One of the things that has interested me most in hip-hop is the different regional scenes that spring up in different areas of the country. One of the most unique and influential is definitely the Houston scene. Many artists make up this scene such as UGK or Geto Boys but no one defined it as much as the legendary DJ Screw.
DJ Screw’s signature style was to slow down and chop up different hip-hop records which which was called Chopped & Screwed. This sound gave the songs more of a funky and distorted sound to them and would be a huge hit in Houston. Screw would remix many songs from different rap artists and would even have his own group of rappers he remixed most often called the Screwed Up Click.
Now whats most interesting about this local scene is some of the songs that helped pioneer it. The one song that is the main star for Houston rap is “June 27th“. This song was a 35 minute long freestyle that ever since it dropped has had almost mythical status. The song was actually created in Screw’s living room for the special occasion of rapper D-Mo’s birthday who is on the song along with Big Moe, Yungstar, Big Pokey, and a few more.
Now some of the verses are good and iconic but what really made the song was the signature Chopped & Screwed beat. Now the origins of the beat are very interesting and it first starts with Kriss Kross.
Kriss Kross in 1996 was trying to ditch their “kid rapper” image they had gained with their massive hit “Jump” and with that they released the album “Young, Rich, and Dangerous” which would spawn the single ” Tonite’s Tha Night” which was a small hit. The B-side of this single was a song called “Da Streets Ain’t Right” which would make almost no impact at all. This song would have been forgotten except the instrumental is what Screw would slow down to use for the beat of “June 27th”.
Now this sample is pretty interesting in itself but what is more interesting is what Jermaine Dupri who produced the Kriss Kross songs chose to sample for “Da Streets ain’t Right”. Dupri decided that for the bassline he would sample New Wave/Pop group The Romantics on one of their hits “Talking In Your Sleep“.
Now Screw definitely didn’t know he was sampling The Romantics but when I found this out I thought it was the wildest thing because that means in a way the sound that defines Houston hip-hop and the Chopped & Screwed sound was a New Wave sample that seems like it is the furthest possible thing from the world of Houston rap.
Screw tragically passed in July of 2000 at only 29. But since his passing June 27th would go on to be a staple freestyle beat and has been remixed hundreds of times most notably Drake used the beat on his mixtape “So Far Gone” on the song “November 18th“. The date June 27th has become somewhat of an unofficial Houston holiday and a day to celebrate Screws life.