Saidu Sejan-Thomas Jr.: Hey, what's good y'all. Saidu here. So right now I'm in the middle of working on a two-part series that I'm so excited to share with you guys. But this week, I wanted to share with y'all something else that I'm just as excited about. It's this story from the homies over at Mogul.
Saidu: So Mogul is a show that I used to work on before Resistance, and it's a show about hip hop's most iconic moments, told by the people who lived them. And in their most recent season, they tell the story of DJ Screw and the birth of Chopped and Screwed, a never before heard sound out of Houston that went on to influence people like Drake and Beyoncé. But before all that, DJ Screw developed his sound with a squad of local rappers in Houston called the Screwed Up Click. And at one point, one of their members was none other than George Floyd. Yeah, that George Floyd.
Saidu: The episode is called "Big Floyd." And I don't want to ruin it, but what I can say is that they crafted a beautiful story that does a lot of what we do on Resistance. It's filled with Black folks living their Black-ass lives until one day they do something that shifts the way we think about the world.
Saidu: If you like this episode—and I know you will—go check out the rest of the DJ Screw season of Mogul. It's up on Spotify for free. All right, I'ma hand y'all over to the host of the show, my homie Brandon Jenkins.
Saidu: "Big Floyd" coming up right after the break.
Lil O: Man, we didn't know we was making history, man. We didn't know this shit 20, 25 years later, we'd be doing interviews with n****s from Spotify. And no one knew that shit, man.
Brandon Jenkins: This is Houston rapper and certified SUC member, Lil O.
Lil O: We was just having fun. We were rapping, smoking weed and sippin' syrup and cappin' and getting a lot of money and doing what the fuck we want. And we turned into legends.
Brandon: When June 27 hit the streets, it shook the Houston hip hop scene. Suddenly, the rappers from the Screwed Up Click were no longer just hood celebrities, they were becoming superstars. Members like Fat Pat, Yungstar, and Big Pokey started trading in their off-the-cuff freestyles for full length albums. But make no mistake, most of the SUC wasn't looking to do all of that.
Mike D: I mean, they could have had rap careers just like we did, but they chose to do other stuff, you know? But they really was never rappers. They just knew how to flow.
Brandon: Hundreds of people stopped by Screw's house to record a freestyle. Most people who hopped on a Screw tape just did it for fun. They just happened to be friends with one of the best DJs hip hop had ever seen. There's one rapper who never made it big in the rap game, but everyone in the SUC and Third Ward still remembers his name. He went by Big Floyd, but you know him as George Floyd.
Brandon: George Floyd's death has been talked about, litigated over, debated and publicized all around the globe. He became a symbol—the reason hundreds of thousands of people marched across America last year. But when someone becomes a symbol, when you get used to saying their name, when seeing their face becomes routine, you don't always get the full picture.
Brandon: We have a tendency to flatten others and their stories, taking one script and xeroxing it over time again and again to serve the purpose that's most fitting for us. But it's important for us to breathe life into the people these stories are about—to make them three dimensional.
Brandon: We've all seen the video, but we don't know anything about the little things: where he went to school, what kind of songs he rocked to, or even that fact that he used to rap on Screw Tapes. Like, the greatest DJ and the man who sparked a revolution used to hang out?
Brandon: There's one rapper in Houston named Cal Wayne who remembers a different George Floyd than the one from the news. They grew up together, and George taught him a lot, inspired him, helped him grow into the person he is today. So we wanted to tell you about the man he remembers, the George Floyd that Houston remembers.
Cal Wayne: And it's like, the shit Floyd would do? He really was a gentle giant. And I knew him. I knew him, and as long as I'm alive, people will know the truth.
Brandon: This week on Mogul, we're telling the story of Big Floyd.
Cal Wayne: A lot of people don't understand it. Like, when they had, like, the five worst neighborhoods in America, like, for the last five years? The Third Ward, our neighborhood, where me and Floyd from, been on there, like, in the top five.
Brandon: That's Cal Wayne. He's a rapper from Houston's Third Ward. Immediately the first thing that stands out about Cal is the speed in which words come out of his mouth. Cal was one of George Floyd's closest friends. The two grew up together and stayed friends for their entire lives, through all the ups and downs. And it all started in one neighborhood: Cuney Homes.
Cal Wayne: If you ask anyone, I don't give a damn who it is. If you ask a rapper, man, what was the no-go places in Houston in the '80s and '90s, they would say, "Oh, Cuney Home."
Jinx: Tell me what Cuney Homes was like.
Cal Wayne: Whoo! Cuney Homes is right across the street from all these historical places: the biggest predominant college in Texas, University of Houston was on one side of the projects. The most known Black high school in Texas is right across the street from the projects. On the backside of the projects is the biggest Black and most predominant Black college in Texas: Texas Southern University. So we're surrounded by all these colleges and schools. And it's just huge but, like, it was just poverty.
Jinx: Like, what were the sounds of Cuney Homes, if you can think back to 'em?
Cal Wayne: The sounds was gunshots all night long, or screaming, mamas screaming. Like I say, I don't wanna make it sound just bad, but it was, but it's like it was almost normal, you know what I'm saying?
Brandon: And when gunshots are your normal, you need to learn how to fend for yourself. Quickly. Cal and his siblings lived with their mother, but she wasn't always around. Cal's mom had a drug addiction and his dad was locked up for life. At the age of 10, he was already responsible for making sure his brother and sister had food. However, Cal didn't have any money, so he did what he had to do: steal.
