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Vinyl Collection of DJ Screw Now Cataloged at the University of Houston

Houston Hip Hop
“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge…” | Cover from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s iconic “The Message” (1982), from the DJ Screw Sound Recordings

“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge…” | Cover of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s iconic “The Message” (1982), from the DJ Screw Sound Recordings

The University of Houston Special Collections is proud to announce the completed inventory of over 1,500 vinyl records in the DJ Screw Sound Recordings.  The product of successful collaboration and hours of meticulous cataloging, this accessible online inventory marks another major step in providing future scholars intimate access to the birth of a hip hop sub-genre that is distinctly Houston.

In the early 1990s, in reaction to the East Coast/West Coast false dichotomy that had gripped hip hop, Southern hip hop grew in popularity as an alternative and cities like Memphis, Atlanta, and Miami became known for a unique sound marked alternately by intensity, bass, energy, speed, volume, and a rapid-fire lyric delivery.  However, hip hop proved to be dynamic in its evolution as a new branch of sound emerged in Houston.  DJ Screw (Robert Earl Davis, Jr.), the Screwed Up Click, and others gave birth to a style of hip hop that eschewed the lure of rapid beats-per-minute associated with the hyperactive, crunked-up Deep South and, instead, utilized the techniques of slowing a song’s tempo (screwing) while looping or repeating vocals or other elements (chopping) atop the new slow, surreal beat.

The result, chopped and screwed, reflected the more laid-back energy of H-Town, evoking the meandering bayous that trace the city’s sprawl and slow-moving slabs cruising the city streets.

Throughout the 1990s, as the music of DJ Screw and his collaborators rose in popularity, that unmistakable sound blaring at just a slow crawl spread quickly throughout the region, influencing the rest of Southern hip hop and diversifying the sound of the Third Coast.  The untimely death of DJ Screw in 2000 seems to have only cemented the link between the artist, genre, and the city known affectionately as Screwston.

DJ Screw mixtape

Mixtape made by DJ Screw for Lil’ Randy and Ron’O, 1999

This inventory of the vinyl records in the DJ Screw Sound Recordings, the tools of an artist who managed to carve out a new niche in hip hop, is now available online and reveals the wide range of palettes with which Screw worked.  The collection includes primarily Houston, Southern, and West Coast hip hop, but also holds a good amount of R&B as well as scattered recordings from genres like rock and jazz.  While the majority of recordings are the 12″ singles which were used by DJs, there are also a number of albums to be found.

We invite you to trace the origins of chopped and screwed by perusing the catalog (try sorting by recording artist, or, if you prefer a more chronological view, by the record’s release year, beginning with Marvin Gaye’s 1972 “Trouble Man,”).  Those interested in viewing the DJ Screw Sound Recordings may do so in our reading room, open to the general public during our normal research hours.  While our policies regarding preservation do not allow us to play these records for patrons, we invite you to visit us and view the vinyl that gave birth to those famous grey tapes.

New Finding Aids Published for DJ Steve Fournier and Carlos “DJ Styles” Garza

Finding Aids, Houston Hip Hop
DJ Pace Master flier drawn by Garza's friend Frosty Ice, from the Carlos "DJ Styles" Garza Papers

DJ Pace Master flier drawn by Garza’s friend Frosty Ice, from the Carlos “DJ Styles” Garza Papers

The University of Houston Special Collections is excited to announce that findings aids are now available for the DJ Steve Fournier Papers and the Carlos “DJ Styles” Garza Papers. These two new additions to the Houston Hip Hop Collections provide a glimpse into the early days of hip hop in Houston through the work of two pioneering DJs.

Steve Fournier DJed at prominent Houston clubs like Struts Disco, the Boneshaker, and the Rhinestone Wrangler throughout the 1980s and 1990s, steadily adding more and more hip hop to his mixes and helping to organize live rap performances. He also founded the Rap Pool of America in 1985, which eventually became the largest rap record pool in the country, sending out the latest hip hop albums to over 200 member DJs. His collection contains documents, photographs, publications, and memorabilia relating to his work. Of particular note is the Rap Performer Contracts series, which contains performance contracts for several prominent rappers, including Eazy-E, N.W.A., Sir Mix-A-Lot, Public Enemy, and Ice-T.

