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DJ Screw

DJ Screw
A Life in Slow Revolution

How a DJ’s innovative chopped and screwed technique changed the Houston hip-hop scene.

Series: American Music Series

May 2022
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312 pages | 6 x 9 | 16 b&w photos |

DJ Screw, a.k.a. Robert Earl Davis Jr., changed rap and hip-hop forever. In the 1990s, in a spare room of his Houston home, he developed a revolutionary mixing technique known as chopped and screwed. Spinning two copies of a record, Screw would “chop” in new rhythms, bring in local rappers to freestyle over the tracks, and slow the recording down on tape. Soon Houstonians were lining up to buy his cassettes—he could sell thousands in a single day. Fans drove around town blasting his music, a sound that came to define the city’s burgeoning and innovative rap culture. June 27 has become an unofficial city holiday, inspired by a legendary mix Screw made on that date.

Lance Scott Walker has interviewed nearly everyone who knew Screw, from childhood friends to collaborators to aficionados who evangelized Screw’s tapes—millions of which made their way around the globe—as well as the New York rap moguls who honored him. Walker brings these voices together with captivating details of Screw’s craft and his world. More than the story of one man, DJ Screw is a history of the Houston scene as it came of age, full of vibrant moments and characters. But none can top Screw himself, a pioneer whose mystique has only grown in the two decades since his death.


Lance Scott Walker is originally from Texas and is now based in New York. He is the author of Houston Rap Tapes and collaborated on the companion photo book Houston Rap. He has written for the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Red Bull Music Academy, Vice, Wondering Sound, Fader, and The Wire.


"Weaving flashes of his own voice into an oral history featuring over 130 of Screw’s friends, family, heroes, students, and more, Walker stitches together a full picture of the iconic DJ’s legacy."
Mankaprr Conteh, Rolling Stone

"In this sensational oral history, hip-hop historian Walker (Houston Rap Tapes) offers a riveting look at why 'DJ Screw is the stuff of Texas legend'...Though [DJ Screw's] life was cut short, Walker’s meticulous account underscores the enduring legacy of the rapper’s pioneering music and his awe-inspiring ability to capture 'the sound of the streets.' This engrossing work will fascinate fans."
Publishers Weekly

"It is true that the legacy of DJ Screw can be heard echoing far beyond the regions of his most direct impact, but this is also a book richly steeped in Houston culture, Houston rap, and Houston's impact during an era. It is expansive, impressive, and it keeps a legend here with us, long after he's gone."
Hanif Abdurraqib

"DJ Screw is top-level important in rap, a name to be mentioned alongside the mammoth DJs that are household names. What Lance Scott Walker has done here is put together a tribute befitting Screw's oversized-but-underappreciated historical stature."
Shea Serrano