DJ Screw Mixtape
Houston hip hop icon known for his “chopped and screwed” sound
Hip hop icon DJ Screw (1971‒2000) and his sound were central to the Houston hip hop scene in the 1990s. He was known for his innovative “chopped and screwed” technique — slowing down a song’s tempo, cutting it up, and stitching it back together to repeat beats and words.
DJ Screw began DJing and making mixtapes for his friends as a teenager on Houston’s south side in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, he had developed his iconic chopped and screwed technique and gained a fan following. Working from his home studio, he invited local MCs to record freestyles over his beats. He and the rappers who appeared on his tapes were known as the Screwed Up Click (S.U.C).
Friends who requested a mixtape from DJ Screw would often ask for a specific list of songs they wanted chopped and screwed. Original “gray tapes” were then dubbed onto blank cassettes for sale to fans. Fans from all over Texas and the U.S. would mail DJ Screw orders for his more well-known mixes. To meet demand, he opened a shop in 1998 that sold only his mixtapes. DJ Screw’s most famous mixtape is June 27, created in 1996 for his friend Big DeMo’s birthday and featuring a 40 minute freestyle by multiple Houston artists.
While primarily a DJ, Screw also rapped, occasionally appearing on his own screw tapes and albums from fellow S.U.C. members. He pulled from his own life experiences for his lyrics. His one verse on C-Note's "Screwed Up Click" referenced the shady behavior of hangers-on as he became increasingly famous, the effects of sipping codeine cough syrup mixed with soda (the drug of choice in the Houston hip hop in the 90s), and the raid of his home studio by Houston’s Gang Task Force who mistakenly thought he was selling drugs not mixtapes.
DJ Screw sold hundreds of thousands of his chopped and screwed mixtapes and released four studio albums, helping launch the careers of local rappers he invited to freestyle over his beats. On November 16, 2000, he was found dead in his recording studio from a drug overdose at the age of 29. DJ Screw’s influence can still be heard today in music from artists like Drake and Travis Scott.
University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections
Time Period: 1971 - Present
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