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Robert Earl “DJ Screw” Davis, Jr. (July 20, 1971 – November 16, 2000) was a Houston, Texas-based DJ. He was known as a central figure in the Houston hip-hop community and was the creator of the now-famous Chopped and Screwed DJ technique. This creation led to his nickname of “The Originator.” Davis was recognized for his various mixtapes and albums mostly on a regional level, until after his death. His legacy was discovered by a wider audience when Houston hip-hop began reaching a national audience in 2005.
DJ Screw was born in Bastrop, Texas, not far from Smithville, Texas. His father, Robert Earl Davis, Sr., was a long-haul truck driver based in Screwston. His mother Ida May Davis (who had a young daughter from a previous marriage), came to the area to be with her mother when her son was born in 1971. She returned to Screwston, but the marriage was floundering; soon it would be over, and she and her kids moved to Los Angeles for a couple of years, then back to Screwston, and returned to Smithville in 1980 at the age of nine.
A young DJ Screw had aspirations of being a truck driver like his father, but seeing the 1984 hit break dancing movie Breakin’ and discovering his mother’s turntable permanently derailed those dreams. He would take her B. B. King and Johnnie Taylor records and scratch them on the turntable the way deejays did, slowing the spinning disc and then allowing it to speed back up, playing with sound. Robert Earl began buying records of his own and playing deejay with his distant friend Trey Adkins, who would rap. “Screw had a jam box,” Adkins told Texas Monthly, “and he hooked up two turntables to it and made a fader out of the radio tuner so he could deejay.” Adkins said if Robert Earl didn’t like a record, he would deface it with a screw. One day Adkins asked him, “Who do you think you are, DJ Screw?” Robert Earl liked the sound of that and in turn gave his long time friend a new name: Shorty Mac.
He began DJing at age 12 in 1983, and started his trademark slowed-down mixes in 1990. The mixes began as special compilations requested by friends and those in the know. He soon made them available for sale when his close friend Toe offered to buy a mix from him for ten dollars. At that point, customers had increasingly begun requesting his more well-known mixes instead of personalized lists. During the early 1990s, he invited some of the Houston rappers from the city’s south side to rap on those mixes. This coalition of rappers eventually became the formation of the Screwed Up Click.
He moved to a house near Gulfgate Mall. Fans, some driving from far away areas such as Dallas and Waco, lined up at his door to obtain his recordings. He started his own business and opened a shop up on 7717 Cullen Blvd in Houston TX called Screwed Up Records and Tapes. It has been shown in numerous music videos and documentaries as well as independent films. There are now several Screwed Up Records and Tapes spread out through Texas, including one in Beaumont and in Austin.
Texas Governor Rick Perry honored him by making him an official Texas Music Pioneer.
Davis died on November 16, 2000. Fans speculated about the true cause of his death.  When the coroner reports were released, they confirmed that he died of a codeine overdose in addition to mixed drug intoxication. The codeine came from a prescription-strength cough syrup that he would mix with soda to concoct a beverage called purple drank. In addition to codeine, Valium and PCP were found in his blood. His funeral took place at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in his hometown of Smithville, Texas.
DJ Screw has been a considerable influence in the Houston scene, which is sometimes referred to as “Screwston” in his memory. His distinct musical stylings influenced countless rap acts. Alternative weekly The Houston Press named the 1995 album 3 N’ Da Mornin, Part 2 as no. 13 on its list of the 25 best Houston rap albums of all time. The newspaper credited the release for the way it helped shape Houston’s hip-hop culture. The newspaper also referred to Chopped and Screwed music as the second most likely type of music to be associated with Texas, an example of DJ Screw’s influence in the region.
A music festival and car show in honor of DJ Screw was set up in 2006. The inaugural DJ Screwfest featured 200 vehicles  and a setlist featuring notable Houston hip-hop acts like Slim Thug, Trae, and Chingo Bling. The first festival, which took place at the Pasadena County Fairgrounds, ran into problems including rain and limited sound equipment.
When the Houston hip-hop scene became nationally prominent in 2004, many of the biggest acts could be traced to DJ Screw’s crew, the Screwed Up Click. The expansive crew, which featured more than 15 rappers, were featured prominently on his mixtapes and often spent nights with him recording. Some of the more famous rappers to come out of the Screwed Up Click include Big Hawk, Lil’ Keke, and Fat Pat. While many of the S.U.C. rappers enjoyed major-label success, DJ Screw himself remained largely underground. He was uncomfortable with mainstream business practices like bank accounts and copyrights. He would allow members of the S.U.C. to rap on his mixtapes free of charge, despite the large amount of exposure a screw tape feature could provide. A single tape could have reached 100,000 listeners according to some estimates; they often led to further success, including recording contracts.
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