Cal Wayne: I was the little kid walking through the projects, stealing sodas out the store and food, canned goods and noodles and stuff so I could feed my brother and them. But it’s like, I understood that it was supposed to be different then this, because I was real smart. I was, like, in the African-American Knowledge Bowl. I won a spelling bee champion, you know what I'm saying? I really had potential, I just didn't have no clean clothes. And my teachers would buy me clothes because they feel sorry for me and stuff like that. You know what I'm saying?
Brandon: So most days, the kids were on their own. And because of that, Cal started looking for guidance wherever he could find it.
Cal Wayne: When I come from school and I knew I ain't have no food and no money like that, I go to the corner where all the OGs was at and I show 'em my report card and they give me stuff. They all had a love for me because they saw what I was going through.
Brandon: But there was one OG who differed from the rest.
Cal Wayne: It's crazy, because you know the only cool OG that was out there was Floyd. He really was a different type of dude. Like, Floyd was—this dude was a big old giant, but he was the friendly one.
Brandon: Even at a young age, Floyd had a reputation as a solid dude. He was always stopping fights, being generous if he had a little extra to give, or just sharing a goofy-ass joke to anyone that would listen. He was a gentle giant, and people really gravitated toward that.
Cal Wayne: Like, you know what I'm saying? Where we were coming from man, like, it was—I ain't gonna lie, they were gangsters. They were gangsters, gangsters. And why I admired Floyd, I look at qualities of people. At this time I'm like 4'11", Floyd's like 6'6" so, you know, I'm looking all the way up at him. And all the OGs loved me, but me and Floyd's bond was different because he always said, "Man, y'all probably be my little brothers."
Brandon: Life in Cuney Homes was rough, especially for Cal. And when things started to get worse, he began to rely on Floyd. Eventually, he started to think of Floyd as more like family. Because one day, Cal came home from school and noticed that his house was empty and his mom was nowhere to be found.
Cal Wayne: I ain't know what had happened. I just know I came home, there wasn't no lights, wasn't no furniture. I was just like, "Damn, what's going on? Where my mama at?" And I sat out there for a couple of days, and the rent people came and changed the locks. So I didn't want to go to CPS or my brother to go to CPS or my sister. So my sister went with her auntie, my brother went with a coach because he could play ball and stuff real good, and they just left me out there. And I didn't know who to call or anything like that.
Brandon: Cal told me that the cops had showed up at his house and arrested his mom for welfare fraud. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But here's the thing: no one told Cal or his siblings. Cal was homeless. He started curling up on the local playground slide, or sneaking into a friend's house and hiding under his bed when his parents left. Other days, he wasn't so lucky. He was alone and scared. But someone across the way had taken notice.
Cal Wayne: And Floyd's mama, Miss Cissy, she was just like, "Bring your butt over here, boy! Come here! Y'all need to take a bath." And she told me your mama in jail or whatever, but she took us in and raised us like her own kids.
Brandon: And just like that, Cal became part of the family.
Cal Wayne: When she took us in or whatever, they didn't really have much neither, though. You know what I'm saying? They didn't have much. They were banking on Floyd to go to the NFL. And he coulda went. He was the tallest tight end, you know what I'm saying? Like 6'7", 260 pound, full muscle. You know what I'm saying? He was bad. He was good on the football field. He got his little scholarship in Southern Florida.
Brandon: By 1993, Floyd left Houston for Florida with an athletic scholarship—and dreams of getting his family out of the Cuney Homes Projects. But he wouldn't play football. His height was better suited for South Florida's Basketball team, and he was just as good on the court as he was on the field. Floyd was on track to making it out of Cuney. But he always came back to Houston on breaks. And when he returned, word of a local legend was already spreading.
Brandon: By this time, DJ Screw's mixtapes were circulating the streets. The Screwed Up Click were hood celebrities. And everyone wanted to cop a tape—or to hop on one.
Cal Wayne: In Houston, when we were growing up, if you was on a Screw tape, you was the man. And so when somebody from your neighborhood on there, they represent for y'all, you know what I'm saying? So Screw tapes at first were more about bragging rights. "I'm so cool, I'm so popular. I'm on a Screw tape, everybody know I'm a player."
Brandon: Floyd was popular even before he left for college. He was a star football player at Jack Yates High School—and you know how big football is in Texas. And being that good at that school, it gave Floyd an elevated reputation around Third Ward. So when he would make his visits, he started to hang out with SUC members like Mike D.
Mike D: I met him in the neighborhood. He always been around. You know, Floyd was a all star at Yates. He was always that guy just growing up, you know what I mean? That you want to be around. Like, Floyd was always that guy.
Brandon: During these breaks, he and other Third Ward members would share a few drinks, listen to music, really just hang out in the neighborhood. But soon, his popularity and easy going personality paid off. And one night, Floyd finally got the invite. "Yo, we hanging at Screw's tonight. You wanna come?"
Mike D: And we got close through Screw just like everybody else. That's where we built a bigger bond at.
Brandon: At first, Floyd was just at Screw's house to chill, hang out and party. Screw had a pool table, a Sega Genesis, and he invited people from different neighborhoods, which wasn't the norm. So Floyd was transported to a whole new world, and he started to make some new friends: the hottest rappers in the city.
Mike D: If there wasn't no Screw, I probably would never know who this dude was. So it was fun, and it was new just to see different people from different neighborhoods able to go there, meet, and then start hanging out after that. It really brought us all together.
