Screw Love. It's a term commonly used amongst the Screwed Up Click (S.U.C.), the bigger-than-life Houston-based rap label, which was founded by the legendary DJ Screw himself. If Houston hip-hop is the Bible, Screw is the book of Genesis.
There are two types of Screw Love. There's Love for Screw, which is embedded in the DNA of any Houstonian who listens to Southern hip-hop, or by those who create it. Then, there's love by Screw, which is nearly impossible to come by because you have to be in the Screw family before you get that kind of rare affection. For Latino hip-hop artists in Houston, love by Screw has been the holy grail of amor since they started sippin' lean out of Styrofoam cups and smiled their first sparkly grill. But Houston-based underground Latino hip-hop artist and Second Ward respresenta', Tony Martinez, better known as Dat Boi T, or just "T," has the harder-to-come-by Screw Love. The 25-year-old is the first and only Latino officially affiliated with the S.U.C. - a story so unbelievable, Rocks Off had to speak to DJ Screw's family to confirm.
"T was sworn into the Screwed Up Click family by Al-D," Big Bubb, DJ Screw's first cousin and manager of the original Screwed Up Records and Tapes on Cullen Blvd., tells Rocks Off. If you don't know the significance of Al-D, he is DJ Screw's brother, and Big Bubb was by the legend's side, "before Screw was Screw," he proudly professes. "Since the first time I met T, it's been nothin' but love from up top" says Bubb. "He shows nothing but love for Screw. He's ambitious and ready to eat."
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Actually, the self-described Screwed Up Essay (see definition No. 5) wasn't always ready to eat. Since he was a youngin', he was taking his lunch money into the Cullen Blvd. landmark, and instead of getting the four food groups, he'd buy stacks of DJ Screw's music. It was in that time; Al-D took notice of him and his ability to rhyme, adopting him into rap royalty. "Any track that I drop, I'm reppin' for the Screwed Up Click," T tells Rocks Off. "Bubb (asked) me 'Did you ever think that you'd be helping me put together the (S.U.C.) studio and Zero would be in the back recording?' There are really no words to express what it means to help keep the (DJ Screw) name alive." Dat Boi T, who has dropped seven mix tapes in 2009 alone and plans to drop two more before 2010, comes across extremely humble, but his raps aren't and neither does his flow always reflect the slow, screwed-down drawl that the S.U.C. is famous for. No, the boy who was always the only Meskin among his many black friends can slowly crawl or quickly and aggressively climb a beat. His pace often varies from fast to, at times, barely understandable, but always enjoyable. He's a quick-thinking lyricist who can originate 16 bars on a Blackberry within minutes. Rocks Off saw it firsthand last weekend in a weed-smoke-filled studio. Second-hand smoke never smelled so good.
More than anything, he's a constant hustler who raps for a living, quitting his 9-to-5 inventory gig at Texas Children's Hospital after it interfered with his rap dreams, but not before he had $7,000 to invest into a top-notch home studio. Like Lucky Luciano, he creates, distributes and sells his music from A-Z and you can find big followings of him in places like Temple and throughout North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington - once nontraditional Latino newcomer dwellings that now have their teenage offspring grasping for some kind of American self-identity, which they are probably finding in T. T's also an interjection-ist. If there's a big name or gathering of artists somewhere, you'll probably find T there. In fact, while Rocks Off was interviewing Lucky for a January feature at the Cadillac Bar in The Heights last weekend, the director of the Texas Latin Mic Pass, well, interjected. The self-taught sound engineer handed us three CD's of him and Lucky on the cover, making his visit relevant, whether we liked it, or not. "A dude that hungry with that much skill...he's destined to shine," says Bubb. Now that's some Screw Love, right there. Follow Dat Boi T on MySpace and Twitter. Rolando Rodriguez is managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Email him at Rolando@redbrownandblue.com.