A Conversation with DJ Lil’ Randy of The Screwed Up Click on the 10 Year Memorial of DJ Screw’s Death

“Everything I do is guided by DJ Screw. 100% of it. I do exactly what he would have done.”

I was talking to DJ Lil’ Randy of the Screwed Up Click from his small studio carved out of the back room at Southwest’s Finest Barber Shop in west Houston, days after the memorial marking the 10 year anniversary of his childhood friend and mentor, the great DJ Screw.

Lil’ Randy is the official DJ of the Screwed Up Click, or SUC, by way of Papa Screw, Robert Earl Davis Sr., saying so. “If you called Screw’s father looking for a [original] mixtape, he’d tell you ‘Call Lil’ Randy.'”

And when DJ Screw died young from heart failure in his home on Greenstone, Robert Earl Davis Sr. took charge of the family business. Screw’s cousin, Big Bubb, runs the original Screwed Up Records and Tapes #1 on Cullen, overseen by his uncle, Screw’s father. Screw’s brother, Al-D, runs his own Screw Shop in east Houston near Milby High School. There are Screwed Up Records and Tapes outposts in Beaumont, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin.

“DJ Screw is still feeding alot of people, even ten years later,” Randy told me.

And then there is Randy’s store, #6 in Huntsville. I offered that kids in Huntsville must really appreciate getting their own shop way out in the country like that. “Do they ever!,” Randy said.

But the shop pretty much runs itself, with Randy only going up there a couple of times per month to inventory; that leaves plenty of time for him to record in studios across Houston, and prepare for his weekly radio show Damage Control on KPFT 90.1 FM, Wednesdays from 11PM-2AM, where DJ Chill, Young Zeak, and Lil’ Randy play an hour of gospel rap, an hour of local rap, and in the last hour, the Screw hour, much of Randy’s slowed-down mixes of local and national acts.

The rest of the week, Lil’ Randy does what he believes Screw would be doing if he were here today. Friends pay him $50 to slow their mixtapes to his signature half-speed pitch and cut and scratch phrases for poetic emphasis. Songs bleed from one track to another seamlessly, as witnessed by a young man named Derek who came to the barber shop, eagerly explaining to me that Randy, “doesn’t just slow them down. Anybody can do that. But he understands every song, and he slows it down to just the right speed. Then you can really hear the song. He really gets it just right.”

And at our every meeting so far, young men breathlessly seek out either a personal mixtape or one of the $10 copies of his many series, which he keeps in boxes of pressed and cellophaned jewel cases in the back of his SUV. Days after our first meeting, his 2 boxes of his (then current) mixtape Texas Tea were already gone. A few days ago, he pressed his Black Friday mixtape.

“Lately I’ve got a new mixtape hitting the streets every week. The way the record business is today, I have to. People want what’s hot.” Asked what most people are asking for these days, “Z-Ro“, he says. “Z-Ro is hot right now. Pretty much everybody wants Z-Ro on their tape these days.”

I took home a copy of his all original mixtape 2 Da Hard Way Pt. 2, which features all new material by Z-Ro and Mike D (of the SUC), and it was as if DJ Screw had made it himself.

I felt like a kid again. I felt like I should be driving around with little to do but examine the technique and marvel at this towering local figure, taking pride in and feeling ownership of his accomplishments, talent and reputation. But as soon as I got involved in the CD, I snapped out of it, realizing (by looking at the glossy liner notes for a track listing) that I wasn’t listening to DJ Screw at all, and this wasn’t 1997.

This was Lil’ Randy, Z-Ro, and Mike D. It was all original, and local, and it was great like DJ Screw was great, and it was and is 2010.

