A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 17, 2007
Chopped & Screwed or Screwed & Chopped (Houston-based hip-hop)

"Chopped and screwed” (or “screwed and chopped” or any of several other names) is a type of hip-hop music that became popular in Houston, mainly from the late DJ Screw (1971-2000). The MTV article below, “Screwed & Chopped: A History” by Joseph Patel, is well worth reading in full on the original site.


Wikipedia: Chopped and Screwed
Chopped and screwed (or screwed and chopped), slowed and throwed, Houston music, H-Town music, screw music, screw, and dragged and chopped all refer to a technique of remixing hip hop music. This is accomplished by slowing the tempo and applying techniques such as skipping beats, record scratching, stop-time, and effecting portions of the music to make a “chopped-up” version of the original.

Overview
The style was developed in Houston, Texas by DJ Screw, which remains the location most associated with the style. The late DJ Screw, a South Houston DJ, is credited with the creation of and early experimentation with the genre. DJ Screw began making mixtapes of Houston rappers’ slowed-down music in the early 1990s. Originally, this process involved mixing two copies of the same record, slowed down either on the turntables using pitch shift or, later, through use of an after-mixer device. Phasing, Flanging and echo effects were originally the result of the two records being played at millisecond intervals.

Some Houston-area artists (e.g. Ganksta N-I-P and Willie D) began to incorporate the slowed tempo into rap songs. Willie D’s Die, from the album I’m Goin Out Lika Soldier, featured a slowed-down sample of Scarface’s line “Balls and my word” (from the feature film) well before chopped and screwed gained more mainstream acceptance.

The genre was associated with both the use of marijuana and the consumption of “syrup,” prescription cough syrup which can contain the narcotic drugs codeine or hydrocodone in combination with other things like promethazine (not the dissociative-anesthetic drug dextromethorphan found in over-the-counter Robitussin, as is often mistaken). This has been credited with influencing the genre’s psychedelic style.

DJ Screw made a significant number of mixtapes (purported to be in the thousands), usually with a theme. This provided a significant outlet for MCs in the south Houston area, and helped local rappers such as Lil’ Flip, E.S.G., UGK, Lil Neal, Lil’ Keke, and Z-Ro gain regional and sometimes national prominence. Early tapes were often screwed and chopped versions of instrumentals over which rappers would later freestyle, but later tapes were mostly vocal tracks with occasional toasting or freestyle intermissions. By the time of Screw’s death in 2000, the genre had become widely known throughout the southern United States.

Mississippi rapper David Banner released a chopped and screwed version of his Mississippi: The Album in 2003, marking one of the first efforts by a Mississippi artist. Other southern recording artists, including Eightball and MJG, Lil’ Troy, The Geto Boys, MC Breed, and Three 6 Mafia, as well as Chicago’s Do or Die, had similar success.

Currently, the style is exemplified in the music of Swishahouse DJs such as OG Ron C, DJ N.A.S, and Michael 5000 Watts. Their work has helped establish current rappers Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, and Mike Jones, and rap groups such as The Color Changin’ Click and the Screwed Up Click. More major recording labels have embraced the genre, and chopped and screwed albums occasionally outsell their unmixed counterparts.

Paul Wall’s commercial success in 2005 has made him the most prominent artist working within the genre. It also marked a movement in production technique from turntables to the use of Vinyl Emulation Software. Paul Wall appeared on MTV Jams during the summer of 2005 to host a block of chopped and screwed music videos and to talk about the remix technique he uses. In April 2005 the first albums from the genre were made available at the iTunes Music Store.

Wikipedia: DJ Screw
DJ Screw, born Robert Earl Davis, Jr. (July 20, 1971 – November 16, 2000), was a central figure in the Houston rap scene. His innovation included the trademark technique of slowing down the basic tracks of a cut when he remixed it. This process is called “screwing” a song. Slowing down the song was supposed to recreate the effect of recreationally using Promethazine with Codeine also known as “lean” or “purple drank” in Houston parlance.

Musical career
During the early ‘90s, he invited some of Houston’s most renowned rappers from the south side of the city to flow on his Screw tapes. This eventually led to the formation of the Screwed Up Click.

What originally was only a fad of Houston, Screwed and Chopped music started getting more widespread attention with the introduction of p2p programs such as Napster in the late 90s. This ultimately led to DJ Screw getting recognition across the country and being known as one of biggest faces in modern hip-hop.

