Z-Ro, Trae Tha Truth & Killa Kyleon Discuss Houston’s State Of Crisis After Harvey (Audio)

With mandatory evacuations in Florida, Georgia and possibly more on the way as Hurricane Irma barrels towards the United States (after decimating islands in the Caribbean), the country continues to reel from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Houston and some coastal parts of Texas were ravaged by the storm, which reportedly left 30% of the huge metropolis underwater. Shawn Setaro, host of The Cipher Show podcast, recently aired a special episode of his series in which he spoke with three of Houston’s most engaged social activists – who just so happen to be rappers. Z-Ro, Trae Tha Truth, and Killa Kyleon all spoke with Setaro about the damage they’ve witnessed, as well as the various foundations and charities they have in place to help raise money for those suffering.

Singled out by the city of Houston for his local humanitarian efforts (Trae Day), Trae Tha Truth says his taking to boats to rescue people from Harvey’s aftermath is, sadly, not his first time doing so. “I always do that. I do this year round, people just don’t see it ’cause of the magnitude,” he tells Setaro. Acknowledging that his fame makes it easier for him to get so directly involved with rescue efforts without upsetting local officials, Trae also attests to the incomparably serious effects this hurricane has had on his community. “I have seen everything, man. We’ve gone door-to-door, bringing food and water. We’ve emptied out 18-wheelers with supplies. I’ve seen alligators. I’ve even seen my whole neighborhood go underwater” (5:15).

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Explaining he had to evacuate out of his own home, he hasn’t been allowed back in since. And despite all of the tragic footage and statistics people are seeing and hearing on the news and social media, Trae says there’s still more to the story that people are just not getting. “People have to start over from scratch,” he says (6:05). That’s why he’s launched a GoFundMe to help raise $250,000 immediately so that folks can get the basic necessities we may take for granted in daily life.

For his part, Killa Kyleon is not only helping in rescue efforts but also speaking out about some of the questionable economics in the wake of a natural disaster. “They’re charging $10 for a first-aid kid. That’s crazy,” he says of corporations engaging in what is arguably a form of usury (10:02). Furthermore, he says the city can’t rely on official government support. “We’re not waiting for FEMA or any of that, man. The Red Cross is trying to figure out what portion of the donations are gonna go towards [Hurricane Harvey relief efforts],” he points out in reference to the organization’s spokesperson recent interview in which he seemingly had no concept whatsoever of how the funds will be allocated. Also making note of Trump’s statement that he would be donating $1 million of his own money, Trae is skeptical at best that any of the money will actually go towards helping real people in real need.

All of that is “insulting,” he says. And while these government officials and charities are flailing about, the city is being neglected. “It’s a lot of people still getting rescued right now. Not only that, the dams are still releasing water” (12:10). “A few of the places where the dams were released at are low-income neighborhoods. If the dams would have stayed in place, a lot of the high-income neighborhoods would have been more damaged than the low income [neighborhoods]. Also, a lot of places that’s never flooded have flooded and have lost everything. So you can’t call out the race thing that’s going on because, the thing about Houston, everybody in Houston is helping each other.” Several minutes later, though, he says in the Houston neighborhood of Greenspoint “a lot of the problem is drainage hasn’t been properly worked on. The gentrification part of it – low-income areas, they don’t give a sh*t about what’s going on over there.”

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Prior to the storm’s arrival, he says the city seemed nonchalant about what would happen, making the current situation even harder to accept. “The cold part is, they were telling people not to evacuate,” says Kyleon. “They didn’t want to cause a bunch of confusion on the highway,” he adds referencing the 100+ deaths of people who were trapped in gridlock trying to escape Houston when Hurricane Rita was on its way and the deaths related to the city’s planning for Hurricane Allison. This time around, some parts of Houston are “filing lawsuits against the city” because of a lack of planning and post-storm recovery failings. However, he also points out some of the destruction happening as a result of citizens themselves. “It’s like the Wild Wild West. People are getting robbed. A lot of the stores in the low-income areas have been burglarized. It’s worse than Katrina (15:57).” “Over ten-trillion gallons of water. There was enough water that we could spread [it] across the United States and it would flood every city with inches,” says Kyleon of reports he’d heard elsewhere.

Kyleon and Slim Thug have teamed up for a fundraising drive through the Boss Life Foundation.

Near the 22-minute mark, Z-Ro begins to discuss his experience. “In no uncertain terms, it’s hell. That’s the best way to describe it.” After explaining that on the day the storm hit, his garage began to fill up with water to such a degree that his car began to become submerged, Z-Ro expressed gratitude that his studio on the second floor of his home was safe. “I was trapped at the house with nothing but…looking outside the window. When I say the water was drizzling at 10:40, by about 12 o’clock it was really impassible, that’s not a euphemism,” he says at the 23:20 mark. He also explains that, due to the way the local reservoirs function, at some point they were “released” so that the water in his neighborhood had a place to go. However, as he explains, that just meant “people were trapped in other neighborhoods.” Calling his neighborhood “very nice,” he says “when I drove a mile up the road to smaller houses, they were all the way underwater. People were already out their second-story windows.”

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When asked what people outside of the storm’s affected area are not able to learn about the reality of the situation, Z-Ro minces no words. “People are losing everything. What you’re not hearing is the screams. You’re not hearing the cries. You’re not hearing the prayers. People are actually thinking God is forsaking them right now. People are going to sleep with their whole life and then waking up and their life is gone. It literally floated down the street” (28:00). From dry rotting wood furniture, destroyed electronics, and clothes left behind by the storm, Z-Ro says what people are not thinking about in the water are “the alligators and the snakes coming out of the toilet.”

Ambrosia For Heads sends its condolences to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, as well as those in the path of Irma.

#BonusBeat: Last 7 coverage of Hurricane Harvey, and the reports from Bun B:

Other Last 7 episodes.