People unfamiliar with DJ Screw and his infamous tapes may wonder what exactly would constitute Screw’s greatest hits. At first glance it would seem odd any particular screwed up version of a song would rise above and beyond others to become a greatest hit. And it is true that it would be hard to say that certain songs were “screwed” better than others. But chances are if that’s your initial reaction to hearing about this release then you have no clue what Screw tapes were really about. Though Screw did a great job in choosing music and screwing it for his mixtapes, perhaps the most notable part of his mixes were the infamous freestyles and original songs recorded by members of the Screwed Up Click and other Texas rappers. Most of these freestyles were exclusive to screw tapes, and even some of the spur of the moment songs recorded could only be found on screw tapes. Contributions to these songs came from legends like Lil Keke and Big Moe and even newcomers at the time, like Lil’ Flip. Looking to give fans a taste of tracks like these, Screwed Up Entertainment has put together a double disc set of what they consider to be the best of these sessions. It’s definitely not an all encompassing collection, especially considering Screw’s massive catalog of 100+ tapes, but it’s definitely a worthy acquisition for the casual or even hard core collector.
The first thing that stands out about this collection of tracks is the fact that the tracks blend together like a regular screw tape. One would think that a greatest hit collection put together posthumously would constitute of separate tracks culled from several mixtapes that wouldn’t necessarily be blended. Instead, it seems each and every track is pitch matched and mixed into the next track. Either DJ Screw put together his own greatest hits collection before he passed or members of the SUC took it upon themselves to make sure his greatest hits retained his signature feel. Your guess is as good as mine on which one it is. From listening to the project, it sounds like Screw may have played a part in this mix, but his “Greatest Hits” isn’t listed as an official release on his official homepage and no other information about the CD can be found.
Regardless of the way this compilation was put together, it is a pretty good collection of tracks from Screw’s career. At the same time the compilation also serves as a narrative of the Houston rap scene in the 1990’s as it contains many of the songs that dominated the scene back then. Notable tracks include Lil’ Keke’s “SouthSide,” a track that exploded upon the Texas rap scene in 1997, hitting the top spot on many radio stations statewide. The version present here is a hypnotic screwed and chopped experience clocking in at well over seven minutes. As with all Screw releases, the track names can be inaccurate and confusing as “Southside” is entitled “How We Do It” according to the tracklisting while another song on disk one is labeled “South side.” Lil’ Keke also shows up on various “freestyles” that are included in the collection, including a posse cut entitled “Paper Rule’s” that is done over the “I Got 5 On It” instrumental. Matter of fact, that method of dropping verses or redoing whole songs is a style first widely used on Screw tapes. Today, most fans cringe when they hear yet another emcee jump on the latest hot beat and drop an anemic verse, but for Screw and the SUC the remade songs just served as a way to give those songs a local flavor. This is evident on “This Is How It Goes” where SUC rappers like E.S.G. show up to give Biggie’s “Juicy” an H-Town remix. Other standout tracks include the Botany Boys’ “Leave Me Alone,” the un-credited “Please Stop,” and “Back In That.” All the aforementioned tracks contain original beats and are a good representation of what the Houston sound was back in the day.
DJ Screw’s “Greatest Hits” is indeed a great CD and essential listening for any fan of Texas rap. Given this year’s explosion of rappers from Houston, even mainstream fans may want to pick this up to get a quick history lesson on Houston slang. But despite the deep H-Town funk that saturates this compilation, the truth is that the sum is greater than the parts. Individually, many of the lyrics present on this collection would probably do little for hip-hop fans, especially given the lyrical prowess of Houston rappers like Lil’ Flip, Slim Thug, and Chamillionaire. But after being given the Screw treatment, these tracks turn into a melodious, eerie, and funky mix that can rival any track out today.