Born in Smithville, Texas he began DJing at age 13. A few years later he moved to Houston for opportunities as a rap SFX musician.

He released five above ground releases: “All Screwed Up, Vol. 1” (1995), “3 ‘N the Mornin Part 1” (1995), “3 ‘N the Mornin Part 2 Red” (1996) “3 ‘N the Mornin Part 2 Blue” (1996), and “All Work, No Play” (1999). Although DJ Screw only has a handful of above ground releases, he has recorded hundreds of different mixes, released primarily on cassette tape. These are still available for purchase at the “Screwed Up Records and Tapes” located on Cullen Blvd in DJ Screw’s hometown Houston which opened in 1998. His mixtapes include titles such as “June 27” and “The Final Chapter.”

In the mid-1990s Priority Records offered DJ Screw a lucrative record deal. Screw turned down the offer. Former Priority Records exec Dave Weiner said “It wasn’t about the money for him, it was about doing what he wanted to do with his homeboys.”

DJ Screw often created “chopped and screwed” versions of famous rap songs. Some notable examples of these tracks include R. Kelly’s “I Wish” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Budsmokers Only”. 

MTV
Chopped & Screwed: A History
— by Joseph Patel, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway
(...)
Screwed Up Records & Tapes is the store that keeps alive the memory of Robert Earl Davis Jr., a.k.a. DJ Screw, the local hip-hop DJ who was the inventor and namesake of screwed music. No one knows for sure how or exactly when Screw created the slowed-down sound, but members of his south Houston crew, the Screwed Up Click, say that Screw was playing around with his turntables in 1991 and serendipitously discovered that dramatically reducing the pitch of a record yielded a mellow, heavy sound that resonated with the slowed-down pace of H-Town.

“One day he picked up a Mantronix album — that’s the first thing I heard [slowed down],” remembers Big Bub, Screw’s cousin and the man who runs Screwed Up Records & Tapes, which sells many of DJ Screw’s old cassettes. “He played it at a slow pitch and really liked the way it sounded. He kept messing with it, messing with it, and about a year later, he made a [whole] tape all slowed down.”

“He slowed it down so the bang would be a little harder and deeper,” says longtime Houston rapper and songwriter Devin the Dude. “When the music was like that, you could just creep and ride around all night.”

While the sound has a similar feel to West Coast hip-hop like Dr. Dre and DJ Quik (Screw’s personal favorite was C-Bo), its pace is a unique reflection of the South. “In the South, we chill a little bit more,” says Jackson, Mississippi-based rapper David Banner, who remembers first hearing Screw in 1994. “It ain’t fast and loud and all that — it’s laid-back riding music.”

Screw soon made mixtapes broadcasting his new style to his south Houston neighborhood. “When you say, ‘screwed music,’ you have to realize that for years, it was what it was without getting labeled,” explains Bun B, one half of the veteran Texas rap group UGK. “It wasn’t called ‘screwed and chopped’ when he was doing it, it was just a ‘Screw Tape’ — and you always wanted to get that Screw Tape.” “Screw Tapes was just like having a pair of bad Air Force Ones [sneakers] is today,” says longtime Screw affiliate and Houston rapper E.S.G. “If you didn’t have a Screw Tape in your deck, you wasn’t hip to what was going on.” DJ Screw’s tapes (also referred to as “Gray Tapes” because of the gray cassettes they were recorded on) were often organized by themes — a mixtape featuring songs about cruising in cars, for example. Screw also made customized tapes for people in his ‘hood. “You could get a tape for like $10,” remembers Bun B. “Then, for $15, you could give him a list [of songs] you wanted and he’d shout you out on the tape. For a little more, you could actually come to Screw’s house and shout out people yourself.”

Shout-outs led to freestyles, which led to an entire crew of MCs built around Screw’s DJ technique. That crew, the Screwed Up Click, includes MCs like E.S.G., Lil’ Keke, Big Pokey and Big Hawk, who have since become local legends — with careers built entirely on slowed-down rhymes. Rapper Lil’ Flip, though not part of the Screwed Up Click, also launched his career off of Screw tapes. He recorded two tapes with Screw — Freestyle King and Southside Still Holdin’ — that created a name for him locally. “Those tapes still sell today,” says Big Bub. Flip took to Screw’s sound and, instead of just trafficking in the standard mixtape game — with songs delivered at normal speed — Flip would also record a screwed version of that same mixtape. These “double” releases of a single mixtape helped make him the scene’s first local star.

