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 'When we say the word 'screwed,' it's upholding a legacy' ...





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"I think what people realized is that even though DJ Screw had passed, this city has its own sound." - Bun B
By the time DJ Screw had passed away, the entire screwed and chopped style had begun to infiltrate the rest of the South: The sound could be heard on mixtapes in Atlanta, New Orleans and Miami. Groups like Three 6 Mafia in Memphis, Tennessee, were having their albums screwed and chopped; in 2000, they would have a minor hit with a song called "Sippin' on Some Syrup" that extolled the virtue of both drank and screwed music.

After Screw's death, the sound seemed to take off, as if in homage to his memory. "I think what people realized is that even though DJ Screw had passed, what couldn't be denied was the fact that this city has a personality; this city has its own sound," says Bun B. Soon, the sound cultivated a community of syrupy stars, rappers like Slim Thug, whose first three albums were released as screwed and chopped CDs. (Slim's oft-postponed major-label debut, Already Platinum, is now due in July.)

David Banner's MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water
In 2003, David Banner took the Houston sound mainstream by becoming the first artist to release a screwed and chopped version of an album (his major-label debut, Mississippi: The Album) on a major label, just months after the regular version was released in stores.

"I'm from Mississippi, we're just around the way from Texas," says Banner. "But I always want people to know that this came from Texas. You have to give props due to DJ Screw and Texas. I just want people to know it's part of Texas culture."

Banner hired Watts to do the remix, since Watts became the preeminent ambassador of the screwed and chopped sound after DJ Screw's death. Mississippi: The Screwed and Chopped Album would sell roughly 50,000 copies throughout the South, as well as less likely places such as St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Soon, Banner's label, Universal Records, would issue screwed and chopped remix versions of albums from their entire roster of Southern rap artists, including the Cash Money Records crew. Recently, artists like T.I., UGK and Mystikal released official screwed and chopped remixes of their albums, opening up an entirely new fanbase outside of H-Town.


Check out some of the hottest Chopped & Screwed videos from your favorite artists

"Our sales [on screwed and chopped CDs] grow by the month. We can't keep anything in stock," says Danny Blaq, who runs Baylo Entertainment, a national hip-hop CD distributor. "Wisconsin, Seattle, Illinois, even international. We sell to a lot of guys in the military."

The slowed-down sound of screwed and chopped has also started to ooze into the mainstream. The lethargic pace of "Still Tippin' " — which borrows its hook from a Slim Thug screwed and chopped freestyle — belies the big beats of most other hip-hop, instead mimicking the slower rhythms often found in screwed remixes of hip-hop songs. Subsequent singles from Jones, Wall and the rest of Houston's new generation of rap stars follow a similar template.

The sound even seems to be influencing artists outside of hip-hop. Ciara's hit "Oh," with its creeping bassline and pulsing reverberations, moves at a dramatically slower pace than most contemporary R&B songs, a style its producers, Dre & Vidal, readily admit was influenced by the screwed and chopped sound. "When I first heard [screwed] music, I was like, 'What is this? Is this a mistake?,' " laughs Dre. "We kind of ran with it and put our little twist on it for the Ciara record."

Still, no matter how big the sound of Houston gets and how far across the globe it reaches, screwed and chopped music will always be a part of the city's identity — and that of its namesake, DJ Screw.

"Screw music is important to the culture — it's what holds the culture together here in Texas," says Paul Wall. "So when we say the word 'screwed,' it's a lot deeper than just the music being slowed down. It's upholding a legacy."

"That's the one thing," Bun B says. "No matter what happens: If I stop, the Geto Boys stop, and nobody else writes a rhyme, in the history books [it will say], 'Screw music: Houston, Texas.' They can't take that away."


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Photo: Julia Beverly

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