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Rogers, a Dallas native and Prairie View A&M University graduate, won over many Houston rappers as a producer when he was still in college. These days, he holds down a weekly show called The Neighborhood Mix on 93.7 The Beat, and he remains one of the most sought-after DJs in the city. Slim Thug, several of whose songs were produced by Rogers, said, “I don’t know a lot of DJs who have as much knowledge in music as Mr. Rogers . . . [He’s] a nerd when it comes to whatever he does. He’s gonna study it. He’s gonna know the history, especially old music. I’m a fan of him as a DJ, even if he wasn’t my friend.”
Rogers (center) directing Foot Locker employees at a warehouse in Houston in February 2021. The employees volunteered to help fill and distribute bags of food and water after historic cold left many homes in Texas without power or water. Photograph by Michael Starghill
Trae’s trajectory was less straightforward. When he was twelve, his older brother Charles “Dinkie” Hughes received two life sentences, one for capital murder and one for aggravated robbery. Trae was devastated; Hughes was then, and remains, a major influence in his life. Other tragedies followed: “Two sisters murdered, another brother murdered,” he said in an interview in 2019. When he was just out of high school, Trae was convicted of aggravated robbery—though, because it was his first offense, the judge ordered a deferred sentence.
It was a turning point for Trae. “To know the shit that we doing on our regular scheduled time . . . Can give us double-digit [sentences] is like, ‘Shit,’ ” Trae told interviewer DJ Vlad in 2016. “I always remained in the streets, but I just carried myself a little differently. I wouldn’t just be as reckless as I was when I was younger.”
Trae needed a release valve, a way to narrate the turmoil, and while he’d never had strong feelings about music, his brother Dinkie encouraged him to get into the burgeoning Houston rap scene, which was bringing acts like the Geto Boys and UGK to the world stage. In 1998, at just seventeen, Trae debuted on Z-Ro’s “Look What You Did to Me”; the two would join forces as the group Assholes by Nature. Soon thereafter, Trae began pursuing a solo career on the side, ultimately rapping Southern classics like “Swang” and “Cadillac.”