On Thursday (March 17) during an informative panel at South by Southwest 2022, DJ Screw’s family, friends, and close collaborators discussed the life and legacy of the late Houston Hip-Hop pioneer. Titled “How DJ Screw Hatched His Own Houston Rap Scene,” the discussion included Derrick “D-Reck” Dixon, founder of Wreckshop Records; OG Ron C, co-founder of Swishahouse Records; DJ Screw’s older sister and leader of Screwville, Michelle Wheeler; and Lance Scott Walker, author of the soon-to-be-released DJ Screw: A Life In Slow Revolution.
“His love for music, it just developed right there on Harris street where we lived,” remembered Wheeler. “His chopped and screwed [style]… [It] was very interesting, to watch him develop his music skills and watch him scratch up my mama’s records because he didn’t like a song, or whatever the case may be. Instead of putting it back in the sleeve and putting it back on the shelf, he literally just [makes record scratch sound], my mama couldn’t listen to it anymore, or if she did it skipped. To watch him develop that and him develop that way, for me, it was something that you’ll never, ever forget.”
She added later, “For Screw… you know, you sit back and wonder, I wish he was here to see this unfold, but if he was here, this wouldn’t be unfolding like this.”
Together, the panel reminisced on the hyper creativity and musical mindset DJ Screw lived with and discussed how his legacy lives on through not only Houston rap artists but in Hip-Hop culture in general. OG Ron C reflected on how DJ Screw pioneered new territory for DJs who aimed to elevate their passions into full-time careers.
“At that time, DJing, it wasn’t really a popular thing,” OG Ron C remembered. “You can’t make a living off of DJing. That’s what we were told. When she [Wheeler] was saying DJ Screw made a way to prove that wrong, that was touching for me. This is what I had to prove to my people, too. Like, no, I’m gonna make a living off being a DJ, if I gotta be the first one to teach kids and show everybody [in] the world that you can make a living doing what you love to do, what your passion is to do.”
Multiple films are in development that’ll explore the life and legacy of DJ Screw. D-Reck gave an update on the progress of those projects, and the news was confirmed to VIBE by producer/filmmaker Isaac “Chill” Yowman, who was in the audience during the SXSW panel.
“It’s coming,” responded D-Reck when asked about potential movies and documentary films. “The good thing about Screw’s story is that his story is about 10 years in Houston music… I’m looking forward to coming out. I look at it like it’s going to be our Straight Outta Compton, because there’s no way you can tell a story without telling so many intricate characters that came along the way. That movement it was so much more than just music. It was a whole culture, a whole language, a lingo, and everything else about it.”
He continued, “A lot of research, [a] lot of effort and energy went into getting this far.”
DJ Screw passed away in 2000 from what was labeled a codeine overdose in his studio. In his career, he launched a homegrown movement that created the “chopped and screwed” style and sound. Born Robert Earl Davis Jr., Screw released over 350 mixtapes and led the collective Screwed Up Click with artists including Big Hawk, Big Moe, E.S.G., Fat Pat, Lil Flip, Lil Keke, and Trae Tha Truth.