DJ Screw, the godfather of Houston’s slowed-down sound, will get the e book therapy — Andscape

Syrup — or purple drank — didn’t kill DJ Screw, says Lance Scott Walker, an skilled on Houston’s hip-hop tradition. Though police stated Screw died of an overdose of the prescription cough drugs, Walker argues it was only one issue amongst many who led to his demise at 29.

Walker’s new e book, DJ Screw: Life in Sluggish Revolution, is the primary to be written about DJ Screw (whose actual identify was Robert Earl Davis Jr.), the influential Houston DJ who popularized the “chopped and screwed” sound, a technique of slowing down information to a crawl. The music went hand in hand with an area drug tradition centered on “syrup,” a combination of codeine cough drugs and soda.

Walker grew up in Galveston, Texas, and his journeys to Houston and eventual relocation there immersed him within the metropolis’s hip-hop tradition. Screw, who died in 2000, was each prolific and influential, and his mixtapes and music have been an integral a part of placing Houston on the nationwide radar.

Walker spoke with Andscape about DJ Screw’s life, the widespread misconceptions about him, and the optimistic and unfavorable facets of syrup on the Houston hip-hop sound.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

You opened the e book with DJ Screw on the Justo Mixtape Awards ceremony in New York Metropolis in 1999 and talked about that it was his first time on an airplane. It looks like DJ Screw shunned the highlight and was a recluse.

I don’t suppose there was a highlight to shun. It’s not just like the media was chasing him down. We consider him as a recluse as a result of he was underground, however there have been all the time folks at his home. That will have been much less within the later years of his life when he moved additional outdoors town on the southwest facet. He did that to keep up a component of privateness. He stayed underground. He by no means signed with a label. You weren’t going to achieve DJ Screw by electronic mail, and there wasn’t a PR individual to achieve out to.

You refer in your e book to Lester “Sir” Tempo, an ’80s Houston radio DJ who by chance slowed down a file on-air, which resulted in folks fiending for the sound in golf equipment earlier than the inflow of syrup use. Is it honest to say there’s a widespread false impression that the “chopped and screwed” sound originated out of drug tradition? That’s probably not the place it got here from.

It really isn’t. Screw was slowing down music earlier than codeine got here into the image. Codeine was within the image within the sense that individuals in Houston had been consuming it ceaselessly. The ’80s, ’70s, ’60s, manner again. However Screw was a number of years into his profession earlier than codeine ever got here into the image for him. I did need to make that time clear. [Houston rapper] Paul Wall stated it’s like having wine with steak, and it enhances the music for lots of people. However I wished to make clear that Screw’s music didn’t come up from that.

You write that DJ Screw began by training strategies, routines and tips modeled after the early hip-hop DJs in New York Metropolis. How do you suppose his path might need been totally different had he remained a hip-hop DJ within the conventional sense?

He was a incredible DJ. He had nice palms. If he was nonetheless making mixtapes and had folks coming by to do freestyles, and he wasn’t doing the chopped and screwed factor, I nonetheless suppose you’ll have seen a large cultural shift in Houston because of his efforts. You’ve received to recollect he did all the things at common pace. Quite a lot of instances, doing it with out headphones, simply doing it on-site. That’s the place he received his identify, by marking up information with a screw so he might see the place stuff was on there.

DJ Chill says within the e book that DJ Screw basically labored himself to demise. The grind is a part of hip-hop tradition. What do you suppose are a very powerful classes from his demise?

Many individuals say Screw labored himself to demise, however I feel the essential factor to recollect is that it wasn’t for the grind, the hustle or the cash for him. Screw had loads of cash, and he made a lot of cash in money. He didn’t reside extravagantly. He was completely satisfied to have the ability to purchase a home at one level and deal with his mom, different members of his household and his circle of pals. His ardour for the music pulled him into that vortex of labor that he received misplaced in lots of instances through the years. It wasn’t in regards to the cash, and he nonetheless labored himself to demise. It’s a tragedy that we misplaced him, but it surely also needs to serve to point out that music is deep, deeper than you even understand at first. 

Would Screw’s complete musical path have occurred with out his drug use?

In the event you return, he began possibly smoking some weed, consuming 40s, however he was on his path earlier than codeine promethazine. We will discuss medication in a broader sense. Would Jimi Hendrix have made nice information with out marijuana? Possibly. He was an unbelievable musician. He definitely didn’t want that. However would have all these concepts come to him? I don’t know. It’s not possible to say. Anytime one thing is a part of any individual’s artistic arsenal, and so they have the work to point out for it, it’s onerous to criticize. Codeine promethazine didn’t kill DJ Screw. Quite a lot of various factors did. It was one of many components, but it surely wasn’t what precisely killed him.

You point out within the e book that as the thrill round DJ Screw and the chopped and screwed sound began to develop, docs loosened their grip on prescriptions of codeine promethazine. How doubtless is it that DJ Screw and his recognition influenced them?

It’s one thing that individuals have been speaking about on the tapes. In the identical manner, the tapes popularized sweet paint and rims. This all goes into folklore round Screw and his affect. There have been loads of locations you possibly can go to get codeine, and the legal guidelines received lots tighter after DJ Screw died. Folks discuss in regards to the ’90s as a ‘golden period’ when it was a lot simpler to get your palms on it.

How simple was it to seek out DJ Screw tapes throughout the peak of his success?

Earlier than the shop location [Screwed Up Records & Tapes], there have been a lot of Screw tapes round, however you would need to know the place his home was, otherwise you would have had to enter a file retailer the place that they had them for resale. One of many causes you hear folks clamoring for tapes is that in the event you have a look at the Screw store, they’ve taken previous Screw tapes, cleaned them up in Professional Instruments and put them on CDs. They’re approaching 400 totally different tapes. These are simply those they’ve been capable of monitor down. There are lots of extra, possibly 1000’s of Screw tapes on the market that didn’t survive. DJ Screw’s home wasn’t in a superaccessible neighborhood both. It was proper subsequent to a freeway. His sister instructed us this story at South by Southwest about how one night time she received misplaced on this freeway exit. She ended up driving round this neighborhood and noticed a ‘for lease’ signal on this home and thought that’s good for Screw, and that’s how he ended up dwelling there.

What do you suppose is probably the most iconic Screw tape?

Oh, it’s June twenty seventh. Little doubt. That’s probably the most well-known by far. It’s a 30-minute-plus freestyle, and also you’ve received Massive Moe singing. You’ve received Yungstar. That’s his debut. The tape was launched on July 4 weekend in 1996. There was an enormous celebration down in Galveston, and everyone was driving round listening to that tape.

Adam Aziz is a author and marketing consultant dwelling in Toronto. Observe him on Twitter @brokencool.

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