On November 16, 2000, Houston lost one of the founding fathers of its hip-hop scene.
Robert Earl Davis, Jr., known in the music scene as DJ Screw, died at the age of 29.
An autopsy later reportedly determined he died of an overdose from Valium and PCP combined with codeine and prescription cough syrup – a mixture still at the forefront the city’s music.
Artists in the Houston used and still drink the “purple stuff” or “sizzurp,” cough syrup mixed with soda, as an intoxicant.
DJ Screw’s popularity elevated the cough syrup mix, giving Houston the hip-hop nickname of “City of Syrup.”
Many consider him a pioneer of sound for his signature “chopped and screwed” style, where beats are slowed down, skipped and scratched on the record, all played against a stop-time to “chop” the beat.
DJ Screw perfected the technique of playing the same record on two turntables simultaneously, with one a beat behind the other, quickly sliding the crossfader back and forth to create the unique effect.
Nearly 20 years after his death, Screw remains one of the most prolific artists in Houston history, creating over 300 mix tapes, which he would reportedly sell out of his car in the parking lot during other artists’ shows.
He is also known for his production of five full-length albums, many of which are still fixtures in clubs around the city, as well as favorites and inspirations for the city’s new generation of hip-hop artists.
Not only did DJ Screw bring true innovation on the turntables, his hip-hop peers also considered him a friend, collaborator and mentor to many of Houston’s up-and-coming rap artists.
He led a crew of MCs, known as the “Screwed Up Click,” and made beats for some of Houston’s most iconic artists. Members of the original S.U.C. included Big Moe, Fat Pat, and Lil’ Keke.
Gone too soon, his legacy lives on.