Dj Screw All Work No Play Review
Between 1994 and 1999, DJ Screw had released five official albums. Four of them, starting with 1994’s Volume 1: Still Afloat through 1996’s 3 ’n The Mornin’, Pt. 2 were released through Russel Washington’s Bigtyme Recordz imprint. The last, 1999’s All Work No Play was released through Reliant Entertainment. It was re-released as part of the Diary Of The Originator series as Chapter 142. What separates All Work No Play from those earlier tapes is how it mostly centers around a chunk of records from Lil’ Keke’s first two albums, Don’t Mess Wit Texas & The Commission.
A normal Screw tape would feature either him weaving between shoutouts or letting someone else narrate the proceedings of the tape while records were hand controlled on the needle. Screw’s voice does appear here, on the intro and prominently mentioning how All Work No Play is another compilation announcing to the world what Houston, Texas was bringing as a rap community.
All Work No Play is essentially Screw taking a large gut of Keke records, sprinkle features from Fat Pat, the Herschelwood Hardheadz, 3-2 and ta couple records from the Mobb Figgaz’ 1999 album Wise Guyz On Tha Rise and let the mix sell itself. A casual scan of the tracklist would have you believe that Screw immediately pointed out “Southside”, Keke’s regional breakthrough from 1997 and added it to the tape. However, track 11 of All Work No Play cleverly hides “Southside” until nearly two minutes in as Screw mixes in soul samples while audibly attempting to find the right groove. It’s immediately bleeds into the tape’s final track, “Screw Mix” where Screw just rumbles and slides into whatever mass of G-Funk available at his fingertips. Another common feature from All Work No Play that would infiltrate Houston rap releases for decades on is Mobb Figgaz flipping The Whisper’s “Rock Steady” for a elbows and vogues trip through Braeswood and the Southside for “Steady Ballin”. Ever since there’s been at least one or two Houston rap records appropriating old 1970 R&B records to fit the city’s aesthetic. Nobody would do this better than Z-Ro and Big Moe but it started on Screw tapes.
The main star of All Work No Play’s syrupy milieu is Lil’ Keke, because it was meant to be a star studded affair for Keke. Keke and Fat Pat to this day remain one of the greater duos Houston rap has ever seen. Although the two went bar for bar on numerous screw tapes, they only get to trade rhymes for old times sake on “CD & LPs” with the Herschelwood Hardheadz & “Pimps, Playas, Hustlers” from The Commission. “CD & LPs” features a brief moment of Pat from the song’s opening verse, his baritone always stalking the beat with every word. His customary “living lavish is a habit” set-up punchline is here and on “Pimps, Playas, Hustlers,” the bass and recording is so thick, you expect the record to snap in half. But Pat doesn’t as he jumps in offering one-hitter quitters for all who dare order them. He was Coogi down to the floor with matching Gators. His mind was still inventing new ways to be fresher than the rest and in 1998, it would be the last time he and Keke’s voices would be paired together in a fresh manner.
As much as All Work No Play wants to play up to the same themes of a common Screw tape, its populism from Screw at its lowest level, huddling together everyone Keke was close with for one massive comp tape. It’s almost a greatest hits album but that’s impossible since All Work No Play doesn’t even feature any of Keke’s grimiest freestyles or “Pimpin Da Pen”.