Lil’ Jon & the East Side Boyz / Ying Yang Twins
Crunk Juice Chopped & Screwed / U.S.A. (United State of Atlanta) Chopped & Screwed
B / B
crew music can be hard to get your head around if you’re, well, sober. Designed to be enjoyed while high on the narcotic qualities of industrial-strength cough syrup (or “sizzurp,” as they call it in the music’s home, Houston), screw is like a 45-rpm record played at 33 1/3. It’s sloooooow. But the best screw DJs do more than just jack down the tempo. The king of Swisha House (the home of H-Town hip-hop) is DJ Michael “5000” Watts; if you want a chopped & screwed version of your major release – and if you’re a southern rapper these days, you’d better plan to release a chopped & screwed version of your album—Watts is who you call, because he’s the best (since the passing of the genre’s namesake, DJ Screw, that is). He likes to repeat phrases in his remixes, and actually goes one old-school step better: he scratches—that’s the “chopped” to go with the “screwed.”
Recontextualization is often the order of the day with chopped & screwed albums. Watts generally gets free rein to play God with an album’s running order, which he does while chopping & screwing 2005’s biggest crunk albums, Lil’ Jon & the East Side Boyz’ Crunk Juice and Ying Yang Twins’ U.S.A.. Crunk Juice wasn’t exactly a fun album to begin with, but screwed down it sounds even more menacing: listen to the way “Get Crunk” takes on a darker tone in its “we don’t give a fuck nigga, we don’t give a fuck ho” chorus, pitched down and slowed down. Surprisingly, much of Crunk Juice Chopped & Screwed ends up sounding like the hip-hop version of a Black Sabbath album, all heavy chords and narcotic tempos (go figure) to go with its talk of violence (“White Meat,” “Stop Fuckin Wit Me”) and drugs (“Da Blow”).
Not that that’s all there is here. The Usher- and Ludacris-featuring mega-smash “Lovers & Friends” is now the slowest slow jam you’ve ever heard, perfect for a slow grind (at least until Lil’ Jon’s verse pokes up through the murk: “I’ve been knowin’ you for a long time / But fuckin’ never crossed my mind” may be many things, but romantic it ain’t). “Real Nigga Roll Call” gets sent through the airplane-engine effect (one I’ve never tired of)—and Ice Cube sounds like the scariest rapper you’ve ever heard on it. And “Stop Fuckin Wit Me,” already a semi-brilliant rock-crunk take on Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” now comes off about four different shades of Slayer.
Things are very different on U.S.A. (United State of Atlanta) Chopped & Screwed. Where Lil’ Jon goes for an aggressive, fuck-shit-up-in-the-club vibe, Ying Yang Twins are much more R&B-ish; in their approach. The infamous “Wait” sounds notably odd, particularly the parts immediately following the chorus, which erupt in a slow cacophony of electronic clicks and clacks, and the “Sex Therapy” skits (which are just talking to begin with) don’t gain anything from being screwed. “Pull My Hair,” already slow, is now positively glacial, and D-Roc sounds alarmingly Satanic with his voice pitched down so far. Watts’ stroke of brilliance here, though, is his take on the “Wait” remix, which he precedes with the Art of Noise-sampling “Ghetto Classics” – and then keeps the piano sample (from “Beat Box”) running through “Wait” (oh, and a screwed Missy Elliott sounds like she really is from Mars).
Akin to Lil’ Jon’s “Lovers & Friends,” “Bedroom Boom” here (featuring Avant) is an even slower slow jam, and if you’re so inclined towards filthy lovers’ rock, it does its job. Here it’s followed by the Anthony Hamilton-assisted “Long Time,” which Watts chops up splendidly, cutting up Hamilton’s soul-oozing vocals crazily. Ying Yang Twins and Lil’ Jon’s music fits being chopped & screwed in different yet effective ways, and after enough exposure to chopped & screwed music, you may well find yourself swaying to it drunkenly, as if you’ve been sippin’ on da sizzurp yourself. You don’t need narcotics here; the music is plenty drug enough when it’s done right. Screw music is definitely an acquired taste, but like the cough syrup that was its genesis, it’s awfully addictive. Think of Michael “5000” Watts and Swisha House as pushers doing a bizarre sort of public service.