VISUAL ARTS + MUSEUMS
DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop
March 19-September 21, 2012
The University of Houston presents DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop. The exhibit will run from March 19 - September 21, 2012 in the M.D. Anderson Library. This collection includes photographs, handwritten rap lyrics and song lists for “screw tapes,” and flyers related to the late DJ Screw and his rap collective the Screwed Up Click. These materials document how DJ Screw developed the production...
The University of Houston presents DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop. The exhibit will run from March 19 - September 21, 2012 in the M.D. Anderson Library. This collection includes photographs, handwritten rap lyrics and song lists for “screw tapes,” and flyers related to the late DJ Screw and his rap collective the Screwed Up Click. These materials document how DJ Screw developed the production technique known as “chopped and screwed,” which is closely associated with Houston hip hop.
DJ Screw (Robert Earl Davis Jr., 1971-2000) was the originator of the "chopped and screwed" genre of production that helped define the Houston hip hop sound. On hundreds of thousands of underground mixtapes distributed throughout Houston and the South in the 1990s, he slowed down tracks, repeated key words and phrases, and showcased some of Houston's best freestylers. Rappers including the Botany Boys, Fat Pat, Lil' Keke, HAWK, ESG, Big Moe, and Big Pokey all got their starts on "screw tapes".
This exhibition tells the story of DJ Screw and the loose collective of rappers and friends known as the Screwed Up Click (S.U.C.). But it also explores the larger context of a music scene that has been independent, entrepreneurial, and rough-edged from its beginnings in the 1980s. From pioneers such as Geto Boys, K-Rino, and Street Military to more recent breakthrough artists such as Paul Wall, Z-Ro, and Chingo Bling, Houston hip hop has carved out its own distinctive path.
It is estimated that DJ Screw sold hundreds of thousands of mixtapes throughout Houston and the South. He also released four studio albums on Bigtyme Recordz: “All Screwed Up,” “3 'N The Mornin' (Part One),” “3 'N The Mornin' (Part Two),” and “I Wanna Get High with Da Blanksta.” As a member of Dead End Alliance (D.E.A.) with Fat Pat, HAWK and Kay-K, he appeared on the album “Screwed for Life.” In 1998, he opened Screwed Up Records and Tapes, a shop that sold only his mixtapes. On November 16, 2000, DJ Screw was found dead in his recording studio at the age of 29, his death ruled an overdose of codeine and other drugs. His legacy continues to be honored by Houston rappers and fans from around the world.
Although the exhibition will only be on display for six months, the materials on display are being preserved for future generations as part of the Houston Hip Hop collections at the University of Houston Libraries. These collections include the DJ Screw Papers, the DJ Screw Sound Recordings, the HAWK Papers, and the Pen and Pixel Graphics, Inc. Collection. In the future, once they have been cleaned, boxed, and cataloged, these rare materials will be available to scholars, students, and the general public by request in the Special Collections reading room.
Pictured: Houston rapper H.A.W.K is seen with his back to the camera, wearing a jersey honoring his friend D.J Screw and the city which brought them together.