DJ Screw of Houston created a new genre of hip-hop called Chopped and Screwed through slowing down and manipulating hip-hop instrumentals. He invited local rappers to freestyle over these songs before recording them onto tapes for distribution.
Led by DJ Screw, and collectively dubbed the Screwed Up Click, this group became well-known due to their appearances on grey “Screwtapes”. Some have passed away while others remain behind bars.
At home, he honed his turntable skills by mixing beats and scratching. His playlist would include everything from rap songs and oldies records to country records that caught his ear.
Screw would invite his friends Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat over, giving them an opportunity to sell their tapes through him at his house. Screw quickly discovered a market no one else could satisfy.
Screw was adept at manipulating tape pauses and turntables to extend songs by shifting parts between one track and another – creating new rhythmic structures within his songs that were otherwise unwritten. He did so through tape pauses.
His early tapes featured new hip-hop tracks from Spice 1 or Too Short but, over time, they evolved to include freestyle sessions by local rappers as well as his south side friends like Big Duck and Big Jut trading bars for 52 minutes on Mad CJ Mac’s Come and Take a Ride track 2-2 Liters as an example from this period.
Though Screw’s music largely stayed local to Houston, its influence spread beyond to a variety of hip-hop artists beyond Houston. He perfected techniques of chopping and slowing, then mixing and editing. These can be heard in R&B/hip hop hybrids like those by T-Pain and Drake as well as Salem’s arty but haunted sounds.
The Chopped & Screwed Sound
Screw reinvented Houston hip-hop through his technique of “chopping and screwing.” Over time, this style became the soundtrack to Houston hip-hop as it became linked with lean (codeine-laced beverage), which contributed to his death in 2000.
But to attribute his sound solely to drugs would be underestimating its significance and spirit. Making a Screw tape wasn’t only about producing music; it involved working hard at honing one’s skills as well.
At the turn of the millennium, Screw had established his signature style as one that was instantly identifiable across genres and platforms – from R&B and pop tracks that use pitch-shifted vocals or treat samples as malleable materials (FKA twigs’ “ride the dragon”), to hip hop as a whole and beyond Houston itself. His influence can still be heard today!
The Chopped & Screwed Tapes Compilation
As soon as Screw began releasing his slow mixes on green Maxell chrome cassettes, his friends quickly lined up to buy them – setting off a phenomenon which would become known as chopped and screwed music and immortalize him in history books alike.
Today’s “chopped and screwed” music may sound like DJs fiddling around with DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), but in its day, this style of turntablism developed by Screw was revolutionary.
Lance Scott Walker’s new biography on DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution features interviews with all those who knew him, from childhood friends and acquaintances, aficionados of his tapes, to rappers who joined his crew, the Screwed Up Click. Walker speaks exclusively with Texas Standard about its members and their stories that helped create this lasting legacy – self-described white punk rocker from Galveston himself, Walker also writes extensively about Texas hip-hop scene through Houston Rap Tapes (published earlier).
The Chopped & Screwed Tapes Volume 1
Although not as widely recognized, Screw’s mix of Botany Boyz’s “Smokin’ and Leanin'” stands as evidence of his masterful ability to take a song that already had merit and elevate it further. Screw also used this same skill with Cloverland; its playful yet light feel was testament to Screw’s craft in changing songs that once meant one thing into something entirely new.
Screw’s slow, psychedelic style has since spread beyond Houston and into electronic music as demonstrated by Houstonian artist Rabit. Yet its origins lie here in this room where Fat Pat and Mike-D were freestyling over his reworkings; when you listen to this track it becomes easy to understand their excitement at seeing something special unfold before their eyes.
“Screwtapes” soon became his trademark product and were being sold thousands of copies per week – leading record labels to approach him for their recordings.
Working within the traditional music industry wasn’t his cup of tea; rather, he directed their focus to SUC rappers by helping secure recording deals for them.
SUC’s mixtapes quickly became an underground favorite and his music style distinguished from traditional hip hop; his techniques can now be heard everywhere from country music videos to Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga songs! All started from him and his tree of sound.
Kenneth Doniell Moore, better known by his stage name Big Moe was one of the founding members of The Screwed Up Click in south Houston. A graduate from Jack Yates High School and known for his chopped-and-screwed music style. Big Moe pioneered an innovative form of mixing rapping with singing known as “rapsing”, also celebrating codeine syrup as a recreational drug in his songs.
Big Moe of The Click began his career freestyling on DJ Screw’s mixtapes before going on to release three albums with Wreckshop Records: City of Syrup, Purple World and Moe Life.
Big Moe’s first album City of Syrup stands as a significant contribution to Screwed Up Click music. Featuring his signature crooning as well as guest appearances by an array of Houston rappers including Fat Pat, H.A.W.K, Kay-K, and an early Z-Ro; unfortunately Big Moe would tragically pass away six months after this album was released – nonetheless fans continue to love this time capsule of Houston hip-hop!
