Robert Earl Davis Jr better known by his stage name DJ Screw was an American hip hop DJ based in Houston, Texas, and best known as the creator of the now-famous Screwed and Chopped DJ technique. He was a central and influential figure in the Houston hip hop community and was the leader of Houston's Screwed Up Click.
Davis released over 200 mixtapes and was recognized as an innovator mostly on a regional level until his death of codeine overdose in 2000. His legacy was discovered by a wider audience around 2005 and has gone on to influence a wide variety of artists.
Robert Earl Davis, Jr. was born in Smithville, Texas. His father, Robert Earl Davis Sr., was a long-haul truck driver based in Houston. His mother Ida May Deary (who had a young daughter from a previous marriage), came to the area to be with her mother when her son was born in 1971. She returned to Houston, but the marriage was floundering; soon it would be over, and she and her kids moved to Los Angeles for a couple of years, then back to Houston, and returned to Smithville in 1980 when Davis was age nine.
When young, DJ Screw had aspirations of being a truck driver like his father, but seeing the 1984 hit break dancing movie Breakin' and discovering his mother's turntable attracted him to music. His admiration for classical music drove him to resume piano lessons. After seven years of practice, he was able to play works like Chopin's Etude in C major by ear. His musical interest shifted as he took his mother's B.B. King and Johnnie Taylor records and scratched them on the turntable the way DJs did, slowing the spinning disc and then allowing it to speed back up, playing with sound.
Davis began buying records of his own and would spin with his friend Trey Adkins, who would rhyme. "Screw had a jam box and he hooked up two turntables to it and made a fader out of the radio tuner so he could deejay," Adkins said if Robert Earl didn't like a record, he would deface it with a screw. One day Adkins asked him, "Who do you think you are, DJ Screw?" Robert Earl liked the sound of that and, in turn, gave his long-time friend a new name: Shorty Mac.
Davis began DJing at age 12 in 1983, and started his trademark slowed-down mixes in 1990, the style became his main focus in late 1991 – early 1992. The mixes began as special compilations requested by friends and those in the know. He soon made them available for sale when his close friend Toe offered to buy a mix from him for ten dollars. At that point, customers had increasingly begun requesting his more well-known mixes instead of personalized lists. During the early 1990s, he invited some of the Houston MCs from the city's south side to rhyme on those mixes. This coalition of emcees eventually became the fathers of the Screwed Up Click. Many members of the Screwed Up Click, or S.U.C., are considered key figures in the canon of Houston hip hop. The original lineup included Big Hawk, Big Moe, E.S.G., and Fat Pat, among others. The crew later gained then-upcoming artists such as Z-Ro, Trae Tha Truth as well as Lil Flip. His career began to advance once he met Russell Washington of BigTyme Recordz and signed to the label.
Davis later moved to a house in the 7600 blocks of Greenstone Street near Gulfgate Mall. Fans, some driving from far away areas such as Dallas and Waco, lined up at his door to obtain his recordings. He started his own business and opened a shop up on 7717 Cullen Blvd in Houston, TX, called Screwed Up Records and Tapes. It has been shown in numerous music videos and documentaries as well as independent films. In the early 2010s, this location closed. It has since been relocated to 3538 West Fuqua, Houston, TX. Fans may also purchase merchandise, including mixtapes, on the S.U.C. website. There are now several Screwed Up Records and Tapes spread out through Texas, including one in Beaumont and Austin.