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What might have been intended as a throwaway line soon became a pivotal lyric, as the operations manager and program director banned Trae from The Box. An internal memo distributed to staff instructed, “DO NOT AIR: Trae tha Truth on our station. No interviews, no calls, no comments, no posts on our website, no station Twitter, no station Facebook, no songs in the mix show, no verses on remixes or songs in regular rotation. No exceptions. The current online postings will be removed shortly.” Trae alleged in a 2018 lawsuit against Radio One that after that, the company’s senior vice president of programming content sent out the same directive nationally. (Radio One’s attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) Trae believed the ban had effectively dissolved the possibility of him booking shows or being signed to a label.
He was also crushed when some friends distanced themselves from him for fear of radio retaliation. In a 2018 radio interview he said, “Some people look at it as ‘Hey, do I stand with him, what I know is one hundred percent right, or do I feed my family?’ And I think the older I got, I just got to a point where I wasn’t angry no more. Aight, cool. If you feel you gotta feed your family, I gotta respect that.”
National artists showed solidarity by appearing on Trae’s tracks, sometimes in great numbers. For Trae’s song “I’m on 2.0,” rappers Big K.R.I.T., B.O.B., Gudda Gudda, Jadakiss, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Tyga, and Bun B appeared, with a long list of high-profile cameos in the video.
At home, in Trae’s darkest hours, support came from Houston friends like DJ Mr. Rogers and a local rapper named George Floyd, who often helped Trae deliver food and supplies to charity events. Once, just before Trae accepted a humanitarian award, Floyd approached him. Floyd told Trae that one day they were going to change the world.
Last May, Trae was woken up by a phone call from a friend. “They’re saying Floyd died,” the friend said, adding that there was video of his killing. Still groggy, Trae watched the footage in shock as he tried to take in what he was seeing: his friend Big Floyd crying out for his mother as a police officer looked into a camera and slowly suffocated him. “That brought a different type of anger,” Trae said.