The Ten (Or So) Most Vital Screw Tapes Of All Time
Photos by Marco Torres
Monday, at the Screwed Up Records & Tapes shop (7717 Cullen Blvd.), from at least 5:20 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. (and likely beyond), the magnanimous Southside, a man who has worked the window there for the past decade or so, sat quiet as a plum. He was reading a Bible, of all things.
It's appropriate, what with the store's closing date a little more than a week away, but only if you're trying extra hard to be clever. The Bible is the Bible, and reading it is rarely an analogy for anything. The store is closing and that's that. Shit.
No one will speak on where, or even when, the new location will open, only that one eventually will. So with sad eyes, we asked Southside the most clichéd, most complex simple question we could: Were someone who had never listened to Screw to wander into the store, which ten tapes would you describe to that person as being the most vital?
His response: Pursed lips for half a second, then, "I can make you a list." In a little less than two minutes, scribbled in no real order on the back of an old receipt, he'd written down 12.
June 27: This is perhaps the most iconic Screw tape of all time, featuring an untold number of quotables When it opens with a glassy melody, "That nigga Big Ass Moe," it is just about aristocratic. Something a lot of people don't realize: There are two discs to the tape, as there were with the other tapes. The second one, the one with the Moe/Yungstar/D-Mo/Pokey freestyle, is the one that has aged to become hip-hop divinity. The first CD has songs by Ice T, Bone, Tupac, Freshes MC, Too Short, No Limit and Botany Boys.
The Next Episode
N 2 Deep: Remember? This is the one that opened with Eminem's "I'm Shady" and somehow slithered into 112's "Only You." This one is particularly highly ranked among Southwest Houstonians, on account of the first CD ending with a Guerilla Maab squared moment, where Screw backdoored the monstrously specific regional hit "Fondren and Main" with their mostly underappreciated "Friends Inst."
Eyes On the Prize: Something that became neat about this one: the first disc ends with the tinky-tinks of "Rule Number 1," which featured Pimp C, blending into Lil Troy's megahit "Wanna Be a Baller," whom, of course, Pimp would eventually go on to destroy in the most lopsided rapper beef in history. That thing about the nail versus the hammer, that's what happened between those two.
In The Door
Plots & Schemes: This one opens with Notorious B.I.G.'s "You're Nobody," followed by E-40's "With Me," followed with "Thoughts Of Another Time," which featured 8 Ball. That's a Cool Fat Black Guy trifecta, yo. Maybe Screw didn't stitch those ones together like that for that particular purpose, but maybe he did. Who knows? Either way, it plays.
Headed 2 Da League
Hold Ya Head: It speaks to DJ Screw's brilliance that here he almost - almost - made Shaq sound cool rapping. O'Neal's 1996 not-altogether-unsalvageable song "Can't Stop The Reign" is the second track on the first disc.
Feel My Pain
Yes, yes, yes. Most famously, this is the one that started with Keke and Pokey freestyling-to-pieces Goodie MOB's "Peepin' In My Window" beat and Dre's "Nuthin' But A G Thang" beat, then ended with D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" as the last song on the second disc.
Side Note: There is a brilliant, unintentionally funny line delivered about two minutes into the track, with Keke jabbing, "And when I come through gots to stay paid, never had AIDS." Never had AIDS. Not that he doesn't have AIDS, that he never had them. You can't write that kind of stuff, and that's sort of the point.
It's All Good
Off the Head:The first half of this set had, among others, 2Def, Too Short, MJG, Dangerous Crew, Mac Mall, and goddamn Mary J. Blige. MARY J. BLIGE. How many guys ever in the history of the world said to themselves, "You know what would compliment this 'Hard Times' track that 8 Ball & MJG did just perfectly? Mary J. Blige's 'I Can Love U,' of course."
One, that's how many. Remember when everyone went all apeshit when Z-Trip mashed together Phil Collins and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien on Uneasy Listening? How was an MJG-to-Mary J. Blige move any less innovative?
There are nearly 250 official Screw tapes now, so it gets to a point where These Are Vital Picks blends into These Are Vital Picks To Me, although that can probably be said of all music. When we put this question to Twitter, Bun B replied with the Ridin' Dirty tape (duh), while OG Ron C, who has become a demigod of sorts behind his F-Action R&B slow-mos series, went the way of Late Night Fuckin' Yo' Bitch.
There's a reason Screw's legacy - and the Screw Shop, really - have crystallized into Legendary status.
Other Recommended Titles: Blue Over Grey; Southside Still Holding; Yellowstone vs. The Nation; Duck Sick; Headed To Da Classics
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