Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at a musician who died young but still helped to revolutionize rap and hip-hop music.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Robert Earl Davis, Jr., born in Bastrop, Texas, on July 20, 1971, began working as a disc jockey in his teens. While living in Houston in the late 1980s, he experimented with mixing different rap songs together and slowing down the tempo. This method of slowing or “screwing down” the tempo earned Davis the nickname “DJ Screw.” By 1993, he had his own hit record, All Screwed Up!, and was on his way to becoming one of the most influential rap performers in the Southwest. DJ Screw released several successful albums throughout the 1990s, but he died of a drug overdose in November 2000. During his short life, DJ Screw helped make Houston a Mecca for rap and inspired countless other rap and hip-hop artists across the country.