Cal Wayne: Screw just wanted to be around Floyd. Because Floyd, even though he from the Cuney Homes, Floyd was a big cool dude. You could not deny the dude.
Brandon: But if you were there on nights when a tape was being made, it was a rite of passage to bless the mic with a freestyle or two. So Floyd went from just fucking around to stepping up. And just like that, George Floyd became Big Floyd.
Cal Wayne: He came from college one day, and he made a Screw tape with some dudes from the Northside called "Ballin' In The Mall."
[ARCHIVE CLIP: "Ballin' In The Mall"]
Cal Wayne: We heard it and was like, Floyd's on a Screw tape!
Brandon: For most of the neighborhood, It was the first time that someone from Cuney Homes was featured on a tape. Yeah, Cuney was a part of Third Ward, but they were the neighborhood that nobody wanted to walk through, let alone invite to the party. But here was Floyd at Screw's house on a Screw tape. And he's shouting out their hood—their home. For the first time, it felt like it was cool to be from Cuney Homes.
Cal Wayne: For Floyd to be on one, it made us in the projects feel like damn, somebody repping for Third Ward. Now they had Big Moe. But Big Moe was from the other side of Third Ward and it's like, he wasn't coming to Cuney Home. You know what I'm saying? This was our own. I knew the other ones, but we knew him as for real.
Brandon: Big Floyd would continue to appear on Screw tapes. Eventually, he'd record his own personal tape, Tre World. For most people, it's a minor entry in the Screw catalog. It's no June 27 or Leanin' on a Switch. But for the kids in Cuney Homes, it was the biggest release of the year.
Cal Wayne: And so every time Floyd would make a Screw tape or something like that, you know what I'm saying? Cause we studied every word of his mixtapes so we can go to school and rap it. So we knew every word. I knew Floyd's favorite song, his favorite song was, oh, "You Can't Stop the Reign" by Shaq. That [singing] "You can't stop the reign, you can't stop the rainfall." And I remember he used to ride in the car with me, and he had to put the seat all the way back, because he was so big, you know what I'm saying?
Cal Wayne: And his second favorite song was—hold on—Floyd's favorite song was "You Can't Stand The Reign," and, damn, what's the other song? Oh yeah, it's "Georgie Porgie Puddin' Pie" by MC Lyte."
Cal Wayne: And he had a freestyle on Tela, "Tired of Ballin'" He say, "He was going down to Yates when I wrecked the high school, 'cause they kicked me off the team, said I was a thug."
Brandon: It's important I let you know that Cal rapped this 20-year-old verse word-for-word. His enthusiasm here is tangible. He's like a kid wanting to show you his favorite part in a movie, but talking ahead of the scene out of sheer excitement.
Cal Wayne: [rapping] "And I keep a full tank when I'm rollin', cause I'm throwing it to Trae ..."
Brandon: Eventually, Floyd moved back to Houston full time—without his diploma. He dropped out for reasons that are unknown, but that gave him more time to hang out at Screw's house. He continued to be featured on tapes long enough to watch Screwed Up Click members start to get signed—you know, to make some real money. But that wasn't Floyd's path.
Cal Wayne: He was only doing it for fun. Screw made stars, you know what I'm saying? He made stars. But he was never one of the Kekes and Pokeys and people like—that people were looking for them to have careers after that. You know what I'm saying? He just knew how to have fun freestyling. It was never no career goal for him.
Brandon: After hearing Big Floyd rap on those tapes, Cal decided he could do it too. He started off simple enough: freestyling on the same beats as his big brother.
Cal Wayne: Like, we used to rap all day long in the house, and we used to go to the bootleg Screw place and make tapes. So Floyd had that [singing] "You can't stop the reign." I did a song to that. He had a freestyle on Tela, "Tired of Ballin.'" I did a song to that. I said, "Damn, I got a song with all these beats. I said, "I ain't realize Floyd was even influencing me that much."
Jinx: He's inspiring.
Cal Wayne: I just liked the beats he picked because I listened to it every day because he was from my neighborhood. That's how Screw tapes was.
Brandon: Cal eventually went from freestyling to writing his own songs, even going so far as to record his own bootleg Screw tapes for fun with some other friends. But he wanted the real thing. He would beg Floyd for an invite to Screw's house, or just to take him with him. But nothing ever came of it.
Cal Wayne: I used to just pray, like, "Man, I wish Screw could just hear it." But I ain't had nobody to get me close to him, you know what I'm sayin'?
Brandon: But even if Floyd wouldn't bring Cal along on his trips to the Wood Room, he always found time to help Cal in other ways—he was still his big brother, after all. For the next few years, Cal got tired of being broke, and started selling drugs to make ends meet. But he got better on the mic, too, and he changed his name. He started going by Killa Cal Wayne.
Cal Wayne: Anytime I answer a question, people always tell me, "Man, you rap better than you talk," you know what I'm saying? I don't know if you heard that song, "100 Bars and Runnin'?"
[ARCHIVE CLIP: "100 Bars and Runnin'"]
Brandon: This is Cal rapping on his song, "100 Bars and Runnin.'” Look it up online and you'll see Big Floyd in the video. Cal was pushing weight by this time, finally making enough money to buy his first car. He was proud, and the first thing he wanted to do was show it to Floyd.
Brandon: He rolled up to meet his big brother and started to talk about what he wanted it to eventually look like. He wanted to turn it into a slab, but that would take some more time and more money. But Floyd disagreed. He told Cal he could have his dream car right now.