“The first time I made a mixtape after Screw died, people thought it was him. ‘Where’d Screw get that song from? It just came out!'”, Randy told me. “When I told ’em it was mine, first thing was everybody wanted me to show ’em how to do it. That’s one of the reasons Wreckshop Records wants to do this reality show with me. D-Wreck said he wanted people to see that I do it how Screw did it.” And the way he does it is with a half-speed pitch where every rhyme and every couplet gets its own extended moment. Every moment can become an event at this speed. An artist’s intentions gain traction with uncommon grace and subtlety, even as passages are repeated by the DJ to a hypnotic, dreamlike effect.

Like Screw before him, Randy shrinks the divide between the artist and the audience.

“Every tape that Screw made was somebody’s personal tape. You bought a Screwtape, you bought it from Screw. You hand him the money he handed you the tape.” Randy charges all comers $50 for a hand mixed tape, “and $150 if it’s for a project.” I can’t believe there’s a rock band in town that doesn’t pay $150 to have their CD slowed and chopped by Randy.

“I’ve done lots of rock’n’roll tapes. I’ve done Willie Nelson lots of times. The way he sings between the beats works really well when you slow it down. I made a tape of Lady GaGa, too.” I had to hear that. I did hear that. It was incredible. The song was “Paparazzi,” and I’m sure that was the first time I ever heard that song all the way through, but I loved it. Hearing it slowed down instantly reframes every lyric to some inter-dimensional Neverland of deep meaning and gravity.

I left our second meeting with two more mixtapes. Codeine Music is a meditation on the classic by Big Moe, featuring a mix of local and national acts, both Randy’s friends, contemporaries and the kind of people you see in People magazine. I also got Letter To Screw, which celebrates the life of Screw with music.

On these and countless others, Randy coaxes the very intention out of both pop songs and hardcore rap artists, using a mixer as a crutch and his turntable’s pitch lever as a craftsman’s artisanal tool. Randy releases these mixtapes weekly to audiences across Texas, where the nimble minds of Z-Ro, Mike D, Trae, Macc Grace, Big Pokey, and others are recorded, often in freestyle, then pitched-down, scratched, cut, and chopped to create a dramatic effect and deeper meaning. Their meditative psychedelia is memorialized in the half-timed history of Houston’s great originator and his honored lineage through to DJ Lil’ Randy of the Screwed Up Click.

Post Script: We hope that this is the first of many profiles of members of DJ Screw’s Screwed Up Click. Through Randy, I’ve been introduced to the great rapper and community activist Trae tha Truth, for whom an interview/profile should be posted on SCR soon, Wreckshop Records founder and one-time manager of both Fat Pat and Big Moe, D-Wreck, and DJ Screw’s official videographer, the great director Ariel “REL” Santschi.

All of them and many others were kind enough to speak to me, a writer for a local rock’n’roll Website, about their own work and the legacy of their friends that have passed away. Their warmth and openness astounded me. It was a great pleasure of mine to be able to tell D-Wrecks how much I admired the work he did with Fat Pat. I was thrilled to speak to Trae the Truth about Democratic politics and community service and his noble battle against corporate radio.

And since my day job is, and always has been, in television, I was especially happy to meet and talk about film, video, production, and DJ Screw with the director of the definitive DJ Screw documentary Soldierz United 4 Cash, Ariel Santschi. I look forward to writing about all of their work, and many others in the extended SUC family, here in SCR in the near future. END


Interview by . Interview posted Wednesday, December 1st, 2010. Filed under Features, Interviews.

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One Response to “A Conversation with DJ Lil’ Randy of The Screwed Up Click on the 10 Year Memorial of DJ Screw’s Death”

  1. Tweets that mention SPACE CITY ROCK » A Conversation with DJ Lil’ Randy of The Screwed Up Click on the 10 Year Memorial of DJ Screw’s Death -- Topsy.com on December 2nd, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JustN , Lil Randy of SUC. Lil Randy of SUC said: This is a must read http://www.spacecityrock.com/2010/12/01/a-conversation-with-dj-lil-randy-of-the-screwed-up-click-on-the-10-year-memorial […]

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