The many facets of Hip Hop, one can hardly turn it on and lose their brilliance.
Chopped & screwed is one of the most well-recognized patterns of hip-hop production, as it seemingly creates a shift in the mood for any track it finds itself on. DJ Screw is widely recognized to be the leading pioneer of the genre, as he released over 300 mixtapes up until his death in November 2000.
Screw explained his simple reasoning behind the brilliance of chopped & screwed in a 1995 interview with Rap Pages Magazine, saying, “When you smoking weed listening to music, you can’t bob your head to nothing fast.” In his penchant for slowing down tracks, Screw became a fixture within the budding hip-hop community in Houston and Texas as a whole, curating a sound which helped launch the careers of several of the sub-genre’s hip-hop legends, starting off with the members of his famed Screwed Up Click (SUC).
“He was our form of radio. He was responsible for the whole sound of our city became known for.”
- Trae the Truth, on DJ Screw
In an interview with Kyle Kramer of Noisey, Z-Ro, one of SUC’s last additions, recalled that Screw would sell about $15,000 worth of tapes each day, often directly from his house from which lines were “as long as two New York blocks”. He was eventually forced to open up his shop, Screwed Up Records and Tapes, which has remained in operation to this day and is one of the more significant landmarks of Houston’s rap scene.
In the world of chopped & screwed music today, oftentimes tracks will indeed sound a lot better when slowed down, almost to the point where the tempo of the original version is altogether erased from memory. Take OTTO Beats remix of Young Thug’s Grammy-snubbed “Killed Before” for example:
And in looking at the rappers of our current generation, none have represented the chopped & screwed genre like A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott.
When A$AP Mob first arrived onto the scene in 2011-12, they prided themselves on their role in bringing awareness of Texas hip-hop culture to New York and reincarnating the “Trill” movement, made popular by UGK throughout the early 2000s. The Mob’s early hits like “Purple Swag” and “Goldie” were notable for the slowed vocals throughout as well as the references to the aforementioned culture: the “mouth full of gold”; the lean sippin’; and the color purple in general.
As a native of the Houston area, Travis Scott’s production has always shown to have influences from the chopped & screwed era, especially in the dark and slurred tone of a number of his tracks both early on and even today. “Drive”, the steller collab with James Fauntleroy from Scott’s debut mixtape Owl Pharaoh even samples “Sailin’ da South” from Screw’s renown 3 ‘N the Mornin’, Pt. 2 album.
DJ Screw’s death at the age of 29 was notable in the fact that he was one of the first prominent figures in hip-hop to pass away as a result of a codeine overdose, which took the lives of fellow Texas hip-hop legends Big Moe and Pimp C years later. And when you look at hip-hop’s more recent codeine-related deaths in A$AP Yams and Fredo Santana, the subject of “kicking the cup” is one that will only continue to be brought up.
While drug abuse is truly a curse which has afflicted our community among many others, ignoring the conditions (and more specifically, mental health conditions) which lead to drug addictions as such only contributes to the ongoing epidemic. And so to chastise those who have gone on record saying that they won’t be kicking the cup is truly ill-advised.
DJ Screw remains unquestionably one of the most influential figures in Texas hip-hop history; hip-hop history overall. His legacy will forever live on through those who like their music a little slow, with or without a double cup present (hopefully without).