7717 Cullen Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77051
Coming into a foreign place for the first time can be hard. You have no idea where to visit, where to eat, or just how to have fun. Houston is the fourth largest city, and is filled with many attractions, one which I feel has made a big impact on our community and influenced the “down south” music movement. Visitors of Houston would look at this little building, thinking it was an abandoned small owned business located in a low class neighborhood on the South East side of Houston, TX. But it’s way more than that, the banner of the store reads, “Screw Shop.” DJ Screw was the originator of Houston’s screwed and chopped music. “Screwed and Chopped” music is basically playing the music at a slower pace and chopping it up. DJ Screw dropped out of school in the 10th grade to pursue his career in music. Once the music started becoming popular around the South East side of Houston, mix tapes were selling fast. DJ Screw built one of Houston’s finest mix tapes stores, “The Screw Shop.” The music started going all around the city of Houston that DJ Screw and local South Side Houston rappers formed a click known as the “S.U.C”, Screwed Up Click. The music that was made by this click was supposed to be slowed down to really understand and get the feeling of the music. Slowing the music down gave people the affect that there could possibly be no worries, making you feel at ease, and calm. This movement had business booming, records were selling, a group of business partners and friendships had developed all through the creation of music. Then S.U.C. lost one of their members, the originator, the mastermind of it all, DJ Screw. It was November 16, 2000 when the late great DJ Screw died, the city mourned his death. He had become a legend of something that would live on forever.
Around this time I spent a lot of my leisure time at the Screw Shop. I was only thirteen years old but my uncle was a member of the S.U.C., he was a local rapper trying to make it to the big labels. The screw shop and its members had become family to us. The screw shop is filled with millions of mix tapes from a lot of hip-hop artists, a recording studio, a writing lab, and many pictures and memories of S.U.C and Houston success. The screw shop has its own unique look. I remember going in and it just being a box, but it was a box that had life to it. The walls had autographed posters covering it from top to bottom, not a single space in between the posters to see any of the wall. In its hey day, cassette tapes are still being sold and the shop had plenty of them. Black and mild cigar smoke hit when you came in, as did the sound of a mix tape playing over the loud speaker. I went everyday after I got picked up from school. My mother worked a lot, so my aunt and uncle picked me up. We went go to the shop everyday; it is how my uncle made his living. I would sit in the writing lab supposedly doing my homework, when in actuality I would really listen to great music being made. I met many great artists when they were just getting started, such as Lil’ Keke, Big Moe, H.A.W.K., just to name a few.
When I was around sixteen years old, I was acquainted with a many recording artist. I saw them more than my own mother. They asked me for my ideas, to promote their records, and I was even able to record a song. One of the rappers named Big Moe wrote a song with my uncle and they needed someone to sing the chorus. I was chosen and given some lyrics to study. Going into the booth nervous made it feel more cramped than it already was. The walls were painted a dark brown with a tint of gray. I studied this chorus a million times, but once the music came on, all I could do was stutter. They chuckled. The producer said, “Just breathe, we’re family. Take your time.” I said, “Okay.” He insisted we take it back from the top and try it again. This time I nailed it. “I could really make a career out of this”, I thought. After listening to the song, making a few changes here and there, everything was complete. The song became number one on the radio’s afternoon count down for four weeks. This experience made my love for the Screw Shop that much more special. After recording the song, the Screw Shop really became my hangout spot. I’d transferred schools and I would take my new friends with me. They thought it was so cool to receive the opportunity to meet various artist. Not only did screw music begin to grow, so did the shop. Independent labels and big named artists started mentioning “screw” music in their songs. It became a hip-hop trademark. Around this time I noticed that screw was expanding into the hip-hop genre. I was now working at the shop part time and record sales were enhancing. I felt like I really got to experience history. My first boyfriend was introduced to the screw shop family before ever meeting me. Every time we were together I would listen to screw mix tapes, he thought I was just a “gangster” girl until he understood where I got it from. This became our getaway spot and the first place we kissed. The screw shop gave me the feeling of being complete when I entered the building. All the S.U.C members looked at me as one of their own. From the beginning, I experienced a great legacy. “Screw is where Houston’s hip-hop started, this is my family. Without screw my success wouldn’t be. I owe it all to him”, my Uncle states.
Around the time I found out I was pregnant, I was still working at the shop. I couldn’t continue because I didn’t want to be around people smoking and I was immediately put on bed rest. During this time the artist whose song I featured on was shot in front of the shop and was found dead on the scene. It hurt me so much to lose someone so close and meaningful to me. The homicide is still under investigation, no one has been charged. I couldn’t return to work after giving birth to my son, my heart was broken. I missed going to the shop and once I realized how much it changed my everyday life, I had to return. I wasn’t returning to work, I missed hanging out, getting advice from my boys, and listening to music being made. When I returned I knew things had changed as soon as I pulled in the parking lot. The door now had a “NO SMOKING” sign. When I entered the building, there was a sweet fragrance in the air. The whole store had been rearranged: this was no longer the place I knew. Mix tapes were now in alphabetic order, perfumes, colognes and air fresheners were apart of inventory and booth time had to be scheduled. A new lady was managing the store, one of DJ Screw’s family members. A few things remained the same, the signatures on the wall from all the artists that have visited the store and many posters of our beloved, DJ Screw.
Now when I occasionally stop by the shop it’s not the same. Many of the original artists made it to the big labels, but my memories remain. The shop was the place where I could free myself from all the outside activities and problems in my world. Not only was it my hangout spot, my comfort zone, it could have been my home if there was a bed. This was history in the making for me. I honor and cherish it as if I own it. When you walk into the shop, music is always playing, from the new releases to old school hits. When I take my son with me to visit, he nods his head to the beat. I can tell he’s going to enjoy music just like I do. This legacy will continue to grow.
Brittney Coleman grew up in Houston, Texas and middle child of three girls. Coleman’s parents relocated to Killeen, Texas but she remained in Houston with her grandmother. She attended Pearland High School but graduated from Worthing High School. She recently became a mother to a baby boy and currently a sophomore at University of Houston- Downtown planning to major in Social Work.