“What Screw did for so many people out here is he gave us all careers,” says Hawk. “Each and every individual in this click will represent Screw for the rest of our lives because of that, straight up.”

Up until the mid-1990s, the sleepy Screw sound was still limited to H-Town’s south side. Soon, though, the sound traveled to north Houston, where a veteran hip-hop DJ named Michael “5000” Watts would adopt the technique and represent for his neighborhood. “Everything Screw was doing was representing for the south side,” says Watts. “Since I was making regular mixtapes over here, the guys on my side were like, ‘You need to do this representing for us.’ “

Watts estimates that he began slowing down his music in 1996. He started Swisha House Records, which, on the strength of his mixtapes, quickly grew into one of Houston’s biggest labels, developing its own roster of artists, including today’s stars Mike Jones and Paul Wall. Though a rivalry developed between the north and south sides, between the originators and the adopters, Watts is careful to pay homage to the style’s inventor by calling the music screwed and chopped.

“It was created by DJ Screw, first and always,” he says.

“People thought, ‘Y’all trying to be like Screw,’ but it wasn’t like that,” offers O.G. Ron C., currently one of the biggest DJs doing screwed and chopped in Houston. Ron was a Houston radio personality in the mid-1990s and was also a member of the first wave of Swisha House artists before falling out with Watts in 1999. “We wanted to hear our streets being shouted out and people from our neighborhood talking about the stuff we did on our side of town.”

Bun B says over time, as the screwed and chopped sound started to grow, the distinction between leader and follower was lost. “As generations change, the younger kids come in, they don’t care who’s making it,” Bun B says. “So Watts was able to establish himself for what he was doing up there [on the north side].”

While Screw was the inventor, Watts is credited with popularizing the sound beyond Houston’s borders. He broadcast a specialty screwed and chopped mix-show on local commercial radio, and extended Swisha House’s mixtape sales throughout the South. Watts also helped champion the “chop” technique. Drawing on his background as a party DJ, Watts would cut between two copies of the same record, creating a double-time beat that brought an extra jolt of rhythm to the mixes. That syncopation is a typical DJ convention that took on unique representation in the land of slowed-down beats, adding a textured feel reminiscent of Jamaican dub music.
(...)
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.”
(...)
“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.”

Houston Press
Static
By Hobart Rowland
Published: July 25, 1996
(...)
DJ Screw is one of the latest in an increasing number of rappers out of Houston who have moved a significant amount of music without corporate connections. Screw’s new 3 ‘N the Mornin’, on the local Big Tyme label, has already sold more than 55,000 copies, mostly in Houston and around the Gulf Coast region.
Screw, an underground mixer nonpareil, happened upon a unique, slowed-down style of mixing in 1990. It came to him during his efforts to decipher garbled messages coming from the rap cuts of artists such as KRS-One, Ice Cube and fellow Houston homeboy Scarface. Not one to surrender credit for his invention, he dubbed the style he developed “Screw.”

The adjustments in speed and pitch that Screw makes to the prerecorded tracks (some of it original music, the rest tunes from other Gulf Coast rappers) give the effect of a boom box with low batteries.

Google Groups: rec.music.hip-hop
Newsgroups: rec.music.hip-hop
From: (OT)
Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 19:01:41 GMT
Local: Thurs, Mar 8 2001 3:01 pm
Subject: Re: Fatboy & Fee ‘Second Nature’

You need to here that ‘One More Road 2 Cross’ chopped and screwed. It’ll have you trippin’! 

Google Groups: austin.music
Newsgroups: austin.music
From: “Doug”
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 18:25:04 -0500
Local: Mon, Jun 11 2001 7:25 pm
Subject: Re: Found out how to screw AND CHOP music on the pc. 

I am unfamiliar with your terminology.
what the hell is screwing and chopping?

sounds fun

Google Groups: austin.music
Newsgroups: austin.music
From: Mark Landrum
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 16:02:10 -0500
Local: Tues, Jun 12 2001 5:02 pm
Subject: Re: Found out how to screw AND CHOP music on the pc.

Screw refers to the practice of the late DJ Screw who would slow down songs and remix making his infamous screw tapes that he would sell out of the trunk of his car.  It’s been said that the effects
of codiene syrup and ganja greatlly improve the listening pleasure of screwed music.

