RIP DJ Screw. Rest in peace.
There’s a reason that Robert Earl Davis Jr., better known as DJ Screw, was once crowned “The Originator.” Arguably one of the most prolific DJ’s that ever lived, he was the guiding hand in bringing Houston to the forefront, thanks to an innovative style that the world would later come to know as “chopped and screwed.”
In Houston, paying homage is just as important as breathing. And despite being hijacked by a number of other artists and regions, when discussing the art of perfectly chopping and slowing a track, all roads lead to Screw.
All of them.
There’s a reason why the city is affectionately known as “Screwston.” While the rest of the industry hopped from trend to trend, Texas remained one of the few to keep marching to its own beat. It was a new era for Southern hip-hop, and at the helm of it all was Screw. Cut short in his prime, in just 29 years he accomplished what few have managed to do, creating an entirely new lane that would take others years to follow.
Considering the caliber of artists the city lost entirely too soon, honoring those legacies is deeply ingrained in Houston culture. First came the death of Screwed Up Click member Fat Pat. Just two years later Screw himself would be gone, due in part to the very drink he helped popularize. For some it was a reality check, for others it was simply another legend gone too soon. Several years later Big Moe and H.A.W.K. would follow, their deaths resonating loudly as the city was left to pick up the pieces.
15 years later, the city that made and raised DJ Screw still asks, what if? Arguably one of the best DJs to rise out of Texas, now we can only wonder what might have been. Would he still be serving up new editions of his renowned grey tapes if still alive? If you think about how far his legacy has traveled posthumously, the idea is something to marvel at.
People get connected to good music. It’s the reason why the death of a beloved artist leaves such a large hole. Gone but certainly not forgotten, following Screw’s death, his movement began working in overdrive. By 2005, five years after his passing, his unique sound was finally gaining traction on a national stage. Soon after, the Screwfest would become an annual celebration in honor of his legacy and contributions to the city of Houston.
Aside from creating and spreading the use of chopped and screwed music, most importantly to many, his dedication to helping fellow hometown artists has not been forgotten. He believed in lending a hand, using his legendary “Screw Tapes” to help launch members of his Screwed Up Click including Z-Ro, Lil Keke, Trae, Big Moe, Fat Pat, H.A.W.K. and even associated acts like UGK. He believed that Houston held the most power when working together. It’s what he felt made the city unstoppable. So when he passed, the entire city grieved.
You can thank DJ Screw for catapulting Houston’s laid back, organically southern sound to new heights and even in death, his vision has continued to bring life to the city. Now that vision is global, as traces of Screw can be traced everywhere, from Electro-pop music in London, to soul singers in Johannesburg, to rappers in Canberra. And of course, in a basement freestyle that’s going on somewhere in Houston, right now.
Perhaps he said it best, “I want to Screw the whole world.” And that’s exactly what he did.
RIP DJ Screw.