The size and scope of DJ Screw’s endless catalog defies comprehension. Working out of his modest home studio from the early 90s until 2000, the late Houston legend recorded and released over 300 mixtapes during his far too brief career. By slowing records down to near half speed and featuring exclusive freestyles and singing from local legends like Al-D (Screw’s brother), Big Moe, Fat Pat, Lil’ Keke, and Z-Ro, Screw created his own transcendent style and built a musical empire.
Over fifteen years since his untimely passing from respiratory failure, artists who worked with Screw continue to express amazement at the popularity of his tapes. “I would watch this man go to car shows and press up literally 10,000 to 15,000 tapes and he would sell out. He used to have so much money we used to have to count it four and five times,” Screwed Up Click rapper Lil Flip told DJ Vlad in an interview.
Fellow S.U.C. rapper Z-Ro echoed similar statistics in an interview with Noisey. “He’d be making like $15,000 a day off his whole catalog,” he said. For those who are curious, that adds up to about $5.5 million in annual sales.
“He used to have so much money we used to have to count it four and five times.” – Lil’ Flip
In addition to car shows, Screw often sold his tapes right out of his house. “The line was probably as long as two New York blocks,” Z-Ro told Noisey. “This man had a system: ‘When my gate open at 10 o’clock I start selling tapes.’ At 9:20 this line was already — it’s like the Jordan’s are going to come out at Foot Locker or some shit. Motherfuckers is all the way down the street waiting.”
Artists today might envy when Screw’s ridiculous sales figures, but it all came with a price. Bird, a Houston rapper and Screw collaborator, started to feel uneasy at the ever growing crowds and cash piles. As a result he started carrying an AK-47 with him when tapes went on sale in case someone tried to rob Screw. “That shit got scary,” he told the Houston Press.
“At 9:20 this line was already — it’s like the Jordan’s are going to come out at Foot Locker or some shit. Motherfuckers is all the way down the street waiting.”- Z-Ro
With Screw no longer around to sell his tapes from car shows, his house, and other Houston hot spots, Screwed Up Records and Tapes on 3538 W Fuqua St in Houston now carries on his legacy. Open 12–9 seven days a week, Screw himself opened the store in early 1998. 19 years later people continue to come from all over the world in search of original Screw CDs and tapes. For this reason, Screw’s store is now considereda cultural landmark. “There’s probably really only three landmarks that’s significant to the [Houston] rap scene: Screwed Up Records, Rap-A-Lot records, and wherever I’m at,” UGK rapper Bun B said in the Vice documentary Screwed in Houston.
From selling millions of dollars worth of mixtapes to influencing countless DJs and producers, Screw’s memory shows no signs of dimming any time soon. The global reach of slowed down, homemade mixtapes may seem unbelievable to some, but Screw’s father Robert Earl Davis Sr. always sensed his son’s music would touch the lives of many. “Screw used to always tell me he wanted to be famous,” he told the Houston Press. “He used to say that he wanted to make an impact on music. I knew he was gonna do it. All he ever did was music…I guess he did.”
via: Medium.com (Gino Sorcinelli)