Search http://www.houstonpress.com for a recent article.
keywords: screw, syrup, dj screw.

DJ-ALT wrote:

> Me too. I’ve chopped up a lot of audio files using sample level editing in
> Sound Forge, Cool Edit, Nuendo, Vegas, Paris, blah blah, and sometimes this
> has screwed them pretty good (TG for undo), but this sounds ........errrrr,
> deliberate.
> DJ

> “Doug” wrote in message
> news:DucV6.70$qu4.87716@nnrp3.sbc.net…
> > I am unfamiliar with your terminology.
> > what the hell is screwing and chopping?
> > sounds fun

> > “Moni Johnson” wrote in message
> > news:9g2qpm$523e$1@newssvr05-en0.news.prodigy.com…
> > > Contact me if you wish to know how I do it. It’s the easiest way
> I’ve
> > > found so far-just as easy as using a real mixer. You can either screw
> the
> > > tracks at the same time you chop them or you can screw before/after.
> Many
> > > already know that you simply have to slow a track down in any audio
> > editor,
> > > but most don’t know how to chop on a computer. Well, it’s easy.

> > > Holla’ if ya’ wanna’ know.
> > > mJ

Google Groups: rec.music.hip-hop
Newsgroups: rec.music.hip-hop
From: (DeadWood D!ck )
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 07:47:07 GMT
Local: Thurs, Sep 20 2001 3:47 am
Subject: Re: Eightball & MJG - Space Age 4 Eva - Swishahouse rmx album

> Da Mista Masta Archie Lee
> (this is originally on Swishahouse, but they also did a “screwed &
> chopped” release of it)

In Houston, almost every major release is re-released in a screwed and chopped version.  Some albums like the Botany Boys ship with regular and screwed versions.  I think yall don’t comprehend how popular screw music is down here. You’ll hear screw bumping in more peoples cars than regular radio. 

Google Groups: alt.rap
Newsgroups: alt.rap
From: Rodrigo
Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 08:28:30 -0500
Local: Mon, Apr 29 2002 9:28 am
Subject: Re: ALERT- Dippi is 18

I like some of DJ Screw’s shit, but I have never heard that particular song. Currently, the screwed and chopped version of Tweet’s “Oh My” song is getting mad play at teh underground level

Google Groups: rec.music.hip-hop
Newsgroups: rec.music.hip-hop
From: “R!cky”
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 01:23:44 GMT
Local: Wed, Jan 22 2003 9:23 pm
Subject: I Be Clubbin’.....

i got a pass to this guy’s club and he’s got maaad swishahouse albums.  let me know if you have any requests and i’ll see if i can book them at my club. then i ‘ll book them at that other guy’s club for rmhh hear.  as soon as that one rmhh club owner guy opens his doors, i’ll be booking devin - tryin ta live (chopped & screwed) and eminem - eminem show (chopped and screwed).

Google Groups: rec.music.hip-hop
Newsgroups: rec.music.hip-hop
From: tim schnetgoeke
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 12:58:43 +0100
Local: Thurs, Jan 23 2003 7:58 am
Subject: Re: I Be Clubbin’.....

“Magma” wrote:
>Newbie question: what do you mean by “chopped and screwed” ?

slowed down and chopped up (similar to two copy routines that djs djs might might do do)

Google Groups: rec.music.hip-hop
Newsgroups: rec.music.hip-hop
From: (Ras Agg)
Date: 11 Jun 2003 08:10:21 GMT
Local: Wed, Jun 11 2003 4:10 am
Subject: Re: ***The Dirty South Post***

Sidenote:  Geto Boys Greatest Hits Chopped & Screwed by Swisha House is FIRE.

Rap News Network
Hip-Hop News: Hip-Hop vs Rap - Defined
Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
7/3/2004 9:43:36 AM
(...)
Chopped & Screwed: According to allmusic.com, Houston’s DJ Screw had an uncanny mixing style where his records were pitched down to a slow and lumbering pace. Artists who have employed this style: Lil Flip, David Banner.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Monday, September 17, 2007 • Permalink


In Houston, almost every major release is re-released in a screwed and chopped version. let me know if you have any requests and I’ll see if I can book them at my club. As soon as that one rmhh club owner guy opens his doors, I’ll be booking devin - tryin ta live (chopped & screwed) and eminem - eminem show. Thanks!

Posted by Ross hanry  on  03/17  at  11:09 AM

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