MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water: Screwed and Chopped
t’s bad that I gotta take out my motherfuckin’ time to getch all you punk bitches straight but let’s do this: Screwed and Chopped: genre of music invented by the late DJ Screw whilst accidentally slowing down record. Inebriated/high/whatever at the time, it sounded better than the original—friends present ask for presents, Screw sells them for $10, adds chopping aspect (cutting/scratching between two versions of the same track on turntables), makes thousands more mix-tapes over the next 11 years, becomes underground legend/impresario of Houston hip-hop scene and dies from an overdose of his favored drug of choice: codeine. By this time, S & C versions of songs are commonplace add-ons to albums produced in the South and there are numerous production groups that advance the style. The most popular of these groups today is Swisha House, helmed by Michael Watts.
Now if these boyz want war, they claim the above. Watts has taken heat in the past for making digital what was once analog. Upgrading the process, however, has made Watts’ two major label introductions (both Screwed and Chopped Banner discs) all the more enjoyable and, in the end, made the listening experience closer to what Screw had in mind—continuous free floating, psychedelic treatments of potent rhymes and production. Watts’ presence is felt earlier in both versions, shuffling the tracklisting to line up tracks with BPM and narratives similar to one another. The trio that opens each disc is the same, but Watts’ reinterpretation moves “Mama’s House” next to “Like a Pimp (Remix)”, inserting the piano line from the former into the latter as foreshadowing for the eventual mix. Used sparingly, it’s an effective tool to further connect the dots of Banner’s schizophrenic personality.
But my Lord does Banner do the schizophrenic well: the three song triptych of “Lil’ Jones”, “My Lord” and “Crank it Up” serves as well as any instructive example. “Lil’ Jones”: “Watching the Falcons and Saints”, “My Lord”: “Losing my soul / Losing my mind” and “Crank it Up”: “I fucked yo main bitch / How does it feel?” or in simpler terms: at ease, anxious, adulterer. Three roles that Banner inhabits with aplomb, believably wavering between a number of impulses at all times and, at no time, able to control them.
But the pretty thing we see on this disc is the transformation of each of these roles into something different because of its presentation. Originally, “Lil’ Jones” acts as the detail of a relaxing Banner—here Banner seems exasperated almost tired of his acquaintance. Similarly, “My Lord” morphs into something far more desperate than the original, with Banner and co.’s background warbling thrown into sharp relief against his indecisive lyrical conceits.
Banner and Watts never put up pretenses, though. And that’s perhaps the largest selling point for the Screwed and Chopped version of, specifically, Banner’s discs. The production on the original versions are already exquisite examples of non-Lil’ Jon produced modern Crunk. By slowing down and repeating selected portions of the text, Watts’ forces the listener to focus and critique every piece of spittle, vocal quaver or agonized harmonizing to its utmost. Unlike most, Banner holds up to the scrutiny and it’s why his collaboration with Watts’ has been the most fruitful of all of the recent Universal releases of Screwed and Chopped versions of their Southern hip-hop catalogue.