Cal Wayne: I bought an L Dog, '84 L Dog. And, you know, I'm happy. It's my first time having money, I'm young, I was riding around with the top down, crunk. He said, "Wayne, let me teach you how to put a slab together like how it's supposed to be." I said, "Floyd, I ain't got money like them." He said, "Wayne, you may not have more money than them." He said, "You just gotta know how to make it look good, because you from the hood." He said, "Man, I'm gonna show you." It's like, he would just teach me. Like, he was teaching me stuff and didn't even know it."
Brandon: If you have younger siblings, you know that moment when they get older and you start to see them as a person, and you two become friends? Like, not that y'all weren't cool before, but you can relate to each other now. Well, that's what's happening here. And Cal sees that too. So it's time to show his friend the skills he's been honing in. Cal and Floyd were riding in the car together, and Cal decided to throw on his latest project.
Cal Wayne: One day I had made my first CD called Married to the Streets. I made a whole album in two hours. And we was in the car and Floyd said, "This you?" I said, "Yeah." I had a song called—I sing, too—and it said [singing] "Ooh, that's why, my Black child." I was a kid. [singing] And it don't matter what they say or they do, I got your back dog, for real." Man, that man damn near cried. He said, "Damn. Wayne, that's you?" I'm like, "Yeah." He say, "Why you ain't tell me?" I said, "Floyd, I begged you all the time to take me. Please, like, take me to the Screw house." And it's like, he always laughed. He always laughed. He said, "Damn, I should've listened.” He said, "Wayne I ain't know."
Brandon: In the course of that single car ride, Floyd sat there and realized that this was good. No, this was dope! Then came the realization that his bro had all this talent, and he didn't listen to him. Floyd regretted not hearing his brother out, but he knew how to fix this. So before Cal could put his L-Dog in park, Floyd became Killa Cal Wayne's biggest advocate. He was gonna support him 'til his boy was on billboards. Floyd had found his favorite rapper.
Cal Wayne: Ever since then, man, Floyd was like my biggest supporter. Like, every video you see, you see Floyd in my video. You hear me mention him in all the songs like this, all my whole career. When he heard me rap, Floyd was like, "I'll never have to rap again."
Brandon: And he wasn't lying. Outside of a freestyle here and there, Floyd directed all his energy toward making sure his little brother made it. If it wasn't giving honest feedback to songs, it was hyping Cal up to anyone who would listen. He was ready to support his brother in any way he needed. But what Cal really needed was for Big Floyd to hop on one of his songs.
Cal Wayne: So I actually got a song with Floyd I never put out. It was called "Stiff Nigga." I remember that. And he was like, “Man, Wayne, I never wrote a song. You know what I'm saying? "Like, what you want me to say on it?" Like, he was nervous, because he said, "Man, well, you're a real rapper."
Brandon: For someone like Floyd, hopping on a Screw tape was easy. He would hang out with his boys and then bullshit on the mic. It was fun and nothing more. But Cal was making full songs now, the kind where you had to write your verse ahead of time and know what you wanted to say. And of course, that made Floyd nervous.
Cal Wayne: I said, "Naw, Floyd. Just tell your truth." I said, "Tell your truth, Floyd." I said, "Man, don't worry about it. I'll take care of the music part. I'mma sing it and do the verse and everything." I said, "But you just tell your truth because I want your help for a reason."
Brandon: But Floyd's truth at that moment wasn't so glamorous. The athletic scholarship hadn't led him to the NFL, and rapping had only been for fun, so he didn't pursue it as a career. He was back in the Cuney Homes, and wasn't sure what to do next. The song Floyd and Cal recorded together was never released, but Cal sent it to us after holding onto it for years. And it's clear when you hear it that Floyd took his friend's advice to heart. Because when Cal said to rap your truth, Big Floyd rapped about feeling stuck.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Big Floyd: Damn Killa Wayne, I been broke for so long/I been stuck in last place for so long/Loaded potential but I'm still going wrong/Need to get my act together quick, nigga, and start being grown.]
Brandon: There's a vulnerability and an honesty in these lyrics. His first bar is about being broke—not exactly what rappers are usually honest about. Floyd is laying out his anxieties, his failures, his fears. His feelings of just being stuck. It feels like a diary entry or a confessional because he's rapping his truth. And Cal has been right beside him since he was a kid. He sees in real time that his brother is going through it—and now he can hear it. So Cal decides he's gonna help Floyd out however he can. After the break, Cal Wayne steps up.
Brandon: By the late '90s, the drug market was booming, and stop and frisk were all too common in this area. The cops damned near lived in Cuney Homes—the block was hot. But even with all the arrests, the drugs didn't stop. The neighborhood was poor and the money making mentality was strong, so people turned to selling. And Floyd was no exception.
Mike D: When you question what a person did to get money, you need to look at where they come from and their background and maybe the choices that they had to make. Might've been the best of the choices that was before him.
Brandon: However there was a problem: Floyd sucked at selling drugs.
Cal Wayne: Like, when Floyd was selling drugs or whatever, you know what I'm saying? Floyd didn't want to do that shit, man. He was just trying to survive. That man couldn't make a hundred dollars, man. Floyd was broke. So, like, he never had much in the streets.
Brandon: But Cal was experienced at the drug game. He'd been in it a while.
Cal Wayne: I was the man in the drug game too. Like, at a young age, I was a little boy riding around with a hundred pounds, and people used to be fascinated by that. Like, where he from?
