Houston Music

Screw Heads

It's difficult to listen to this tribute album with a critical ear. (Even more so now since Friday, November 17, marks the first anniversary of DJ Screw's death.) For each cynical thought that crosses your mind when a rough-and-gruff rapper makes a declaration of love on this collection, a part of you has to believe there were only good intentions in the hearts of the contributing MCs -- mostly rappers who have performed and/or recorded on many of Screw's slowed-down compositions. Besides, it's the least these performers could do to preserve the memory of the man who helped them become voices in the Houston rap scene.

Sure enough, many of the MCs -- the "Heads," if you will -- do manage to pay their respects to the fallen master without sounding like slick-as-shit poseurs. Lil' Flip and Shasta get the ball rolling with "Still' Bangin' Screw," a steady track that has Flip slyly displaying his braggadocio while respectfully pledging his gratefulness to Screw: "Thanks to my nigga Screw / I got my shine on / Now my nigga gone / So I got to rhyme strong."

Big Pokey & Chris Ward give off perhaps the most openly emotional vibe on the album with the track "I Miss My Dog." You very rarely hear a brotha say something like Pokey's "I don't know if I told you I love you / But nigga, I do" unless he truly means it. The volatile "Under the Floor" is the album's most memorable track, with 2Pac sound-alike Zero giving his regards in a bleakly nihilistic manner: "At least my nigga didn't get taken out by a shot to the dome."

But a few MCs spend their time preening when they should be giving their props. On "The Young & The Wood," throwed young playas Yungstar & Wood shower themselves with praises and give inappropriate shout-outs to their own playalicious lifestyles. And although they may be card-carrying Screwed Up Click members, the Botany Boys basically do a sound-off of all the shit they own on "What's Up." One of the Boys spits: "Screwed Up Click / We the shit / We the kings of hip-hop." That may be, but they really should've saved that little nugget for one of their own albums.

Even with those two tracks sticking in the spokes, Screw Heads is a sincere and even entertaining tribute to one of Houston rap's dearly departed muthas of invention. Consider this collection a wake, with rappers coming together to tip their lean-filled Styrofoam cups in remembrance of those who aren't here.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey