Halftime Leisure

The Weekly List: Chopped and Screwed

January 30, 2017

Originating from the Houston hip-hop scene of the 1990s, “chopped and screwed” refers to a type of remixing that creates a pensive and at times startling reinterpretation of popular songs. To achieve this effect, the same record is played on side-by-side turntables slowed to around 65 bpm, then it is skipped, scratched, delayed, and doubled-up. Sound effects are often added as well, affording considerable leverage for inventive, unpredictable, and compelling works that often brush against 7-minute runtimes. Since the genre’s conception, chopped and screwed remixes have spread throughout genres, making for fun weekly lists. Chopped and screwed lives on Youtube and Soundcloud, so all the links below are for versions found on Youtube.

  1. Int’l Players Anthem. A chopped and screwed classic, this track puts OG Ron C’s legendary skills at the fore. Ron C keeps Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You” sample throughout the song to continue UGK’s original classic sound, while chopping and scratching the rest of the song into oblivion.
  2. Classic Man. Made famous through the Oscar-nominated film Moonlight, this twist offers a more vulnerable take on Jidenna’s confident breakout hit celebrating black excellence. More chopped and less screwed, this version features less experimentation, allowing the full force of the lyrics in their adjusted tone to take the fore. This is nighttime cruising music.
  3. Best Friend. Known for his intricate, relentless, and squealing flow, Young Thug offers a perfect base to work off of. The bass drop around 57 seconds is the highlight of this track, setting it apart from remixes of Thugger’s other songs.
  4. Pretty Boy Swag. Chopped back in 2010, Soulja Boy’s already spacey vocals and beat allow DJ Rucker to fully display his screwing skills. What follows is maybe the most lavish example of chopped and screwed–ripe with scratches, doubling up, and jumps, for an unforgettable take on a previously uncompelling song.
  5. Low Life. Future’s gravelly, low voice and lean-fiend reputation seem almost directly inspired by chopped and screwed, making him a vital addition to this list. In this remix, The Weeknd’s distinct vocals are almost unrecognizable, making the remix sound like a completely different song. Future soon steps in, maintaining his lethargic and seductive tone through the cough syrup haze that inspires the genre.
  6. Mercy. “It is a weeping and a moaning and a gnashing of teeth” can finally be understood from the pitched voice that opens one of the hardest chopped and screwed tracks in the list. The three-note keyboard riff from the original song is still present, maintaining the song’s energy while the slowed voices spit their threatening, drug-addled verses more purposefully than ever.
  7. New Person, Same Old Mistakes. While it originated in hip-hop, chopped and screwed has transcended genre, finding a natural home in the already evanescent songs of Tame Impala. The remix amplifies the bass and screws the vocals for a more elaborate and opulent version of the psychedelic indie classic.
  8. Look At Me Now. Chris Brown’s fast-paced hit is a perfect base for a chopped and screwed remix, and becomes a magnetic, alien, unrelenting track that never seems to stop layering the song’s already complex verses. The song superbly builds up to each drop, preparing listeners for the original’s aggressive and nimble flows, only to surprise them with chopped music’s classic lethargy. A truly masterful example of chopped and screwed.
  9. R.I.C.O. Chopped and screwed accurately describes Drake and Meek Mill’s current relationship, but this pre-feud banger hinted at the potential the two when they worked together. The highlight of the remix is its huge bass and varied vocal distortion, exactly recreating the confusing and molasses-esque purple haze that inspired chopped and screwed.
  10. In the Air Tonight. This 80s classic was already groundbreaking before it was chopped and screwed by the founder of the style, DJ Screw, and the original song inspired Kanye West’s divisive 808s and Heartbreak (2008) with its synth-heavy sound and Phil Collins’ inventive use of the “reverse talkback” circuit. With DJ Screw’s help, the remix is more brooding and sinister, making the eventual cathartic drum release near the all the more worth it. I prefer it to the 1981 original.

Gustav Honl-Stuenkel
College class of 2020. Culture and music writer and peanut M&M fiend. Minneapolis native.

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