Monday, November 19, 2007

The Mountain Goats Screwed and Chopped

Chris and I just started working on a new project entitled "Screw Your Indie Cred Vol. 1" and its off the chain. We're screwing and chopping indie rock songs - really? How has this not been done before.

Here's a track I produced last night, a screwed and chopped remix of Mountain Goats' "Palmcorder Yanja": Palmcorder Screw (And if Mr. Darnielle or his lawyers stop by, I haven't made a dollar and I've given the Mountain Goats a shitload of money since I was 18. Just ask me to take it down, and I gladly will)

I picked this song for experimenting because it paints such a clear memory, something I see screwed and chopped music doing very very well. Also, I wanted to see if that bright guitar and John Darnielle's high pitched, nasally voice could sound eerie and ominous. I think it really brings out a great feeling to the original composition

Slowed and Thowed: Pharmacomusical Meditation

Michael Veal traces dub's influence on other forms of music in different geographic locations at the end of his book Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. While he quickly glosses over the well-documented emergence of the hip-hop scene in New York, it is important to note that many of dub's production techniques and cultural production happen in other African diasporas. The South has contributed to the development of American music by injecting the blues, jazz, gospel and other styles produced by African-American communities. Of specific interest to me is screwed and chopped music, which has evolved out of Houston Texas, which has corollaries in memory, fragmentation, pharmacology, and consumption. In my examination, I take a look at “Servin a duce” by DJ Screw, “Still Tippin'” featuring Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall, “Cadillac on 22's (screwed and chopped)” by David Banner, “Love and Happiness (Al Green screwed and chopped),” and Kid606's “Robitussin Motherfucker (DJ Screw RIP).” I conclude by noting screwed and chopped's ability through pharmaceuticals and production methods to create a meditation space for resolving some issues I have with Southern rap culture.

Download the paper.
Download an accompanying mix.

Here's a YouTube playlist for a sampling of some screw videos and videos of DJ Screw and DJ Kralos producing screw tracks:

Saturday, November 17, 2007 Call for submission

Josh and I have recently started a project in response to representations of space on album covers, and our interest in Lolcat memes. I just wanted to point you guys to our blog, and let you know that we'd love to have some images created by anyone on the blog. You can email them to Josh (josh.fishburn [at] or I (hebert.sara [at], and if you're interested in contributing on a regular basis, we can set up an account on the blog for you.


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.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Death death and more death

This past week on This American Life was a nice radio show about dealing with your parents and death. Its got really moving stories about assisting your mom in planning her suicide, making a documentary about your mother's murder, and why muder mystery dinners are offensive. Luckily, I haven't had to cope with that yet, but all this reading on memorials has made me ponder more about how I'll deal with the death of loved ones and my death.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Diane Di Prima Pt. 2

YouTube - "Rant" Video

Here's the video for my audio composition around Diane Di Prima's Rant. Chris spent his evening last night working with all found footage from self help videos and other random finds from the thrift store (Dancin' Grannies, Yo yo instructional video, etc.). I can't tell you how happy I am with how this turned out, and to be working on a project with Chris again.