Brandon: So he took Floyd under his wing. He made sure his boy had money and didn't get his hands too dirty. And for a while, it worked. But that kind of life tends to catch up to you. Both Floyd and Cal would catch some charges in the late '90s and early 2000s. But in 2007, Floyd got hit with something more serious—he was arrested for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
Cal Wayne: And the cold part? Floyd didn't do the case, y'all. Please put this in there because the world need to know, he didn't do it, bro.
Brandon: When you're talking to Cal, he doesn't sugar coat anything. He's honest and to the point when talking about the legal problems he's faced. But he's adamant on this point: Floyd did not commit this crime, and the police got the wrong guy. But there are codes to this. Cal states that Floyd made the difficult decision to not snitch and sell out the person they suspected was behind the robbery. But from Cal's point of view, it wasn't an easy decision to make.
Cal Wayne: And Floyd was like, "Wayne, what do I do?" Because we was going to court together. I was in jail for another case. Floyd said, "Wayne, Wayne, I don't want to go to prison, bro." He was scared. Floyd was scared of the penitentiary. He's like, "Man. I don't want to go to the penitentiary, Wayne." Like, you know what I'm saying? Like, damn, why he do that? Why won't he just stand up and tell the truth, bro?" Like, I wish I could have took it for him. But I ain't fit the description.
Brandon: Two things are true in this story: Cal, to this day, believes in his friend's innocence; and in 2009, Floyd pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. Bartlett State jail is a good distance away from Houston—about 3 hours to be specific. It's enough time for Houston's sweeping skylines and freeways to disappear in the rear view, being replaced by sparse suburbs and towns that look like something out of a fucking western. Cal had been arrested and sentenced for a completely different crime, but in a twist of fate, the two would do their bids together.
Brandon: The bus ride is long and depressing, but this wasn't Cal Wayne's first rodeo. He had taken this trip before. But never with Floyd sitting next to him.
Cal Wayne: He wasn't lying, man. That's what hurts the most, bro. He wasn't that kind of guy. And when he said, "I'm claustrophobic," he wasn't lying. When we were going to prison, they put the shackles around our waist and to our feet and all that. Man, that man whined and complained the whole ride. "Wayne, I'm claustrophobic. Why they got to take so long to take us to the prison? I can't lift my head up, Wayne, you know? You little. You can lift your head up and down. Wayne, why they gotta put shackles around our wrists? Wayne, why they take—" I said, "Man, shut up, Floyd! Damn!" Sitting there crying and shit, you know what I'm saying? I'm like, "Damn, you supposed to be a gangster," you know what I'm saying?
Brandon: Cal and Floyd were going to prison. It sounds terrible, but the way Cal describes these moments, there's a sense of nostalgia and fondness and humor. Floyd wasn't built for prison, but as long as they were there together, it seemed like things would be okay. This was a place Cal knew the ins and outs of, and Floyd appreciated having someone to watch his back, to keep him safe, and just to hang out with. Cal made sure the gangs in prison didn't bother them, and that Floyd had what he needed. But even though he didn't know it at the time, Floyd was playing a big role in Cal's operation. Literally.
Cal Wayne: Look, I used to have to use Floyd to intimidate. [laughs] Because Floyd was quiet, right? So I tell them, "Hey man! Y'all need to go and give us some food, man, or my big homie gonna start trippin'. [laughs] Man, and Floyd was like, I can remember he said, "Boy, you're a penitentiary n****, Wayne." You know what I'm saying? I said, "Man, we gotta eat."
Brandon: It was the classic movie trope: the short one did all the talking and the tall man was the muscle. But Floyd wasn't really the brawn, even if Cal would pretend he was. Because honestly, he just didn't have it in him to be a fighter. And this was even more apparent on the prison yard. This is one of the few spaces in lockup where everybody can see you. And more people with that same fear tactic are now in the same place. Cal and Floyd had to show they weren't the ones to be messed with. And Cal could do that. Floyd could not.
Cal Wayne: But, like, we would be on the basketball court sometime, and I seen that people start trying to size us up, because they really didn't like us, that we didn't bang and we had a lot of pull. So they were trying to, like—like I'll hold Floyd. I ain't scared to hold him to, like, really bump into him on the court and stuff to try to let him know they weren't scared of him. But I was like, "Floyd, ain't even like that." He said, "Man, Wayne. I don't like to get in trouble, get in no fights, man. Because it looks like I'm bullying." You know what I'm saying? He like, "Man, I don't want to bully nobody man, you know? It's not me, you know? I just want to go home, bro. You know what I'm saying? I'm out here doing time for somebody else anyway, you know what I'm saying?"
Brandon: Cal respected that Floyd was gentle, in spite of how he looked. This man was 6'7", 200-plus pounds with broad shoulders and the muscles to match. This—on paper—is who you don't want to fuck with. But he wasn't a bully. If anything, he was more worried about looking like a bully. And as I was interviewing Cal, he kept mentioning that. Like, he still couldn't believe that someone who looked like him and grew up where they did, wouldn't fight. So he took it upon himself to have his big bro's back.
Cal Wayne: I asked him one day, I said, "Man, why you ain't got no shorts to hoop in?" He said, "You know, I ain't got no money on my books." So I took the money off my books and bought him some shorts to play basketball in. We go out there, man, Floyd's legs look like some chicken legs, you know what I'm saying? Like, I say, man, like, I could go on forever, bro. Like, man ...
