When someone of legendary stature dies, their unofficial pallbearers are asked to carry their legacy. Few carried on DJ Screw’s legacy like Dat Boy Grace. Though I never met him, you've heard of him. If you saw a photo of him, the most striking reminder of his existence was the giant H-Town tattoo resting on his Adam’s apple. Hands and body covered in ink, he remained a testament not only to being loyal to the mission of Screw but a living reminder of how important a grey tape could be.
“If it wasn’t for Screw, I wouldn’t be here today,” he rapped on “Ol’ Screw’s,” a reworking of Tupac’s “Old School” from Me Against the World. It made perfect sense for his raspy, moderate baritone to sit upon the notes of Screw’s favorite rapper. It also made perfect sense that Grace, or Macc Grace as he became after his release from jail, wouldn’t shift into anything else. He sold Screw merchandise from city to city, never one to seem bigger than the moment. In Macc Grace’s world, if it had nothing to do with Screw or his own happiness, he wanted no part of it.
The sounds of Macc Grace stopped suddenly last Thursday. There is no full autopsy report, nor is there any clear indication on why Grace suddenly passed away. He was only 44, yet it felt like he lived until he was 84 with how often his voice was slowly brought back and forth on Screw tapes.
Born Charles Grace in Houston, he made his name first known on the baseball paths in Missouri City. A skilled baseball player, Grace’s time trying to field outs and crank a ball out of play ended with a childhood injury. He went onto Willowridge High School and if not for his brother Los, Charles Grace wouldn’t have been rechristened Dat Boy Grace by Screw himself.
Barely over 20 years old, neither of whom necessarily the most imposing of rappers, Grace and Los would freestyle on Screw tapes. Yet behind the metal gate that led to Screw’s house lay a family, and everyone played a role in that family. The House of Screw already had a leader, a man Grace routinely called King Screw. There were lieutenants and capos — the rich baritone and playful wit of Fat Pat, the bob-and-weave flow of Lil Keke — who bore the fruit of Houston’s rap etymology. Younger hitters would arrive and become Screw favorites, like Z-Ro and Yungstar, the latter of whom felt like he was on the path to own the entire solar system post-“June 27” and “Wanna Be A Baller.” Lil Flip was the last of the young boys and as Grace became older, he understood his role — a solid, commendable rapper who sported a double cup and Screwed Up Click paraphernalia wherever he went.
When Screw passed in 2000, Dat Boy Grace felt how it would ripple across the state, even globally. He continued rapping, even releasing a full-length album in 2000 entitled From Crumbs to Bricks. True to what amounted to a flip of The Commodores’ “Brick House,” Grace used it as a springboard to discuss life after being a simple dope boy. He continued releasing material, including that Screw tribute with Los. Released in 2010, Guess Who’s Bacc!!! found a way to bring parts of the Click back together, all with Houston-stylized remixes that Big Moe would usually crush without breaking a sweat. But Grace always found his footing rapping on those sticky, Southern-fried soul samples that Screw would tinker with and slow to an almost immovable husk. He didn’t have dreams of rapping next to Jay-Z because Screw was his Jay-Z. Being involved with the Screwed Up Click and that band of neighborhood superstars was all he needed.
On his Instagram page, Macc stated plain and clear what his plans for the day were, just like any. If he wasn’t with his girlfriend, he was out preaching the word of Screw. “All those in tha Valley…Brownsville, Weslaco n Sorrounding (sic) areas Im Out here in ur area with New OGSUC gear n UndergroundFunk Mixtapes n Albums,” he wrote. He was still carrying on Screw’s legacy, miles away from Screw’s birthplace in Smithville and his home base in Houston.
The only thing that remains now is Macc Grace’s legend. He was a Screwed Up Click OG and more and more. A decade after losing Big Moe, the Click seems to be losing more impactful members every year. The world is a lot less blue these days without Grace. May he ride with the playas one last time.
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