Performance contract for Eazy-E and N.W.A., from the DJ Steve Fournier Papers

Performance contract for Eazy-E and N.W.A., from the DJ Steve Fournier Papers

Carlos “DJ Styles” started out as a break dancer with the group The Dynamic Crew, performing under the name DJ Pace Master. Shortly thereafter he began DJing under the name DJ Styles, and eventually became a successful hip hop music producer, working with artists like The Odd Squad, Devin the Dude, and the Coughee Brothaz. He continues producing, mixing, and mastering hip hop music to this day. This collection includes personal records, fliers, posters, photographs, business records, audiocassettes, and memorabilia from throughout his career.  My personal favorites are the hand-drawn fliers from his early days break dancing with The Dynamic Crew.

Both of these collections are worth a look, so browse through the finding aids and then stop by and visit us at Special Collections!

HAWK Digital Collection Now Live

Digitization, Houston Hip Hop
HAWK on the mic at Texas Southern University

HAWK on the mic at Texas Southern University

The breadth and depth of resources in the the Houston Hip Hop collections continue to grow with today’s announcement that the HAWK Photographs and Memorabilia are now available for patrons’ virtual perusal at the University of Houston Digital Library.

HAWK, or John Edward Hawkins, was born and raised in Houston and, along with his older brother Patrick Lamark Hawkins (Fat Pat), was an integral component of the Screwed Up Click (a group of Houston area rappers centered around the pioneering production work of DJ Screw).  HAWK, Fat Pat, DJ Screw, and their friend Kay-K would go on to create the collaboration Dead End Alliance (D.E.A.).  Before Fat Pat could realize the success of his debut album Ghetto Dreams, he was shot to death in 1998 at the age of 27 and the album was released posthumously.

HAWK's brother, Fat Pat, pictured in a "Ghetto Dreams" promotional photograph

HAWK’s brother, Fat Pat, pictured in a “Ghetto Dreams” promotional photograph

HAWK’s solo debut, Under H.A.W.K.’s Wings, was released by Dead End in 2000, followed by his sophomore release HAWK.  However, after marrying longtime girlfriend Meshah Henderson in April 2006, John Edward Hawkins’ life was also tragically cut short when he was shot to death on May 1, 2006 at the age of 36.  Endangered Species, released following his death, would help continue the musical legacy of the S.U.C., D.E.A., and the Hawkins brothers.

page from HAWK's notebook

page from HAWK’s notebook

Here at the University of Houston Special Collections we are proud to preserve that legacy and make the HAWK Papers available for study to scholars interested in Houston hip hop.  The addition of these materials to the Digital Library, combined with the previous DJ Screw Photographs and Memorabilia and Pen & Pixel highlights, has us excited about the increased online access to a burgeoning field of research.  Among the highlights in this new Digital Library collection are publicity photographs, candid snapshots, as well as a personal favorite of mine, a notebook belonging to HAWK replete with his lyrics handwritten in gold ink on black pages.

Please enjoy these new items available for study in the Digital Library and come see us when you are ready to study all of these, and more, in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Hip Hop History and Culture

Houston Hip Hop, Instruction
AAS 3301 students peruse items from the Houston Hip Hop Collection

AAS 3301 students peruse items from the Houston Hip Hop Collection

The following comes to us via Julie Grob, Coordinator for Digital Projects & Instruction here at the University of Houston Special Collections.

Undergraduate students from the course African American Studies 3301, Hip Hop History and Culture taught by Professor John Chiles, visited Special Collections Thursday night. Students viewed materials from the DJ Screw Papers and the newly acquired Carlos “DJ Styles” Papers, as well as items related to Houston artists such as Geto Boys, K-Rino, and UGK. Students teamed up in pairs to analyze individual items, and reconvened to discuss as a group how these items shed light on issues such as identity, gender, entrepreneurship, and Afrocentrism. The students enjoyed the chance to see original hip hop artifacts in person.

Items from the newly acquired Carlos “DJ Styles” Papers

Items from the newly acquired Carlos “DJ Styles” Papers

A reminder to faculty that you may make arrangements to bring a class to use Special Collections materials on a variety of topics by contacting Julie Grob.

Legendary DJs and Rappers Attend Hip Hop Book Talk

Department News, Events, Houston Hip Hop

An engaging talk by author Maco Faniel plus a showing of Houston hip hop pioneers made for an enjoyable evening hosted by the University of Houston Bookstore and the UH Libraries. The event, a book talk and signing for Hip-Hop in Houston: The Origin and The Legacy on History Press, drew a crowd of students, librarians, and hip hop artists to the Honors Commons in M.D. Anderson Library on October 17th. The event also served to announce the donations of the DJ Steve Fournier Papers and the Carlos “DJ Styles” Garza Papers to Special Collections, where they will become part of the Houston Hip Hop collecting area.

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