Tha carter exposes underground style

In the world of hip-hop, the dirty South is different. Whether it’s booty bass or crunk, the region continues to make hip-hop music in its own terms, whether the rest of the country likes it or not. So is the case in the hugely popular underground phenomenon of “screwing,” a production technique invented by the Houston underground legend DJ Screw. Screwing is basically pitching down music to a lumbering and even menacing pace, the result being in a trippy, eerie sound.

The growing popularity of screwed and chopped music in the South has seen the transformation of the technique being used in locally produced mix tapes to now where entire albums have been screwed and released in its new format. Lil’ Wayne’s fourth album, Tha Carter, is the latest to use the technique, exposing this underground style to a larger audience. The result, though, is mixed: At times the lumbering sound and the eerie effects brings to mind an experimental sound, but other times it tends to get a little tired, even during the first hearing of the album.

If there is one problem with this new version I have to bring to light, it’s the same one that plagued the original version: It’s too long. With the entire album being screwed and chopped, the menacing sound could have the effect of grinding on one’s nerve. Perhaps that’s why the style has been associated with “syrup sippin’,” purportedly the largest influence in developing the sound; the codeine-infused cough syrup could help you go with the flow and enjoy each slowly pounding beat. That said, this album is strictly for aficionados of screwed and chopped music.

Christian Martinez can be contacted at

February 8, 2005


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