Chopping and screwing, a DJing technique invented by Houston pioneer DJ Screw in the early 90s that pitches compositions down, is about feeling. Remixing a song in this way changes its texture; it makes the tones richer but also deeper and darker. In a 1995 interview Screw explained the technique: “The Screw sound is when I mix tapes with songs that people can relax to,” he said.
“Slower tempos, to feel the music and so you can hear what the rapper is saying. I make my tapes so that everyone can feel them.” For Screw, slowing a record down allowed it to breathe, bringing new context to what was rapped and adding a new tint to the catalogs of the rappers he liked to spin — artists such as OutKast, Tupac, 8Ball & MJG, Warren G, and Spice 1.
This is what producer Damione Blackmon aka Lil Tight together with DJ Dream achieves on the single “Pillow Talk” featuring Marka Mic J-Eye & XMean. The sound on “Pillow Talk” is designed, knowingly or not, to complement drowsy drug highs.
Its sedated motion can communicate a number of things: calm, leisure, chromaticism, and an almost numbing sense of sensual ease. You can experiment this feeling when songwriter Marka sings the intoxicating hook and XMean serves up the rhymes.
An evolution is an appropriate way to describe the activity surrounding the Screw culture that you can hear on “Pillow Talk”, though sonically it retains many of the same properties as the original Screw tapes. Screw culture has come to represent more than just chopping and screwing records in recent years; it’s an aesthetic now, one that’s come to represent a laid-back sense of cool, a transporting, almost disorienting atmosphere.
But the technique lives on for more than its superficial value or any sort of commercial value; it carries a sort of resonance in its multi-dimensional sonics. The sound on “Pillow Talk” ft. Marka Mic J-Eye & XMean is inherently Houston, but the feel is transcendent and timeless. Across decades and eras and genres, it will make moments feel eternal.