“Houston Strong,” a phrase used throughout the Houston Astros’ remarkable World Series run, is more than just a rallying cry or a hashtag on Twitter; it’s a symbol of the strength and resilience the city’s residents displayed during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that made landfall in August.
“The people of Houston are the ray of hope that’ll get us through all of this. ‘Houston Strong’ is a combination of all of us coming together,” Trae Tha Truth tells Billboard months after watching Harvey bulldoze its way through his hometown.
Hurricane Harvey delivered winds in excess of 130 mph, with gallons of rain flooding several parts of the city. The disaster led to 88 deaths and more than $125 billion in damages, the most damage caused by a natural disaster in the history of the United States since Hurricane Katrina. Rather than allow this tragedy to cripple his spirit, it strengthened Trae’s psyche.
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Trae was trapped in his home. He was later rescued by a group of kindhearted townsfolk. The rescue inspired him, along with Houston-based DJ Mr. Rogers, to create The Relief Gang, an organization dedicated to repairing what the city of Houston lost to Hurricane Harvey. Within minutes of being rescued, Trae was spotted on a boat searching for anyone who was in dire need of aid. “I didn’t want to talk about music during the hurricane and the initial relief efforts. I couldn’t do it,” he says. “Once the hurricane hit, my whole life went on hold to try and help others because they needed it.”
During that stretch of time, he sacrificed his music career to help those in need. It was a daunting task, but he managed to use that time as a catalyst for his personal growth. Since the catastrophic hurricane, Houston is still struggling to recover and get back to its feet. “It’s going to be hard to get back to what we had, but it’s slightly getting better,” he says.
In a rare moment in what he explains as “sitting still,” Trae realized the world needed to know what was really happening in Houston. Inspired by his work through Relief Gang and the resiliency of his community, Trae returns with his new album, Hometown Hero, due Friday. In just three days, Trae created a 12-song project that exemplifies the feelings of all the citizens of Houston whose homes were devastated by the tortuous winds of Harvey.
With T.I., Mozzy, Young Thug and more serving as his supporting cast, Trae seamlessly sculpts an album that his Houston cohorts will adore. Tracks such as “I’ll Be Fine,” “Dayz I Prayed” and ” Better Dayz” provide optimism to a city that was nearly eviscerated. It also instills insight to listeners who were unaware of the agony that his neighbors endured. “Nobody really knows how devastating it really is,” says Trae. “They see things on TV but actually listening and seeing it so far past that is something different.”
For Trae, the album was also his very own therapy session. “This album was just me venting and showing the world what was going on through our eyes,” he says. “A lot of people don’t really know how it is and the effect the hurricane had on the city.”
Because of his heroics, Trae brazenly morphed into the city’s protagonist. Though he didn’t ask for the title of “hero,” he has steadily embraced his new role. “Everybody constantly calls me a hero, man. That’s why the [album] cover is a representation of what my hero character would be. Something like a Dark Knight Batman type of character.” Despite the weighty title, Trae acknowledges that it wasn’t just a one-man army that got the city hopeful again.
“It’s the combination of all of us together. Hometown Hero is a representation for the city. We’re hometown heroes.”
Listen to “Better Dayz,” featuring T.I. and RaRa, below.