The 10 Best DJ Screw Mixtapes Image via Screwed Up Records

9. DJ Screw Blue 22 (1999)

There was never a lot of crossover between Rap-a-Lot-type Houston rap, early '90s old-school blue-collar Street Military-type Houston rap, and the Screwed Up Click (SUC). They shared some connections, though, and one of the few artists that unites all three schools is Z-Ro, a meeting point for regional hitmakers like Scarface or Big Mello, grimy, thoughtful South Park Coalition cats, and deliberate, thuggish, West Coast-influenced SUC rappers like Pokey and E.S.G. 

Z-Ro pops up on the tapes late in the game. (G Love from '98 is his first appearance.) And while a lot of dudes that you hear with Screw are in jail or dead—a fucking depressing number of RIP tapes and shoutouts add to the melancholy of listening to a cat like Moe going crazy on a hook and remembering that he is dead and everyone else on the track is dead and the guy that's cutting up the record is dead. (R.I.P. to the players DJ Screw, Big Moe, Big Steve, H.A.W.K., Fat Pat, D-Drew, and on and on and on.) Or they never managed to weather the changes in the industry or break out of regional bullshit. But Z-Ro went on to another decade of success, doing his own thing. 

Blue 22 is a personal birthday tape for Ro. But it's a subdued one. Apart from some Whodini and "Hard Knock Life," he just wanted to hear some Cube, 'Face, Street Military, Fat Pat, and one of his own tracks where he reminisces about seeing visions of his own casket. Ro comes harder on his other appearances, but the tossed off flow after Screw announces they're pulling an all-nighter makes this a sentimental favorite. He rolls into one verse, "Never slippin/Dippin' on alligator, Glock grippin'/Ready for plex, I done already put the clip in—" before cutting it short and bullshitting with Screw over "Major Players."

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