Houston Music

Syrupy Surprises: Random Selections From DJ Screw's Personal Vinyl Collection

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Next comes the rigorous process of cataloguing each record. Dewey decimal-type stuff. Until that's done, no one's got a definitive list of what the collection includes.

That's not to say some cool stuff hasn't already been uncovered. Screw had a massive collection of vinyl -- more than 5,000 records, says Julie Grob, the library's Coordinator of Digital Projects & Instruction for Special Collections and the woman spearheading the preservation of this stuff.

Remarkably, Screw's vinyl was mostly left untouched after he passed away in 2000. Boxes, crates and piles of 12" singles and albums were left in storage for a decade before Grob reached out to his family. 5,000 was just too many to preserve -- plenty were damaged, duplicates or unopened. The library whittled the collection down to 1,500 essentials.

That number includes everything you'd imagine: Tons of hip-hop records from Texas, the South and the West Coast, along with the kind of dance music you need to make your living as a professional DJ. But Screw also owned (and played) some records you wouldn't necessarily expect to find.

During the preservation process, Grob and her scholarly pals have uncovered some interesting, surprising and just plain obscure selections from Screw's box. Here are 10 that stood out.

10. Richard Pryor's Greatest Hits: Not everything significant in Screw's crates was music. Richard Pryor was the hottest comedian in the world in the early to mid-'70s, the era of his career highlighted on this compilation. Pryor's slang and storytelling style were a major influence on hip-hop culture, making this record a logical candidate for study by future historians. It also happens to be funny as shit.

9. Shaquille O'Neal, "I'm Outstanding:" Was Shaq chopped and screwed by the originator? I couldn't find any evidence that this single from O'Neal's 1993 debut, Shaq Diesel, was ever included on a gray tape, but the possibility is too righteous to rule out. Though he was never considered the world's greatest lyricist, Shaq went platinum behind tunes like this one. People were actually listening to this.

Hate on his flow all you want, but Shaquille can take pride in the fact that his second single was in DJ Screw's box alongside all the legends of hip-hop. That's pretty legit. And now it'll be preserved forever at UH.

8. El Coco, "Dancin' in Paradise:" No working DJ can get by for long without some disco on standby. El Coco employed a funky, electronic "disco orchestra" sound that tore up coke-dusted dance clubs in the late'70s. Beats like the intro to this LP's title track are probably the reason a hip-hop jock like Screw would keep Dancing In Paradise in his collection, but who knows what kind of parties he presided over before he made his name?

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith