Friday, April 17, 2009

All Screwed Up: 4 Deep's "Rollin' 4 Deep"

Like ESG's "Smoke On," DJ Screw's version of 4 Deep's "Rollin' 4 Deep" is woozy as hell. You have to laugh when whoever is talking at the beginning of the song says "let's get crunk," since nothing this slow and bluesy could be mistaken for crunk, or at least the hyped up version of crunk represented by Lil Jon and Three Six Mafia.

Screw stretches out the beginning of the song for a couple of minutes, letting you absorb the leisurely guitar line that rings out like a a sigh, or a deep exhaling of breath. Of course, as usual, members of the Screwed Up Click are talking shit over the song, but here the talk sounds like the pleasant background noise of a party, more comforting than annoying. Besides slowing down the song, Screw has also added some sort of resonance filter, as you can hear the song dip into its low end and then emerge back up again. Stuff like this drives people on ecstasy crazy when it's used in house or techno, so I'm sure it had a similar effect on anyone high on codeine syrup (though anyone's who actually tried the latter can feel free to tell me if I'm wrong).

At around 8:10, Screw brings in the chorus. When you listen to the original song, you realize those moaning voices in the background on the Screw version are just ad-libs, or little throwaways bits of melody added to beef up the chorus. Slowed down, the effect is far more soulful and vulnerable, making even the random ad-lib "Hello, six pack of tobacco" sound slightly desperate, if maybe in a slightly self-parodying way.

After this, Screw starts this amazing delayed gratification thing he sometimes does where he'll scratch the first line of the song over and over, messing with your expectations enough times until you're resigned to just hearing the line repeated ad nauseum. For me, this creates a hypnotic effect similar to drone or ambient music, where you're no longer expecting the music to progress, just enjoying the mood it creates. Also, catch how slow he's scratching--he's not trying to show off with some Scribble Jam bullshit pyrotechnics, but instead just using the scratching as another musical element.

Once the rapping starts, the slow pace of the song is kept all costs, with Screw chopping up almost half the lines of the first verse. Every time a line gets chopped, the listener is forced to follow Screw's tempo, not the rapper's. I'm sure for many listeners, it's this very "chopping" that turns them off this kind of music because it makes listening to rap the conventional way, by following the rhythm of the rhyme, nearly impossible. If you listen to Michael Watts' "screwed and chopped" mixes (which should be called "slowed and chopped" since only Screw can make screwed and chopped mixes), there seems to be more care taken that the chopping itself doesn't obscure the rhymes, whereas Screw, on a song like Tray Dee's "Droppin' Bombz" off of the No Time for Bullshit tape, will chop a song up within an inch of its life.

Screw chops the hell out of the song's second chorus, making "real g's roll four deep" sound like "real real j-j-j-ees ro-ro fo-fo dee-deep." Then after a quick scratch, he gives the first two lines of the second verse "Coming up the block boomin' blades/ Steady hittin switches you can't fade" this bizarre, almost ODB-like cadence, which I wish was repeated three or four more times.

"Rollin' 4 Deep" appears quite frequently on Screw tapes and it's quite clear why. Like ESG's "Smoke On," it's got one of those beats that sounds perfect screwed, to the point where the original sort of pales in comparison. I've included the original (via Noz's great post on 4 Deep) so you can hear the differences I've mentioned.