Somebody wrote to me on Facebook asking if I would write something about my take on screw music, and I thought that sounded like a worthwhile thing to do. I am so not an expert of the genre, but I love it very much and have done a certain amount of research on it so let me see what I can come up with.
First, what is Screw music? Screw is a short hand name for “Screwed and Chopped”. We are talking about hip hop music here, specifically rap music from Houston Texas, but Screw has safely entered the mainstream and almost all new southern rap records have some element of the style. “Screwing down” the music means that it is slowed down, almost to half speed, thus creating an ominous, demonic feel, especially with the rappers voices. “Chopping” the track refers to a certain style of DJ technique, also known as cutting, where two copies of the same record are played at the same time, slightly out of sync yet still in time, and the DJ cuts the fader back and forth creating a stuttering, syncopated repetition in the beat. Then layer a good amount of swooshing flange, chorus, and phasing to the mix and voila, sounds like Screw Music.
The young man who innovated this style of DJing in the mid 90′s was a Houston native named DJ Screw. He was a prolific DJ and produced hundreds if not thousands of mix tapes that he used to solidify his reputation as the true pioneer of the style. Unfortunately Screw died from an overdose of prescription cough medicine, know commonly as “Syrup”, “Oil”, “Purple”, or just simply “Drank”. Drinking syrup is at epidemic levels these days, but it’s still championed in much southern rap music. I’ve never tried it but I know someone who nearly died from it. He said it was one of the scariest feelings of his life.
I’ve heard some rappers and producers from the Houston scene say that Screw music reflects the lifestyle in Houston, it’s often so hot that people move slower, they drive slower, and they talk slower. Car culture factors in to the equation too, with Screw music being the best, and most bass heavy music to “bang” on a high end customized sound system.
Screwed and Chopped is considered by most hip hop aficionados to be the first form of truly psychedelic rap music to emerge. Some challenge that by pointing at early Day La Soul, but they weren’t really psychedelic, they just dressed like hippies.
I could put a whole list of names of rappers and producers here for you to check out but I will only suggest DJ Screw, Screwed Up Click, Swisha House/DJ Micheal Watts and then you can go nuts from there with youtube and google. I will add that in my most humble opinion the most elegant, deep, and straight up moving example of the style is DJ Michael Watt’s version of David Banner’s “Mississippi Album”. Mind blowing.
So there you go, I hope you check it out because it is part of our cultural landscape here in Texas, and don’t even get me going about “Screwmbia”, that’s right, psychedelic screwed up cumbia music! It’s so fresh you can’t even google it…
That’s all I got, enjoy, and please stay away from Purple Drink!!