Exterior mural painting of DJ Screw at Screwed Up Records and Tapes in Houston
Source: Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Straight Outta Screwston: A Comprehensive Breakdown of the History of Chopped and Screwed Music

There are many subgenres in hip-hop — but chopped and screwed is iconic in its own right. Read for chopped and screwed music's history and evolution!


Nov. 21 2023, Published 1:26 p.m. ET

Hip-hop has given birth to a number of subgenres that have either contributed to the fundamental sound of the genre or existed as fleeting trends. The chopped-and-screwed era has proven to be a long-standing staple that has shaped some of rap music's most iconic hits.

But what exactly is chopped and screwed music and where did it originate?

Here is everything you need to know about the subgenre and how it has evolved over the years.

What is chopped and screwed music?

To understand the subgenre of chopped and screwed, we have to go back to Texas in the early 90s. Chopped and screwed music was the focus of the 2007 documentary film Screwed in Houston, which analyzed how the trend influenced the southern rap scene in its formative years.

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The unique musical style, pioneered by Houston's own DJ Screw, involves slowing down the tempo of a track down to 60 and 70 quarter-notes and editing it to create a mellow, syrupy sound.

Willie D (left) and Ricky Royal speak during the Awready!: Houston Hip Hop Conference at the University of Houston.
Source: Michael Paulsen/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
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The brilliant technique earned its name from the distinctive chopping and screwing of vinyl records during the remixing process. The term chopped specifically refers to the rhythmic slicing and dicing of a track, creating a unique cadence that is unconventional.

The result is an immersive and hypnotic experience that transforms the original composition of a song into a completely new, screwed-up sound.

Here are some of the most iconic chopped and screwed artists of all time.

Some of the most notable chopped and screwed artists include Big Pokey, Big Moe, and Z-Ro, and of course, DJ Screw.

Although the latter passed on, you'll find that his sound inspired some of your favorite rappers' rappers music.

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It would be nice to see Screw get more respect for his contributions to hip-hop, but that has not been the case so far.

Notably, though, some artists have carried on his legacy.

Producers across the globe have leaned into the brilliance of Screw's psychedelic production prowess to produce some of the most groovy beats that this era's music scene has ever heard.

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Among them is artist-producer Travis Scott, who has embraced the chopped-and-screwed sound in his music to give it an extra edge. Songs like "Stargazing" from Scott's Astroworld album exemplify how the genre continues to evolve and resonate with this generation of rap artists.

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And then, there's Solange's celebrated When I Get Home, which leaned into the brilliance of chopped-and-screwed production to elevate its sonic output for fans. The result was a hit, as expected.

Other artists who have sampled the production style in their work include Three 6 Mafia on "Sippin On Some Syrup," and Beyoncé on her controversial record "Bow Down/I Been On."

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