Hip-hop owes a lot to Houston’s DJ Screw. Practically every popular rap song carries the influence of the blueprint he created decades ago—garbled vocals slowed down to a creep, distorted beats creating new dimensions. Twenty years after his death, he’s still watching over hip-hop’s most promising acts, with Texan artists eager to pay homage where it’s due. His influence is seen on massive records like Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD, Megan Thee Stallion’s Fever, and Solange’s When I Get Home, and now an entire generation that has grown up in a world without him since his death in 2000 will finally learn his story from the beginning. As announced this week by VIBE, a new television series called All Screwed Up is diving into the inspiring genius of DJ Screw.
Directed by Isaac Yowman, All Screwed Up details the transformation from Robert Earl Davis Jr. to DJ Screw, his Screwed Up Click, and the popularization of his warped and sluggish recasting of rap music, known as Screw Tapes. “If Screw ain’t make it, it ain’t no Screw tape,” the DJ, as portrayed by newcomer Rosha Washington, says in the trailer. Much of the trailer also documents the tension between the turf wars of Houston’s Northside and Southside residents, mainly punctuated by Screw’s rivalry with DJ Michael “5000” Watts.
The story of DJ Screw feels deeply relevant to issues in contemporary hip-hop; his death by codeine overdose still haunts the community, with some rappers recently contemplating giving up on lean and pills completely after the losses of up-and-coming artists like Lil Peep and Juice WRLD.
A DJ Screw biopic couldn’t come at a better time, and it’s surprising that it’s taken 20 years for one of Houston’s most influential figures to receive recognition in film. At the moment, it’s unclear which network will pick up All Screwed Up, but the fact that it even exists will open the conversation as to which other prolific rap figures we have failed to honor. With the news of Whitney Houston and Biggie as the new inductees of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a new Aretha Franklin biopic out this fall, we hope that the accomplishments of Black music don’t only get recognized in death.
Watch the entire trailer for All Screwed Up below: