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Happy Birthday, DJ Screw!

Death often puts life in perspective. That was the case 12 years ago when DJ Screw passed away. He would have been 45 years old today (July 20).

The Texas legend, born Robert Earl Davis, innovated the screwed up production/mixing method, earning him the epithet “The Originator.” One of the ways that Screw carried out his unique style was by manually slowing down tracks via turntables’ pitch control while recording on a cassette tape player at the same time. The chopped and screwed sound helped popularize the rap scene in Houston. Screw put out his own mixes showcasing the gripping style, such as The Final Chapter and June 27. Apart from his style, he also put on for Texas with his crew, Screwed Up Click, which included Trae Tha Truth, Z-Ro, Lil Keke and others.

In 2000, Davis was discovered dead in his studio’s bathroom; the cause of death was a combination of marijuana, alcohol and promethazine, a synthetic antihistamine drug that contains codeine and is commonly known as “syrup.”

Despite it being over a decade since his death, Screw’s influence has transitioned to the younger generation, including Drake and A$AP Rocky. Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP was chopped up by OG Ron C and is one of only two tapes that Rocky has posted in the music section of his website. Drizzy, on the other hand, has included Screw tributes when he performs in Texas.

“Sometimes I feel guilty for how much I love Screw and the SUC,” Drake told The Guardian, in 2010, via email.

For all that, artists whom were around during Screw’s era have not forgotten him, not even on his birthday.

“Happy birthday to the late great Robert Davis! #RIPSCREW” fellow Texas legend Bun B tweeted early this morning.

“#HappyBDayDjScrew,” Trae Tha Truth tweeted, before releasing an “ol’ school style freestyle” in his honor.

“Can’t forget about Screw,” Trae spit on dedication track “Rollin Dine  (DJ Screw BDay Freestyle).” “Yeah, nigga, we the shit/Anytime you see me, tell ‘em it’s Screwed Up Click.”

Screw’s shop, Screwed Up Records & Tapes moved from its Cullen Boulevard location to Hiram Clarke, yet his impact on Texas and hip-hop as a whole continues to endure. Happy Birthday.—Christopher Minaya

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