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2- Back in tha Deck: Screwtapes and Community Building in 1990s Houston Hip-Hop - Brett Wyatt, University of Regina

10:30 AM, Friday 24 May 2019 (2 hours)
Lunch   12:30 PM to 01:30 PM (1 hour)

In this paper I analyze the ways in which DJ Screw’s Screwtape recordings helped define the community and culture of Houston hip-hop in the 1990s. Specifically, DJ Screw’s community-minded recording and distribution approach will be framed as a major influence on the grassroots growth of this musical movement. Both notable artists and everyday enthusiasts in the Houston hip-hop scene were frequently invited to curate and perform on Screwtapes, which gave the recordings a sense of localization and collectivity. I credit this democratic creative model with facilitating an era of prosperity for Houston hip-hop, which culminated in a vast catalog of acclaimed artists and recordings by the late 1990s. I also argue that the communal process by which Screwtapes were recorded and consumed facilitated the development of localized cultural sensibilities, such as the celebration of “slab” car culture, codeine syrup-based beverages, and Houston-specific slang. These cultural sensibilities, combined with DJ Screw’s trademark “chopped and screwed” sound defined 1990s Houston hip-hop, and were largely disseminated via Screwtapes. In this paper I frame Houston hip-hop as culturally and sonically alternative to more commercialized 1990s hip-hop movements, such as those in New York and Los Angeles. The aim of this paper is to assert the status of Screwtapes as community-building vehicles, and as communicative media which facilitated the development of an autonomous local music culture.
University of Regina

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