Review Summary: For DJ Screw, roll it up. Go ahead and put that lean up in yo damn cup.
Drift back to 1996 for a minute. Operating out of the crime infested slums of Houston, Robert Earl "DJ Screw" Davis had a striking new vision of hip-hop. Trademarking a unique producing technique of "chopping and screwing" (slowing down, glitching, cutting-up, pitch-bending, etc) already existent instrumentals and adding his own team of stacked MCees to the transformed mix (Lil Keke, Big Pokey, Big H.A.W.K.), DJ Screw created hip-hop's first truly psychedelic experience. Screw's style takes its otherworldly, in limbo sound from the effects of "purple drank" or "lean", which consists of prescription-strength cough syrup, promethazine, and codeine added with soft drinks like Sprite or Mountain Dew. In other words, *** that'll make you bug the fug out in a hyper-slow trance // dazed illusion // g-funk nightmare. In the final minutes of his chopped and screwed opus "South Side" (the coda of the immortal 3 'N The Mornin' (Part Two) tape), DJ Screw, slowed down to a smooth 33rpm and drenched in slowed p-funk bass slaps and mother ship synth lines, shouts out "Time to screw the whole world babay" as the reels of the tape slowly fizzle out like the final high of a cuppa lean. These words were on a mission in 1996, and fast-forward the tape to 2013; they seem to have finally come full circle.
In particular, this circle can be traced around a new set of underground revivalists cleansed in the word of Screw. Leading the pack is A$AP Rocky, Spaceghostpurrp, and their respect RVIDXR KLVN's. But far most interesting is Houston's own Slim Guerilla & DJ Smokey, who associate themselves with RVIDXR KLVN Houston (yes, apparently these clans all over the place in cities across America). But honestly, how appropriate the finest of the bunch are from Houston; where it all started. First and foremost it’s important to note homages are what Slim Guerilla & DJ Smokey do best here, but they’re not strictly limited to DJ Screw. Meet the opener "UnderGround Freestyle 93", which bangs out a Memphis nodding dark instrumental in the vein of a vintage Three 6 Mafia tape. The mortal kombat themed "Fatality 1994" is a clear salute to Spaceghostpurrp's Sega genesis loving soul, accented in lo-fi cowbells (G-BELLS) and a threatening flow that sounds like the ghost of a Tommy Wright III mixtape. Things only get darker on "LumberThunder", dragging a trippy, screwed instrumental that evokes images of Slim Guerilla roaming the demon-infested dark hallways of DOOM with a sawed off, hard lean on, and a bad attitude.
Production is key on Guerilla Warfare, with Slim's phoned-in-from-a-prison-cell flow adding to the creepy, lo-fi 90s mixtape vibe throughout. Surrounding a track like "Break A Move" is an utterly bleak, cell-phone quality spook that guides Young Renegade's considerably hi-fi flow, before ending with Guerilla's lo-fi ghetto gospel; providing us the best flows from 1994 and 2013. Though scattered throughout the darkness are moments of substantial beauty, heard best on the cloudy, ethereal soul samples of "So High 1994" and the absolutely unreal sample of Donkey Kong Country 2's "Stickerbush Symphony" on "Takin Care Of My Bizniz" (how about that for nostalgia). Taken all into consideration it’s clear Guerilla Warfare is designed primarily as a nod to past inventors (DJ Screw, Three 6 Mafia, Tommy Wright III), though it remains a thoroughly enjoyable experience on its own terms. DJ Screw's "chopped and screwed" style may be relatively mainstream now (heard in all kinds of pop-rap, trap-rap, cloud-rap mixes), but ultimately it's extremely refreshing to see a new class of underground reinventing hip-hop's psychedelic potential for a new generation of pioneers and legends.