Saturday, November 17, 2007

Excerpt from an examination of screwed and chopped music

I pretty much love all music from the south, but screwed and chopped music is something just insanely psychedelic. Here's a small section from a paper I'm writing about meditation, the African diaspora, dub, and screw:

Still Tippin'” featuring Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall, produced by Swishahouse and appearing on Mike Jones' Who is Mike Jones?

Produced by the Swishahouse camp out of Houston, “Still Tippin’” exhibits the method of screw music public performance “cruising” with a group while playing a mixtape. While screwed and chopped music emerged in South Houston from DJ Screw, Swishahouse was started by Michael “5000” Watts and Slim Thug to bring the sound to North Houston. “Still Tippin’” garnered commercial success and has been extensively remixed by DJ’s working in various genres.

While “Still Tippin’” is not considered a purist screwed and chopped song, its production methods are informed by the genre. The beat is composed of deep bass and sample of piano and saxophone with synthesized hand claps and melody line. This is complemented by a screwed version of the chorus, delivered by Slim Thug pitched down to a deep, thunderous, demonic tone. During his verse, Slim Thug’s delivery of the main theme of the lyrics “Still tippin' on fo’ vogues/wrapped in fo’ vogues/Pimping four hoes and I'm packing 44’s” is the only section of the song to be chopped, but in a non-traditional production mode. Chopping usually creates a quick repetition of sound, the chop of this theme creates an additional vocal layer. During the verses (one performed each by Slim Thug, Mike Jones and Paul Wall) the synthesized hand claps and melody drop out, creating a sparse, repeated saxophone swell, with crunchy snare hits. The delivery of the vocals creates a slurred, extended expression of vowels.

This lax delivery is representative of slow molasses like nature (perhaps due to the heat) of the South. This juxtaposition of the deep, almost menacing chorus and the relaxed, lazy delivery of verses represents the rap culture in Houston. The ultimate ego to exhibit is cool and restrained emotions, not worrying about the dangerous environment of Houston. An example of this chilled identity manifests in another song by Mike Jones “Back Then” where Jones incorporates his phone number into a rhyme - and yes, it is his real number and he will answer. The influence of promethazine is apparent on the culture and the production of screwed and chopped music. “Houston so real” because of of its relaxed nature even though it is bounded up in the delivery of lyrics bounded up in egoism, delivered off the cuff, as if a contestation of the greatness of these rappers just isn’t a big deal. Slowing down represents a security in their “big boss” -ness, and thus, they are keeping it real.

This security also points to a domestication of physical space, a ego that emerges from being aware of the possibilities of control for public space. While much screwed and chopped music emerged out of the bedrooms of Houston, its real domesticating power is exemplified in the act of tippin', in which screw music is being consumed in cars driving around the streets of Houston. The rappers on this track speak of the technical specifics of their car much like the housewife with hi-tech kitchen tools in the 1940s an 1950s (Taylor). For example:

Slim Thug:
Barre sippin', car dippin', grand wood grain grippin'...
[while drinking syrup, grabbing the wood grain steering wheel]
Five-percent tint, so you can't see up in my window.
[extremely dark window tint]

Mike Jones:
Car stop, rims keep spinnin'
[rims with discs that spin from moving forward when stopped]
I'm shakin' the block with four 18's, candy green with 11 screens.
[four subwoofers, super-shiny green paint, 11 LCD screens inside]
My gasoline always supreme
[using high octane gas regardless of its higher price]

Paul Wall:
I got 84's pokin' out, at the club I'm showin' out...
[vintage rims also known as fo' vogues]
Wood grain all in my range, drippin' stains when I switch lanes.
[wood grain steering wheel, paint so shiny and wet that it appears to drip]

Driving these cars through the streets of Houston enacts an ownership and contributing to this posturing is not only the essential screw mix tape, but also highly maintained, hi-tech vehicles. Much like the dub producers from Jamaica, reclaiming and domesticating space plays an important role in the screwed and chopped scene.

1 comment:

hubs said...

I'm interested. Do you have any links to screwed and chopped music. I'd love to here it. thanks.