Turn The Beat Around

Long before DJ Screw, Darryl Scott was Houston's mixmaster, spinning records that eventually spun him into the ground. A reformed Scott has a new rap these days - the word of God.

 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. -- Corinthians 12:6

Come with me / Hail Mary nigga, run quick see / What do we have here now? -- Tupac Shakur, "Hail Mary"

It all started with the voice.

Darryl Scott figured out that many folks who hear him preach at Blast Records would never step foot in a real church.
Deron Neblett
Darryl Scott figured out that many folks who hear him preach at Blast Records would never step foot in a real church.

There was a girl in the neighborhood, the Third Ward to be exact, who little Darryl Scott took a liking to. She was passing out flyers for a dance at JB's Entertainment Center, and Darryl said hey, if you'll be there, I'll be there.

The girl's daddy turned out to be the DJ for the party. Disco Harold and his 800 Watts of Power. That was a lot of juice back in 1976. But the real power was in Harold's personality. Harold was from New York City, and his slick patter on top of that sweet funk music formed an irresistible combination. The boy was captivated, so much so that he convinced Harold to let him spend time with his daughter, as well as transport and set up his massive sound system.

It wasn't long before the boy was scavenging his own stereo components from the trash, resurrecting junk to play the records he now fiended for like candy. Darryl had always had charm, so he started developing the voice to go with it. And he kept on working for Disco Harold, until the day when he was on the microphone at JB's, doing a sound check, making sure everything was working right for that night's jam.

Darryl had just clicked off when the owner came rushing over. Seemed that Harold wasn't going to make it that night. "Who was that talking just now?" Someone pointed to Darryl. Naw, couldn't be. That boy can't be more than 13 years old. Well, that was a 13-year-old voice coming out those speakers. "Go home and get dressed," the owner said. "You're DJing tonight."

Tonight, 24 years later, Darryl Scott is still playing to the crowd as he walks the length of the counter in his store, Blast Records. His voice is still commanding; the years having cured it into a rich baritone. He's still immersed in music, every inch of his establishment covered with CDs, promotional posters, vinyl LPs and autographed pictures. He's still drawing a crowd, just like all those years when Houston club owners would promise their first-born just to get Scott into their venues. Only his subject matter has changed. Greatly.

"We're looking at Deuteronomy, chapter 28," Scott says, standing next to a board bearing the words "Tonight's Lesson: Blessings 4 Obedience, Curses 4 Disobedience." More than 30 people are packed into the record shop, where Scott holds Bible study every Tuesday night. There are a lot of couples, a lot of kids. They sit on folding chairs and weight benches, beneath huge posters promoting Scarface or Fat Pat or Death Row's Greatest Hits. Several young men who could easily switch places with those on the posters are sitting by the door.

"Everybody got their weapons?" Scott asks as he passes out Bibles from a pile on the counter. He's wearing khakis, a black mock-neck shirt, a cell phone and a pager. "All we're hoping for is for you to walk out of here a little different than when you came in. We just want to give you a few things to live by."

Lot of folks can't understand spreading the Word in a store whose foundation is rap music -- kind of like having Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in a bar, they say. Heck, even Scott was ready to shut down his landmark shop after he got saved. And truth be told, he still isn't too comfortable with the whole situation. Somewhere along the way, though, he figured out that a lot of folks who came through Blast Records over the past 16 years never would have set foot in a church. Some folks are just more comfortable listening to UGK or Run-DMC than G-O-D. But that doesn't mean they should be abandoned. Just because you're saved doesn't mean you have to be saved from rap. And maybe rap itself can even help save a few folks.

Scott isn't too partial to rap, never really was. Although he looks twentysomething, he just turned 37, which makes him more a child of the funk generation -- Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Confunkshun, George Clinton, Parliament. Those were the sounds he used to pump back in the late '70s and early '80s, when he came to dominate the DJ scene in Houston.

Back then, live disc jockeys who blended records into a seamless stream of sound were a relatively recent phenomenon, a new breed of musician. The trend had begun in New York City ghettos in the late '60s and early '70s. DJs took over public parks, playing free music for their disenfranchised audience, creating hip-hop culture. When the DJs got their friends to weave rhymes over the beat, rap music was born. Nightclubs -- the French had started calling them discothèques -- started using DJs instead of live bands.

No matter what the source, people always love to hear hits. DJs played the actual records instead of performing renditions of popular songs. It didn't take long for DJs to figure out that they could record their mixes of hit songs on tapes and create revenue independent of club owners or the record industry. Scott made a killing selling $10 mix tapes that became collector's items around town. He always put the word Blast on his tapes -- Spring Break Blast, Isley Brothers Blast, Slow Jam Blast. As the tapes circulated around Houston, his fame grew.

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