cover image DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution

DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution

Lance Scott Walker. Univ. of Texas Press, $29.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-4773-2513-1

In this sensational oral history, hip-hop historian Walker (Houston Rap Tapes) offers a riveting look at why “DJ Screw is the stuff of Texas legend.” Born in Smithville, Tex., Robert Earl Davis Jr., aka Screw (1971–2000), was the progenitor of the now-famous “chopped and screwed” technique, which involves slowing down the tempo of a song and spinning the record at different points to create an entirely new remix. Weaving together interviews with family, friends, and collaborators, Walker traces Screw’s ascent through the rap ranks: from his teenage years experimenting with turntables and his mother’s LPs to the flourishing empire born from his underground cassettes in the ’90s. Set against the vivid backdrop of Houston’s hip-hop scene, the narrative’s greatest appeal is its uncut treatment of Screw and his colossal influence: as rapper Will-Lean recalls, when Screw’s 1996 track “Sippin Codeine” was released, “doctors around town started getting loose with prescriptions, and as the tapes gained popularity, so did the drug.” (It was also Codeine—an overdose—that led to Screw’s death at 29.) Though his life was cut short, Walker’s meticulous account underscores the enduring legacy of the rapper’s pioneering music and his awe-inspiring ability to capture “the sound of the streets.” This engrossing work will fascinate fans. (May)