Jinx: But there's something interesting about this man, is that, like, you know, when you mentioned that early scene where you were a small kid and he just—you know, they tap you next door and Floyd's looking out for you when you—you know, you're real young. And then here it is later on you—the roles flip, and you looking out for him. That says a lot about your bond, but also again, you telling me about how wicked this time is you're coming up. Everybody's not looking out for everybody, but you two looked out for each other.
Cal Wayne: Yeah. That's why he wasn't good for the streets.
Brandon: When you go to prison, it seems like people forget about you. And sometimes that's the reality. Cal had a family on the outside, and his baby mama was not a fan of him being in and out of jail. In simple terms, she was on the way out of their relationship—and Cal knew it. Floyd and Cal spent all their free time together, usually just chilling in one of their cells. One day, they were sitting in Cal's cell, just a regular day, when a letter arrived. And Cal knew what this one was gonna say even before he opened the envelope. And he just couldn't bring himself to read it. So he gave it to Floyd.
Cal Wayne: I couldn't read the letter because I was so heartbroken. I was scared to open it. So I gave it to Floyd, and I got in my cell and I put the blanket over my head. I said, "Read it, Floyd." I was peeking from under the covers. And he opened it up and he say, "Ooh!" I said, "Damn, she gone, huh?" He said, "Damn!" You know what I'm saying? And so I'm cryin', I'm hurt. I'm hurt in my cell mad. I didn't come out the cell for, like, three, four days.
Brandon: Cal had been dumped, but Floyd wouldn't let his homie wallow for too long. He came by the cell with some advice and a song recommendation.
Cal Wayne: And Floyd said, "Man, little bro. I just heard this song on the radio, you know what I'm saying? That "Song Cry" by Jay Z.
Brandon: Floyd knew that music was his little brother's outlet, so he told him to write his truth, just like Hov had. The two sat in that cell and got to work. Cal would bounce ideas off of Floyd, and Floyd would add his own experiences with heartbreak to give him inspiration until finally, he had a verse.
Cal Wayne: "I can see them coming down my eye. So I gotta make the song cry. Got the paper wet." He was like, "That's it!" And then Floyd got up and broke the pen. He said, "Yeah, you tell them!" You know what I'm saying? I don't know why he was like that. Maybe the sports or—or whatever. Because they had nothing, either. You know what I'm saying? Roaches and outhouses, that type of thing. It just was he—just like some kind of way he make everybody smile.
Brandon: The two did their best to keep each other safe, but eventually, they had to part ways.
Cal Wayne: Like, the night I left on parole, he woke me up and he said, "Man, they callin' your name. You finna go home." And I knew he was gonna start crying. I said, "Man," I said, "Floyd, I gotta go, man. I can't stay, man." He said, "I understand, man, you know? Boy's gotta go home, huh?" I said, "Yeah." You know what I'm saying? He like, "Man, I got three more years, man, you know? Just damn, it just hurts because I didn't do nothing, you know what I'm saying?" He was crying and shit. I said, "Man, come on, man." I said, "Damn, you make me feel bad for going home from prison."
Brandon: Floyd continued out his sentence without Cal Wayne. But in January, 2013, after serving over four years, Floyd made parole. He had done his time. He headed back into Cuney at almost 40 years old. But when he got out, he was worse off.
Cal Wayne: When he came home from jail, that's what made him go out there to Minnesota. He like, "Man," he said, "Wayne, I can't do no time, Wayne. That ain't for me. That ain't for me, man."
Brandon: Floyd refused to go back to selling drugs, and odd jobs weren't cutting it. Even moonlighting as Cal's bodyguard at one point wasn't enough. But around this time, Floyd found his way to the church, and through them, an opportunity arose.
Cal Wayne: So they got a church in Third Ward that Floyd was going to. And the church got a program called "Turning Point" where they was sending a lot of the old, like, smokers and stuff like that from the 'hood up there. And one of the smokers from the hood was like, "Man, Floyd? Come on up here, man." You know what I'm saying? Because Floyd didn't know which way to turn. He like, man, he ain't know where to turn. He like, "Man, Wayne, I got a child now." When he had that baby? Gianna? He was like, "Man I gotta try." He was scared, though.
Brandon: With the promise of a fresh start, Floyd left Cuney Homes for good. In 2014, Floyd moved to Minneapolis, determined to find a better life.
Cal Wayne: Man, he surprised me, bro. Like 30 or 40 of our friends went up there trying to change their life. Man, only like seven or eight stayed. That n**** stayed.
Brandon: That didn't stop him from missing his home, though. He would visit Houston often, hanging with Cal in the studio or meeting up with SUC members to shoot the shit. But every time he came back, he felt troubled about the state of his city. You see, the crime in Cuney Homes hadn't disappeared with time and aging corner boys. The new generation had taken it on and continued the violence. And instead of the OGs talking to these kids, you know, taking the guns out of their hands, they were lightweight egging that shit on.
Cal Wayne: He came home one time and he saw all the killings going on again. You know what I'm saying? After his mama's funeral, he told me, he said, "Wayne." Aw, man. Well, hold on. I can explain Floyd all day long, but I want you to hear it out his mouth, because you can tell what kind of person he was. This is what he made when he went to Minnesota.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, George Floyd: Our young generation is clearly lost, man. Clearly lost, man. Like, I don't even know what to say no more, man. Like, you youngsters just going around, just busting guns in crowds, kids getting killed, you know? And it's clearly the generation after us, man, that's so lost, man. You know, man ...]
