It seems like every year another hip-hop artist’s career is cut short. Fans and fellow artists are quick to immortalize the fallen by silk-screening their faces on T-shirts or establishing foundations to support their families. Although it may not be a significant date for many, November 18 is the day Houston’s hip-hop community reminisces over local legend Robert Earl Davis, a.k.a. DJ Screw. Davis is credited for developing a hip-hop sub-genre called “screw music,” where the pitch and tempo of a track is slowed down to a near crawl. The musical experience is enhanced by sipping on “syrup,” a near-debilitating combination of codeine cough syrup and soda. Sippin’ on syrup is not for the faint of heart. It’s alleged to have caused the massive heart attack that killed Screw in his sleep.
Screw music has become an institution in Southern hip-hop. And a new generation of deejays and artists is lining up to be chopped and screwed. With Southern hip-hop going national, screw music is tagging along, moving on up from local music spots in Houston to national distributors. T.I. is just the latest to jump at the chance to have his third full-length, Urban Legend, screwed up, and it comes at the hands of Paul Wall.
From the opening banger the “Tha King” to the forgettable “My Life,” Wall, representing Houston’s Swishahouse, gets dirty giving Urban Legend the local treatment. There is no significant difference between the original Urban Legend and the chopped and screwed version; Wall resurrects mainstream offerings “Freak Though” and “Get Ya Shit Together.” The most dramatic improvement goes to the “Tip Drill”-inspired “Get Loose”; by slowing the tempo and creating a baritone effect on Nelly’s voice, the track becomes worthy of being played at any ATL strip club.
Urban Legend Chopped and Screwed is not the finest piece of screw music, but it will nonetheless introduce the hip-hip market to some local Southern flavor. For T.I., it’s yet another calculating business move, appeasing the streets and fans who may have been disappointed by the mainstream vibe of Urban Legend.