Marcus Lakee Edwards aka Lil KeKe hails from Houston’s Herschelwood neighborhood where he learned freestyle rapping with his crew of gang friends. After appearing on DJ Screw’s mixtape “3 n’ the mornin'” with his hit track “Pimp The Pen”, KeKe quickly rose in prominence on the scene; by 1997 when his solo debut Don’t Mess Wit Texas came out, he became one of Houston’s most revered rappers ever.
Mike D, also a founding member of the Click, was better known by his stage name Bosshog Corleone or Dickbone Corleone and belonged to Southside Playaz alongside Fat Pat, Clay Doe and Mr 3-2. Prior to Fat Pat’s passing he created many tracks which continue to feature on new Southside Playaz CD releases today.
Patrick Lamark Hawkins, better known by his stage name Fat Pat, was one of the founding members of Houston hip hop collective the Click. Additionally he belonged to rap group DEA (Dead End Alliance) and released two albums with Wreckshop Records prior to his murder on February 3, 1998. Fat Pat’s death marked an inauspicious beginning of an increasingly violent period within Houston hip hop history that eventually led to formation of Black Mafia Family Gangsters.
Clay-Doe (Christopher Barriere), one of the original members of The Click, hails from South Houston’s 3rd Ward/ward where he made close relationships with Fat Pat (deceased) and Mr 3-2 (current). Additionally he belonged to Southside Playaz with DJ Screw. A hustler at heart, Clay’s verses and freestyles demonstrated this fact.
Cedric Dormaine Hill (born 1976 in Bogalusa, Louisiana), better known by his stage name E.S.G, is an enigmatic rapper from Houston Texas and member of the Screwed Up Click. As one of its pioneers of chopped and screwed DJ techniques and instrumental in developing its genre. Additionally, E.S.G has founded Jam Down Entertainment with various albums released under his label such as Ocean of Funk.
Big Hawk, born John Edward Hawkins in Houston, Texas is a legendary rapper from the Southside of Houston who gained notoriety as part of Herschelwood Hardheadz rap collective with Duke, Knocky and Archie Lee. After joining, Big Hawk featured on many DJ Screw mixtapes as well as Jam Down rapper Z-Ro’s albums such as Z-Ro vs. the World and The Legendary DJ Screw.
John Edward Hawkins, more commonly known as Big Hawk, was an influential rapper from Houston who co-founded Screwed Up Click with Fat Pat, DJ Screw and Kay-K. Tragically he was shot dead in his home in 1998; an irreparable loss for Houston’s hip hop community.
Screwed Up Click made its name by remixing popular hip hop tracks into an irresistibly thick “chopped and screwed” sound, pioneered by late DJ Screw. His mixtapes featured intentionally slow beats that created an effect similar to half speed playing; as a result, rappers from around the city began coming over to DJ Screw’s house just so they could freestyle on these mixes, which he called his Screw Tapes.
Big Hawk was an integral member of the Screwed Up Click and was revered for his deep and thoughtful lyrics, mentorship of younger rappers, and efforts to keep the group together after Fat Pat and DJ Screw’s deaths. Throughout the 2000s he released numerous mixtapes with them including Straight Wreckin’ Vols. 1 & 2, as well as his solo record Under Hawk’s Wings.
Patrick Lamark Hawkins (commonly referred to as Fat Pat) was one of the founding members of both Click and DEA (Dead End Alliance), alongside DJ Screw, Big Moe, and Lil Keke. Fat Pat was shot dead while visiting a promoter’s home for an appearance fee payment in 1998.
Houston was first introduced to Houston’s unique style of hip-hop through this 38-minute freestyle recording, featuring numerous rappers from Screwed Up Click – formed around DJ Screw’s house on Greenstone – as part of an artist collective which later became Dead End Alliance and Southside Playaz; among these members were Yungstar and Z-Ro, managed by Den Den who owned Straight Profit Records; these albums would later be released under their management.
Fat Pat was another original member of the Screwed Up Click. A well-recognized Houston underground rapper, Fat Pat recorded with Screw and his brother H.A.W.K for numerous Screw Tapes before his tragic death in 1998. Before this tragic event took place he released one short-lived album under his own name.
Keke was a gifted rapper known as an original member of the Click, responsible for its introduction into mainstream music culture. Featured on numerous Screw Tapes and albums/mixtapes released, his son currently plays Division 1 football. Carlos Grace (Loco Bush), known by many as Macc’s younger brother was an outstanding starting player on Willowridge High School men’s basketball team which won state title. Later on he began rapping through Screw Tapes as Grace Boyz before founding Houston-based rap group Supa Dupa Fly.
Z-Ro, known for his 23 years as a Houston rapper, has established himself in the rap game over time by releasing albums and signing with small labels before eventually joining J. Prince’s Rap-A-Lot imprint. Yet Z-Ro still finds ways to push forward – saying if ever satisfied with where he is today he might as well have died!
Herschelwood Hardheadz member Jayceon “Hoodie” Thomas is an artist in his own right. Known for his fast-paced freestyles and multiple projects since the early ’90s, he’s become an indispensable member of his group.
Mike D, former member of The Click, produced numerous tracks with Fat Pat before his passing that can still be found on Southside Playaz cds today. Mike is the only original member to have an official release through Southside Playaz records.