Brandon: As we're talking, Cal's holding up his phone during our interview, playing this video. I noticed him mouthing along to it. He's memorized his friend's words, saying them in perfect unison—just like he'd memorized all of his songs when he was a kid.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, George Floyd: I came back to Houston, and a n**** told me, "Yeah, Floyd. That young n**** the truth, man, right there because he could bust a gun." Man, I knew it was crazy then when a n**** my age saying this here, man. You know what I'm saying? They're condoning this shit, bro. Know what I'm saying? And, like, half them young n****s shooting them guns go home and they knees shaking at night. But they don't show it to nobody because, you know, they ain't tough then. Hey man, come on home, man. One day it's gonna be you and God. You going up or you going down. You know what I'm saying? That's gonna be it. And any n**** that don't like this message, especially a n**** my age, man, fuck you right now. My heart hurt.
Cal Wayne: That man went down there to try to change his life and he stayed, bro. Even when he didn't want to. He said, "Man, it just gave me a fresh start bro. Like, this influence out here just makes you wanna get back out here, man." He said, "Man, I wasn't never good at hustling, man." You know what I'm saying? He was like, "Man, I just wanna be stable." That's why every time he got his CDL, he'll post it. All his accomplishments and security job. You know what I'm saying? He was happy doing that shit. He driving a truck smiling, jamming Cal Wayne in a 18-wheeler out there on Instagram. I said, "Look at my boy." You know what I'm saying? He had called me to be like, "Man, bro, you see me? You see me, I got an apartment," you know what I'm saying? He was like, "Man, I really don't like it 'cause it's cold." He was like, "But you know," he said, "Man, you know, God just, you know, he do things like that sometimes, you know, man? And I just want to be his vessel, man." You know what I'm saying?
Brandon: Floyd did find a new life in Minneapolis. He had a job as a security guard at a local nightclub. He had made new friends, and was getting used to the weather. But one thing didn't change in the move from Houston. He was still Cal Wayne's biggest fan.
Cal Wayne: If you ever go on Floyd's page, he only had, like, 69 posts on his page. 35 of them was about me. Like, Floyd really believed. You know what I'm saying? He knew I had it, you know what I'm saying? With music and everything, Floyd's goal was for me to make it. It's just he always said, "Man, I used to watch you sit out there and sleep outside, bro. It used to break my heart, bro." He said, "I'm so proud of you, bro." And that was the best feeling in the world, because he was my hero.
Brandon: Then COVID-19 hit. Floyd lost his gig at the club. The future was uncertain once again, but even with all the uncertainty of the pandemic, he always kept a positive outlook. And next to all of the posts about Cal Wayne and his rap career, were messages encouraging everyone.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, George Floyd: So Big Floyd, man. Say man, I'm back at it, man. Workout game getting back on up, man, you know? I went through some things, man, had to bounce back, man. I'm just sharing right now. You know what I'm saying? Because, man, people quick to count you out, man, but just so strict on counting you in, you know? One thing about old Floyd, man, I love the world. I ain't puttin' on. Ask anybody that know me, then they know me. You know, 'cause, like, people be acting like they be scared to embrace God, worrying about what the next man gonna say and all that. Man, you better get down, know what I'm saying? Like, I ain't here to show out and all that, you know? This here just for—to motivate somebody who wanna work out that might need it or whatever you going through, man. Man, don't let Instagram fool you, man, and get you depressed looking at what other people doing and all that, man. I love you, man. Big Floyd. Cuney Home family.]
Brandon: People like Cal Wayne and the SUC knew a side of George Floyd that most people would never get to see: a gentle giant, the life of the party, a goofball to people who knew him best. And they grew up with him. They made music with him. They knew him. But when George Floyd was murdered last year, they all found out the same way we found out—they saw the video.
Cal Wayne: I was just getting up that morning. Somebody sent it to my phone. I didn't know who it was. I was just looking at it like, "Who sent me this shit?" And I was like, "Damn, that boy look like Floyd."
Lil O: The first time I saw it, wasn't on the news, it was on Instagram. And at first, to tell you to be true, I didn't even notice it was Big Floyd.
Mike D: It wasn't until I got to the—where I was going and they like, "Hey, man. You know that's Floyd on that." Went back and looked at it, sure enough it Big Floyd.
Cal Wayne: Man, I had to watch my brother get killed over trying to pass $20, man, to get him something. Like, I was mad that I had got broke at that time, bro, 'cause he wouldn't have to ask for shit, bro. Like, you know what I'm saying? That shit kinda make me feel guilty, man, like, I feel like I let him down. Damn! Damn. I'm sorry. Shit. Every time I talk about that shit, it makes me frustrated because I'll be like, "Shit, I feel like I let my n**** down."
Jinx: I can't say you let him down, you know what I mean? I don't—I don't live your life, but the shit you talking about is another level of loyalty and love, man. Don't ever let that thought creep in.
Cal Wayne: I ain't gonna lie, bro. Like, they took a real good dude, bro. I don't know Freddie Gray, I don't know Eric Garner, I don't know Breona Taylor and them. Like I say, I would have rolled with them too. But it's different because this was, like, my best friend and my hero. Like, you know what I'm saying?
Brandon: George Floyd didn't have an easy life. He was figuring things out, just like the rest of us. And his road was paved with the things American expects of its Black men: sports, rapping, jail—and a violent moment with a police officer. But through all of it, his heart remained soft. He never changed.
