Today, 13 years ago, Robert Earl "DJ Screw" Davis, Jr., died of a codeine overdose inside his Houston recording studio. He was only 29, and his impact on the world of hip-hop and pop music was just beginning. His catalog of releases—slowed mixes of popular rap songs and freestyles, typically distributed by cassette—spread first regionally, then throughout the world. The music he made would go on to inspire generations of artists and, fairly, play a big part in shaping the sound of popular music as we know it today. You've heard the production style that earned him the nickname "The Originator." It's called "chopped and screwed."
The nature of DJ Screw's tapes—thousands produced between the early 1990s and his death in 2000, and hundreds released commercially—makes documentation and evaluation a hard task.
The tapes function as something closer to a radio broadcast than an album: a rotating cast of characters join in on the creation: UGK's Bun B and Pimp C, Southside Houston Screwtape celebrities like Fat Pat and Lil Keke, but also folks like Screw's barber, Jut. Dozens of guests, from nationally-known stars to promethazined wannabes—everybody just having a good time at Screw's house.
The Screw corpus rewards deep and broad listening, familiarity with the crew and local events and places. This is a list of ten tapes that stand up as dope singular documents, but should also be a starting point for more extensive listening.
Written by Dylan King.
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