I’ve always been a fan of chopped and screwed music. Although since I’m not from Texas, I have met practically no one else in existence that shares my liking of slowed down hip-hop. I think this could largely be due to the fact that although the music is a Southern phenomenon, a lot of Southern hip-hop is probably not best suited for the slowed down treatment. For one, the biggest draw to Southern rap is that most of the beats make you want to knock someone the fuck out. If they slow them down to the pace of a tortoise, all that aggression is lost. Then add to the fact that a lot of MC’s who get their music chopped and screwed unfortunately have simple ass rhymes, and slowing those down adds even more attention to the fact that practically no time or effort was put into writing the lyrics. With that in mind, I have been arguing for a while that chopped and screwed needs to spread it reaches further within hip-hop for it’s full potential to be explored. While a lot of club bangers shouldn’t be slowed down, it could have an interesting effect on more laid back instrumentals, a lá Dr. Dre’s “Exxplosive”. Similarly, while there is no need to over emphasize the lyrics of Young Joc, what about slowing down the bars of some truly complex MC’s? What would it sound like to hear Bone Thugs, Tech N9ne, early Outkast, and even a Percee P or Jurassic 5, at a rate in which the average ear can fully recognize and appreciate the words being spat? My guess is that a lot more hip-hop fans would be converted to the chopped and screwed trend.
Well, finally we have a way to judge my hypothesis. This weekend, OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick, some of the originators of Texas’ Swisha House label, released a free chopped and screwed version of Kendrick Lamar’s most recent tape, (O)verly (D)edicated . This came totally out of left field for me. For one Kendrick isn’t a Southern MC, so you don’t expect Southern DJ’s to choose his project out of the immensity of quality music that has been released recently. Also, his style is so different, and more straight ahead hip-hop than most artists who get screwed. Yet on the other hand, after the release of OD, and the news that Kendrick is the new lyrical apprentice of Dr. Dre, it seems the whole country is starting to recognize how much of an incredible talent he really is.
With that in mind, I think this project has mixed results. I don’t want to get into a full on review of the merits of each song, because you can get that from my write up of the original OD, that I did when the project first came out. Instead, just looking at the effect of being chopped and screwed there are some ups and downs. At it’s best, hearing some of Kendrick’s most complex rhymes slowed down a few bpm’s allows you as a listener to fully catch and comprehend the meaning of his words. On songs like “Ignorance Is Bliss”, his flow is so crazy that I would get sucked into focusing on the cadence, but wouldn’t fully appreciate the meaning of the words being rapped. Yet when it’s decelerated, the average listener is able to absorb and appreciate that the message is incredible as well. Additionally, on tracks that have a more subdued mood like “Opposites Attract (Tomorrow W/O Her)” and “Cut You Off (To Get Closer)”, the decrease in tempo seems to enhance the reclusive and contemplative ambience that the music exudes. The first time I listened to this tape I was driving in the rain, and the slowed down version of these tracks seemed to match the aura of a cold and lethargic rainy afternoon in the city perfectly.
On the other hand, a track like the remix to “I Do This” loses a lot of it’s flair and appeal with the screwed up treatment. Also, while the DJ’s on this project did a pretty good job of limiting the cuts and rewinds of each verse, and really letting Kendrick’s lyrics and flow stand for themselves, at times I was still occasionally frustrated when something the DJ did would totally obscure a rhyme I enjoyed. This happens a few times on “R.O.T.C.”. Another gripe I have with the chopped and screwed version of this album is the vocal transformer they apply intermittently throughout some verses. I feel that while slowing the track down and cutting it up is one thing, adding special effects that change the over all sonic landscape is going a little too far. My final complaint is why do we have to hear OG Ron C freestyle at the beginning and end of the tape? I know it’s his project, and they’re doing it for free, so in theory they should be able to do whatever they want. Yet at the same time, rapping over Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” instrumental absolutely does not fit congruently with the rest of the album, and really doesn’t make much sense at all.
While (O)verly (D)edicated to Screw isn’t perfect, I appreciate the fact that it expands upon what most people imagined were the genre limitations of chopped and screwed music. Also, taking time to listen to the album slower, made me appreciate the content of the lyrics even more. I don’t think I will consistently choose this version of the album over the original, but all in all, listening to this has confirmed my conviction that the practice of chopping and screwing hip-hop should definitely be applied to music beyond synth heavy trap rap more frequently.