Brandon: George Floyd shouldn't have been killed that day. I shouldn't have to tell you his story. And a lot of people have tried to find meaning in his death. I wish I could tell you there's a lesson in all this, that there's some greater meaning we should take from this story. But for me, it's just relentlessly sad.
Brandon: And when speaking to Cal, it's clear that all he wants is his brother back. But in that same moment, I see the joy in his face when he relives and revisits their shared memories, how important it is for him to share it with us. And that we as outsiders know the person behind the name we know so well. Because George Floyd's story didn't end on the day he was murdered. It kept going. And the people that were there for his story—the whole story—they were there for what happened next.
Jinx: What do you miss most about your brother?
Cal Wayne: Man, them motivating texts and calls saying you gonna make it. Because there be some times I be wanting to give up, bro. Like, my fans, they fucking love me. They love me. They—can't nobody fuck with Cal Wayne rapping. They'll fight behind me. But it was different coming from Floyd, because he'll tell me, "Hey, man. That last one was kinda soft." You know what I'm sayin? It's just I've never had nobody support me like that.
Brandon: When Cal saw the news footage, he was devastated. But he didn't think twice. He got in his car and drove all the way to Minneapolis.
Cal Wayne: Man, we was in the car the next morning flying up to Minnesota. We got pulled over three times. We tell the law, "Hey, man. George Floyd's our brother, man."
Brandon: He watched the footage from the store's POV and his sadness returned. But there was a new emotion as well—anger. His brother was murdered in broad daylight, another victim of police brutality. So when the protests started, he did not hesitate. He was out there amongst a crowd of people who, for a lot of them, had never met this man, but felt the same hurt, the same rage.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, protesters: George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name!]
Brandon: The crowd in Minneapolis grew, and soon protests were popping up everywhere. People marched, got hurt, and shook their cities for George Floyd. And Cal was in complete awe that strangers rode for his family just as hard as he did.
Cal Wayne: He inspired them people, man. Like, and seeing them people all on top of buildings and police buildings burning up and shit, that shit was mind blowing. Every city we stopped in on the way back: Iowa, Des Moines, Kansas City, were burning, man. You know what I'm saying? All behind George.
Jinx: And what's interesting—'cause I'll tell you right now, I live in Brooklyn. There's murals here, bro.
Cal Wayne: Bro, every city I go to, the first thing I do—like, when I went to DC, I say, "Hey, where's the Floyd mural at? I got to find it. I Got to find it." 'Cause every time I see it, man, it's like, I start feeling like, "Damn, did I know him?" Listen, one day, I don't know how or whatever, I start saying, "Hey, man. Did I really know him? Was he a clone? Or an alien from outer space sent out here?" Like, how the fuck?
Brandon: But he did know him. Better than any of us. And a lot of tributes and murals can be found in cities across the globe. But there's one that differs from them all. There's a mural on the side of Scott Food Mart on Winbern, about a six minute walk from the Cuney Home projects, near his home. The building's orange bricks frame the blue background of the mural where Floyd can be seen painted with angel wings on either side of his black hoodie. Flowers and candles decorating the bottom like an altar. And above him, etched in yellow, sits a halo with the words, "Forever breathing in our hearts."
Cal Wayne: When you go by the mural, there's people from all over the world be coming to see the mural. And they'd be looking, they see all these gangsters on the corner, they see that they in the 'hood 'hood. But guess what? Every gangster on the block and everything, when they see people by that mural, they will go over there with their gun and everything and tell everybody, "Hey, man. Move back and let the people take their picture, man." Won't nobody disrespect Floyd. Like, you know what I'm sayin'? Like, it's that serious. Like, don't do nothing in front of this mural. Don't dump ya ashes right here, don't throw your cigarettes down right here. Go around the corner and do that shit, don't do it in front of Floyd. Like, you know what I'm saying? Man, that boy really was that kinda dude to where he's supposed to be, murals growing up and crowds of people arguing about him and marches.
Cal Wayne: I want them to look at this here. Hey man, no matter how you judge him and how you look at it, first of all he was a human being. And second of all, he was a good human being. It might not change everything, he didn't change the world, but think of this here: that n**** woke the world up. Every city you go in you got to see that motherfucker's face with them big ol' lips. But I kinda be smiling 'cause I be like, Floyd fucked these peoples up, man.
Brandon: Next week on Mogul, we're going back to the story of DJ Screw.
Russell Washington: And I pulled him to the side, I said, "Screw. Man, if you want to make a million dollars real quick, me and you both can make a million dollars. Let us sell The Screw tapes to the other stores.
Brandon: Mogul is a production of Spotify and Gimlet Media. This episode was produced by Alyia Yates. Mogul would not be possible without these amazing people: our producer Gabby Bulgarelli, our supervising producer Matthew Nelson, and our editors Brendan Klinkenberg, Lynn Levy and Chris Morrow.
Brandon: Sound design and mixing by Haley Shaw. Music supervision by Matthew Boll and Liz Fulton. This episode was scored by Rob Quest, Nana Kwabena, KPR. Theme music and additional scoring by So Wylie. And fact-checking by Stephanie Abramson.
Brandon: Special thanks this episode to Emmanuel Dzotsi, Caitlin Kenney, Jade Abdul Malik, Rachel Strom, Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr., Ayo Oti, Connie Walker, Charles Holmes and Simon Vozick-Levinson.
Brandon: Follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show. Our handle is @Mogul.
Brandon: My name is Brandon Jenkins, and I'll see you next episode.