History, Screwed and Chopped

Julie Grob just made the U of H Library System a whole lot cooler.

"You can see this."

The spiral wire has been withdrawn, and the front and back covers and all the pages placed in protective plastic sleeves.

"This belonged to Big H.A.W.K."

Julie Grob shows off one of the treasures from U of H's DJ Screw archive.
Marco Torres
Julie Grob shows off one of the treasures from U of H's DJ Screw archive.

H.A.W.K. was supposed to be one of the S.U.C.'s first breakout stars.

"It was donated by his wife."

He was murdered in 2006.

"It's one of his rhyme books."

In the notebook, ideas for verses are scribbled down. Whole pages are filled with words that rhyme with each other. Some pages have names, some have phone numbers, and some have scorekeeping tallies from domino games.

There are other, more substantial parts of the exhibit, Grob mentions, but "those will be saved for the exhibit. We're very excited."

Robert Earl Davis Sr., Papa Screw, still lives in Houston. He is fresher and more eager in discussions than his age would imply, and his enthusiasm for the archive project is almost palpable.

All talk about what the archive will mean for his son's legacy eventually boils down to simple anecdotes, tiny moments where he gets to relive parts of Screw's life that nobody else does.

Papa Screw talks about how DJ Screw would take every bit of money he had and buy records, to the point that he didn't have a bed in his room because it wouldn't fit. Sometimes he'd lie on the floor and sleep right between those crates, he says.

He talks about how the family was evicted from four separate apartments because of the music, how he was told that there was too much traffic going in and out. The landlords always thought it was because of drugs. It never was.

"Screw used to always tell me he wanted to be famous," says his dad. "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. Julie is a real nice lady. I guess he did."

DJ Screw is a legitimate music legend. He passed more than a decade ago, but is as prevalent in Houston's rap identity as any living person. This exhibit, the preservation of his stylings, is entirely deserved. If anything, it moved a little slow getting here.

That probably makes sense, though.

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Great story. Kudos to Julie Grob for taking a broad view of her profession and documenting an important slice of Houston cultural history.

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