for people who seriously followed and promoted Houston rap to see Gerb’s skills, people like Optimo Radio's Optimo Ram, who grew close to the enterprising young man. As the Houston Press’s Nathan Smith once wrote, Gerb had a “frank and fearless flow.” It’s preserved for present and future fans on his albums Trust No One and Antisocial.
Over time, the Hongree Mobb grew to include more talent, such as Yung Surreal, U-Neek and Fender G, who will all be on hand to close out Saturday’s show, according to Rodriguez. Preceding them onstage will be Low G, MVP Gang, Lil’ Shark, Renegade Da Mobsta, Koppo and Hustle Hard Klick. Comedians Juan Villareal and Jerry Carrillo will perform sets and Carrillo will MC the night. Like Rodriguez, he too knew Big Gerb in his younger days.
Carrillo went the comedy route and Big Gerb stayed with music. Except for this one time…
“I have a lot of good memories of Gerb; he was a really funny guy and had a great sense of humor,” says Rodriguez. “I remember back in, I think, 2012, I used to have a comedy night in the House of Blues Foundation Room once a month and I would always tell him he needed to be a comedian and that was his calling. He would laugh at me and say, 'How is it gonna look, me doing a comedy set? I'm a rapper.' Well, anyways, he did it. He called me the day before and said, ‘Fuck it, I'm gonna do it,’ and he did. It was funny. Before his set, he took his shirt off and said, ‘You know what? I know I'm fat, so there's no hiding it,’ and he just took his shirt off.”
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“I remember when he did his album release at Warehouse Live, he paid for everything out of his pocket,” Rodriguez continues. “He also purchased 100 burgers from Poppa Burger to give out a free burger to everyone that walked in the door. He said he wanted everyone that came out to his album release to eat. That showed a lot about his character and his generous, big heart.”
Rodriguez expects many stories of this nature to be traded Saturday night among Big Gerb’s extended family. Rodriguez said Hongree Mobb’s U-Neek and fellow organizer Nick Morales deserve special recognition for the work they’ve done to bring the show together. Rodriguez expects it to end in a way that’s familiar to fans who caught Big Gerb’s live shows.
“For one last time, when Big Gerb’s event comes to an end, the DJ will close the night out saying, ‘Big Gerb has left the building.’”
Eastdown Warehouse, 850 McKee Street, presents the Big Gerb Going Away Show Saturday, February 6. Featuring Hongree Mobb, with Low G, MVP Gang, Lil' Shark, Renegade Da Mobsta, Koppo and Hustle Hard Klick. Doors at 9 p.m.; $10.