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Big Moe!

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If it weren’t for Noz, nobody outside of message boards and Houstonians would know about this…

-‘City of Syzuurp’- Z-Ro, Big Moe, Tyte Eyes

Big Moe’s sing-rapping- as opposed to rap-singing which everybody does- was the perfect complement to the darker, scarier aspects of Screwed Music. There’s a smart sense of resignation to his voice that allowed him to sound right in-line with the wonderfully depressive and oppressive feelings on S.U.C tracks even as he also really fucking belted out a chorus or verse, adding some sense of fun to tracks that otherwise, harshly rumbled along. Only for the uninitiated, would it be an irony that one of the biggest proponents of syrup-sipping would also make such musical rap and infect every verse with joy…

Big Moe (1974-2007)

Only loosely related, but here’s a post from June that I wrote about DJ Screw and screw music…the original post got a comment from a guy from Texas who said it was a “perfect” way to describe DJ Screw’s music!

DJ Screw – Anniversary Day

“On ‘Anniversary Day’, Screw’s work perfectly compliments the lyrical visions and sonic soundscapes. Equal parts hypnotic and narcotic, this tape sounds as serious as impending doom…with an apocalyptic legacy, but also as vital as what is out there today. Call it a fitting soundtrack to today’s times.”-from the back cover of ‘Anniversary Day’

Everyone is familiar with chopped-and-screwed music; its commonplace to get a generally weak chopped-and-screwed “bonus” disc when you buy any number of southern rap albums. ‘Anniversary Day’ which just seems to be Point Blank’s album ‘The Bull’ under a different name, isn’t one of those sounds-like-they-were-screwed-in-a-few-hours discs, it’s something totally different. I bought it about a month ago, primarily because of the cool cover, the description quoted above, and a working knowledge of DJ Screw. I just had a good feeling about it. It’s since become one of my absolute favorites, not music you enjoy, not music that sounds cool, but music that really does feel vital, that doesn’t seem like it will ever leave your collection.

First, this incredibly strange and powerful and downright fucking scary album shows you just how weird regionalism can be. What I mean by that is, when places are cut-down into their hermetically-sealed subcultures, be that subculture outlined by state lines or street numbers or how you dress, some really strange stuff can be commonplace. DJ Screw apparently made millions of dollars off of these tapes and it is very, very strange to think of something resembling a lot of people driving around, listening to this stuff. I immediately think of Baltimore’s own John Waters and how some of the most square and conservative (with a lower-case C!) people have seen his early, super-weird films, which means they’ve seen a transvestite eat real dog shit or a guy open and close his asshole to the tune of ‘Surfin’ Bird’…everybody in Baltimore knows of John Waters. That’s weird just like it is weird that anything resembling a significant amount drove around enjoying screwtapes.

On the topic of regionalism, screwed music is just one of many equally popular and equally bizarre forms of Southern production. The doom and gloom is way more obvious in chopped-and-screwed but it shows up in the buzz-saw synths of ‘Pop, Lock, and Drop It’ or the sicko marching band sounds of Crime Mob. Three-Six Mafia, when they were Triple-Six-Mafia sounded satanic and rapped satanic and while “my cross turns upside down” has turned into ‘Ass & Titties’ and a reality show, the music has never lost sight of that menace. I think people respond to Southern rap not only because it is undeniably fun but also because, whether they realize it or not, there is a disturbing air of menace to the music.

There’s something very harsh in so much Southern rap, a harshness that outweighs its lyrical shortcomings and still allows the music to emotionally affect the listener. All of the best dance and party music does not stop at just being good for booty shaking, it’s often political or social or emotional or just something else. Southern rap does this too. An initial hearing may get you dancing but each listen can unravel layers of sadness and joy, or awkwardness or death or whatever.

The music sounds like what its actually like to party or club. It isn’t the time of your life exactly, it’s fun but weird, anything can happen, good or bad. Drugs and alcohol are of course, a crucial part of partying and Southern rap often matches the feeling one has after too many shots or too many hits or both and then some- nowhere is this more apparent than in the music of DJ Screw, which is pretty much completely designed to be listened to with sips of purple or syrup or sizzurp or whatever they call it in your town.

While it’s hardly the party music of pre-crunk or crunk music, screwed music was designed for listening while messed-up or driving around, which is most people’s definition of a “party” anyway. The music, like club music or any kind of music really, is developed and created with the thought of being listened to under very specific conditions. Everything about this music points in the direction of blowing your mind wide open as you nod off from too much of something you’re not supposed to ingest.

The music isn’t exactly fun, or rather, the fun is firmly rooted in the danger, confusion, and abuse that the drug brings on. Purple is a drug beyond recreational fun and escape, because for an hour or so, it sends you into some limbo between painkiller-esque relaxation and end-of-the-world fear. There’s something truly apocalyptic-feeling about ‘Anniversary Day’ and unlike most contemporary party/hang-out Southern rap, the lyrics add to rather than conflict with this feeling.

On the first song on the album, ‘The Bull’, the chorus is “I ain’t crazy I’m just ig’nant” which shows a ridiculous amount of emotional understanding. ‘Straighten It Out’ a song about going to prison and getting-out, is equally honest. My favorite line is “Hell, three years ain’t that long/It’ll give me some time to write a whole lot of songs”; the kind of thought any creative person seriously confronting prison-time would think. ‘After I Die’ which has some dinosaur-stomp record scratching and a drunk-off-its-ass horn part, envisions Blank’s (or his narrator’s) death and just how little it will really matter: “My son don’t know about the tragic/He just crying because they won’t let em’ play in my casket.” This shit isn’t club friendly, its not really anything friendly; one can’t “enjoy” this music by any conventional definition of “enjoy”.

I recall once, partaking in way too much of said drug and seriously feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. Sweat was pouring from my face, the space between my lip and nose (your face taint?) was moist, sweat was getting in my eyes, and I was inside, mid-winter. I peeled myself off the couch of my friend’s and stumbled into his bathroom where I proceeded to lie on the floor as my heart beat so fast it felt like it was going to dislocate my shoulder. DJ Screw’s death was on my mind as I put my face on the tile because at that point, I was half-convinced I was maybe going to die of a purple-induced heart attack. I slowly decided I wasn’t going to die but probably needed to go to the hospital and eventually, after fucking crawling into my friend’s yard, I cooled-down and felt close enough to a human to go back downstairs and watch the rest of the episode of ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’ they were watching. That is what this album sounds like. This constant pull between lucidity and total fucked-up-ness. When your ears finally adjust to the syrupy-thick slowness of the tracks, Screw will give you a track that’s a faster pace or he’ll throw in a scary sound effect (a phone dialing on ‘Wreckless’, a glass breaking on ‘Wanna Get Tha Blanksta’) or he’ll just keep bringing back a poignant or well-delivered line until it seeps into your mind and makes you feel like the walls of your room or the interior of your car is going to collapse on top of you.

Written by Brandon

October 15th, 2007 at 7:26 am

Posted in Big Moe, DJ Screw, the South

One Response to 'Big Moe!'

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  1. Im having a little issue. I cant get my reader to pick-up your feed, Im using aol reader by the way.

    tablet and laptop

    19 Jun 12 at 2:54 am

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