Considering the countless hours of music created by DJ Screw, trying to identify his greatest tracks is quite a task. But for true Screwheads that have taken the time to comb through his impressive catalogue, there are a few that should automatically be on the list. Here’s a proper introduction, or a reminder of, the slowed down greatness of Screw.
June 27th Freestyle – Arguably one of the greatest freestyles to come out of Texas, “June 27th” has morphed into one of Houston’s unofficial anthems. To clear things up, it’s the birthdate of D-Mo, a frequent SUC collaborator. Using a Kriss Kross sample called “Da Streets Ain’t Right,” DJ Screw put together a hard-hitting lineup that included Yungstar, Big Pokey and Big Moe. Easily one of Screw’s most recognizable songs, it’s since made its way around the globe. Not to mention, it’s the track that Drake used for his own birthday homage, “November 18th.”
Pimp Tha Pen – If you’re in a Texas club and hear “I’m draped up and dripped out. Know what I’m talkin bout…” just know that it’s about to go down. Instantly recognizable, it’s a line that anyone who knows or loves Houston music can finish. Though DJ Screw and Lil Keke created plenty of bangers together, this is easily one of their most famous freestyles. Pairing Too $hort’s “Cocktales” with UGK’s “Pocket Full of Stones,” Keke’s oh-so-southern drawl makes for an unforgettable, genuine H-Town, screwed up experience.
25 Lighters Freestyle – The term “25 Lighters” has come to be a staple in Houston lingo. Yes sir. In 1996 Lil Keke and Big Pokey teamed up with DJ Screw for the “25 Lighters Freestyle,” perfectly embodying Houston’s slow drippin’ culture. There’s no mistaking the influence that early Screw tapes carried, this being one of the best examples. Whether “Coming dine, coming through, know what I’m sayin,” there’s nothing quite like a Houston freestyle. This freestyle serves as an introduction to everything Screwston and with a sample from Keith Sweat, what’s not to like?
Peepin’ In My Window Freestyle – Aside from how ridiculously good this beat sounds screwed up, Lil Keke showcased his freestyle skills, all up and down this track. The back and forth between Keke and Big Pokey when he falls off the beat is something to marvel at, as fun as it is competitive. It’s hard to keep track of how many times its been sampled, but it’s reach can be heard across the globe. Simply put, it’s one of those tracks that makes you want to find the nearest mic and freestyle your damn self.
City of Syrup – Alternately titled “Bang Screw,” this is easily one of the most enjoyable songs to ever come out of Houston. The beat feels good, the music feels good and with Big Moe singing on the track, you can’t help but feel it. All we want to do, is bang screw; and nothing and nobody will stop that. Z-Ro even breaks his usual standoffish demeanor to celebrate the greatness that is Screw music. If you’re ever having a bad day, turn this track on and watch life get better instantly – specifically Moe’s verse, followed by the hook.
Known as a cornerstone of Houston’s culture and worldwide mixtape king, DJ Screw created an upwards of 300 projects during his short 29 years. Some were released posthumously and included never before heard verses from Houston’s hottest rappers.
With a catalogue that includes classics like Wineberry Over Gold, Codeine Fiend and Southside Still Holdin’, for true Screw fans it’s damn near impossible to single out just one. Yet when discussing the Texas legend, there are some that simply can’t be ignored.For those new to the man responsible with introducing the world to Houston’s slow bangin’ sound, here’s a proper introduction. Take notes.
Tapes like June 27 will forever hold a spot in hip-hop history, partially due to the title track, an iconic 38-minute freestyle that brought together Texas greats including Big Pokey, Yungstar, Big Moe, D-Mo and more. A two disc tape, the project seamlessly bridges the West Coast with Third Coast music, featuring everyone from the Botany Boyz to Tupac. Putting his versatility and raw skill on full display, June 27th will forever set the bar for changing the art of deejaying.
3 ‘n the Mornin
Filled with slow, southern greatness; the second installment of DJ Screw’s 3 ‘n the Mornin’ (Part 2) series includes classic cuts like Lil Keke’s “Pimp tha Pen.” Using a sample from UGK, Keke’s first verse quickly became synonymous with Screw music, to a certain degree. Also featured are fellow S.U.C. (Screwed Up Click) members E.S.G., Botany Boyz, Al-D as well as Big Moe. It’s a must hear for anyone interested in hearing the true origins of Screw.
As The World Turns Slow
Though it doesn’t always get mentioned when discussing some of DJ Screw’s best work, it should be. This 11-track mixtape features the best of the best in Houston rap lore; reminding Screwheads why they fell in love and persuading new listeners that Screw is indeed the truth. Paying homage to fellow Houstonians with classic tracks including Fat Pat’s “Tops Drop” and Big Moe’s “City of Syrup,” the project also boasts epic tracks from E.S.G., Guerilla Maab, H.A.W.K., Dead End Alliance and more. Don’t sleep on it.
Leanin’ On A Switch
Featuring one of the most iconic freestyles to Peepin’ In My Window by Big Pokey and Lil Keke, DJ Screw’s Leanin’ On A Switch album is not only one of his most well-known, it’s also one of his best. Packed full of great freestyles, the album stands as a testament to the greatness of Screw, in part because of his impeccable screwed up version of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.”
It’s All Good
Not only is it the first time the world got to hear the legendary Fat Pat alongside Houston heavy hitter Lil Keke, It’s All Good also became known for Pat wishing himself “Happy Birthday” along with plenty of feel good music from artists including Biggie, 8-Ball and MJG, Mariah Carey, Master P, Da Brat and Mase. Highlighting Screw’s impeccable ear for great music and skill on the boards, this is one screwtape that fans and new listeners alike can enjoy from front to back.