I just finished reading this article on DJ Screw up on Pitchfork. Read it.
DJ Screw is pretty legendary, but this article kinda helped me grasp how legendary he really is. And I don’t mean by how much reach and influence his sound has (which has a lot and spans to the furthest depths of Soundcloud fuckery [fucking-around, not necessarily a bad thing mind you]), but how technology and the archive-culture has really affected his music’s distribution and even the way it sounds.
The writer Andrew Nosnitsky really seems to hates any form of what we consider nowadays Screw-influenced… might it be anything Goth/Slow/Purple/Wave-related or groups like (possibly) Salem or random Tumblr-bred chopped remixes. Which, I guess, is understandable… but technology and the “sprawl” that he refers to (in another context) has much to do with how we progressively consume and produce Chopped & Screwed music in this day and age. If you’re hardcore, you’ll do it analog. If you don’t have access to that, or you’re somewhat ignorant to the history, you’ll find a Youtube instructional.
I think his article is more about technology and the capital-A Anthology, than it is about DJ Screw (I mean it’s about DJ screw, but I guess I found the tech stuff more interesting). He goes into some detail about the importance, maybe arbitrariness, of cassette tapes but how it’s totally changed the sound of Screw over the years.
In life, Screw was largely protective of his brand, if not his aesthetic. “It’s only a Screw tape if I Screw it,” he told The Source in a brief 1995 interview. But there might be an even shorter explanation for why so many of the Screw-style mixes by today’s adherents sound outright horrible: It’s only a tape if it’s a tape. Screw made analog music through and through, but it was the cassette in particular that defined his sound. Not just the thump of it but the warmth as well. And there was something almost poetic about this loyalty to the naturally decaying format. Even if he had never actively Screwed his tapes, they might’ve still eventually slowed to Screwed pace with time, as if by instinct.
That’s so insightful and further accelerates (or maybe de-accelerates) Screw music as a specific, time-bound music that only gets slower over time because of aging, warping and possibly too much time in the heat of someone’s glove compartment.
That, to me, was the most interesting paragraph in the entire piece (which is a little too long… but it’s DJ Screw, so yeah).
Here’s a paragraph about DJ Screw’s technique that had me really fascinated.
In fact, the effect came much further down in the recording chain, having little to do with the turntables themselves but with a basic pitch shift effect that was common on multitrack cassette recorders (1200s also have pitch shift but they don’t go to the extremes that Screw’s stuff would end up at). This methodology lent itself to unique and complicated blends. He wasn’t just throwing a ccapellas over instrumentals in the pre-mash up era, but playing records on top of previously recorded multitrack mixes to the point where he could be stacking three or four different records all at once, each with a new slight layer of hiss and humanity.
So yeah, give it a read if you have time. Unfortunately, us as a public has real limited access to legit DJ Screw tapes (physical), but get acquainted with his shit via Youtube. Youtube isn’t an illegitimate way of consuming music… it’s our time and age and we’re a stream culture so if this is how you peep it, then fuck it. Ultimately, it’s the meat you’re eating not the skin. Though, for me, the skin is the best part.