01 Dec Jack’s Music Corner: If Screw Ain’t Make it, It Ain’t No Screw Tape
One of the most anticipated Hip-Hop albums released this year was Savage Mode II, the sequel to 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s Savage Mode. My expectations for this work were exceeded for one reason in particular – ChopStars deluxe edition release. If you’re unfamiliar with who and what ChopStars is, it’s a collective of DJs based out of Houston lead by OG RON C. They are known for remixing songs and albums into chopped and screwed versions of the originals. They’ve remixed Black Panther: The Album, Drunk by Thundercat and the aforementioned Savage Mode II. I would highly recommend listening to these “chopped not slopped” remixes but that’s not what this article is about.
If this was an album review, I would have titled it something different. However, with the release of the Savage Mode II deluxe, new light has been shone on an ongoing debate in the hip-hop community about chopped and screwed versus slowed and reverb.
As a subgenre, chopped and screwed originated on the Southside of Houston during the early 90s. Pioneered by the legendary DJ Screw, chopped and screwed came to refer to Screw’s DJ style where he would slow down tracks and chop up the instrumentals to give the song a darker or more laid-back feel. Screw’s style became well-known throughout Houston and other DJs from the city such as ChopStars’ OG RON C began chopping songs in the same style. However, DJ Screw sadly was not able to see how far-ranging his influence was as he passed away from an overdose in 2000.
Looking at the other side of the debate, slowed and reverb is a much younger subgenre which exploded to popularity on YouTube. I’m sure you’ve been scrolling through your recommended section and seen something along the lines of “This Song You Like [slowed and reverb version].” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, however, slowed and reverb is when a song is slowed down a little bit to distort the instrumental and vocals, then reverb is added on to give the track more atmosphere and space. The goal of this is to give the song a different vibe and mellow it out a bit. Sound familiar?
The similarities in the two subgenres have sparked a lot of debate surrounding whether or not slowed and reverb is a gentrified version of chopped and screwed. During quarantine, a TikTok was posted by popular music TikToker @SongPsych who described why people enjoy slowed and reverbed music so much (linked below). Unsurprisingly, this TikTok received a lot of flak from hip hop fans on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok who were mad that @SongPsych and many others on the platforms weren’t showing any recognition to chopped and screwed music.
Although I am in no way qualified to label slowed and reverbed music as a gentrified version of chopped and screwed myself, I do agree with the many commenters in this debate. As hip-hop has been pushed to the mainstream, there’s been a lack of acknowledgement of the work of those in the hip-hop community, especially Black entertainers who worked so hard to build the genre.
Despite many other issues surrounding the erasure of hip-hop history and the gentrification of the genre, I wanted to focus on the lack of recognition for the chopped and screwed sound since it has had such a significant effect on the music we hear today in mainstream rap. Present in the works from Travis Scott to A$AP Rocky, we must acknowledge the foundations of this genre and appreciate those who pioneered the sounds and styles we hear so often today.
Featured Photograph courtesy of Orian Lumpkin