DJ Screw, June 27, 'Madvillainy,' A Tribe Called Quest and the Beauty of Sharing Other People's Writing
|Jun 29, 2020||5|
Being a writer requires mental energy and focus. Lately I’ve really struggled to find enough of both.
I’ve also struggled with how hard it is to engage people with writing that doesn’t cater to the hate machine, outrage, tear down model that seems to dominate every single corner of media and writing these days.
With attention spans seemingly shrinking all the time, an endless tidal wave of alternatives to reading always readily available, and artists much more able to communicate directly to their audiences through social media, I often ask myself how I can offer a reader something different and unique enough for them to care. And if I can offer a novel form of writing, can I ever scale it to a point where my writing career becomes healthy and sustainable?
These are big questions that I’m sure I’ll continue to wrestle with, but this weekend I think I found a bit of a bright spot in my quest to capture people’s attention with writing. On Saturday I noticed it was June 27th, which is a hip-hop holiday of sorts in the city of Houston, Texas. The origins of this celebration date back to June 27th, 1996, when Houston legend DJ Screw dropped his famous Chapter 012: June 27th mixtape.
Recorded on Screwed Up Click member DeMo’s birthday, the b-side of of the tape features the iconic “June 27” freestyle, featuring Key-C, DeMo, Haircut Joe, Kay-Luv, Big Moe, Big Pokey, and Yungstar spitting verses over a cut up and slowed down version of Kris Kross’ Jermaine Dupri-produced “Da Streets Ain’t Right.” The song has since become the stuff of legends in Houston, while the June 27th mixtape remains one of the highest selling entries in Screw’s seemingly endless catalog.
I wrote a piece for HipHopDX three years ago on Screw’s birthday (July 20th) that required a significant amount of reading and research. I had a bunch of the pieces I referenced already bookmarked. Seeing so many people tweeting about Screw on June 27th, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them had ever had a chance to read Bilal Allah’s excellent 1995 Rap Pages article “DJ Screw: Givin' It to Ya Slow,” which was posted on the invaluable but now defunct magazine scan archive If I Haven’t 14 years ago.
Feeling inspired by the love people were showing Screw online, I decided to do a thread of DJ Screw features, interviews, and profiles that featured Allah’s story and many others. I titled the first tweet “A DJ Screw reading list” and shared a total of 24 articles and one video in the thread.
With each tweet in the thread, I tagged the writer and the publication. It’s great to share the work of others on social media, but giving proper credit is always super important.
Once I finished adding articles to the thread, the overall response was overwhelming. People continued engaging with the thread for several days and are still liking and retweeting it occasionally right now.
Curious if the success was mostly due to the June 27th timing and trending hashtag, I decided to do a similar thread the following day. This time I focused on the ‘Madvillainy’ album, a record I had also researched extensively and written about two summers ago. The response was even crazier.
Seeing if I could sustain interest in these reading lists, I did a third one this morning that focused on a collection of A Tribe Called Quest articles and interviews. Once again, the Micro-Chop Twitter community did not disappoint in their enthusiastic support of other people’s work—making it the most successful thread yet in a matter of hours.
If nothing else, the unexpected response to these threads is affirmation that there is still a sizable audience who wants carefully written, thoughtful articles about music.
Organizing threads by a particular album, artist, theme, piece of equipment, or producer give me an opportunity to share the writing I love with my audience. It lets me signal boost older articles, writers who might not have as big of a platform as Micro-Chop, or articles that only exist as scans on blogs and forums around the internet.
I’m a firm believer in sharing information and resources. I hate it when people are stingy with both, something that happens far too often. I truly believe there is great value in sharing excellent writing, if for no other reason than to put it out into the universe.
As I continue to experiment with these threads in the future, I’ll be sure to think deeply about how I can use them to further build enthusiasm for underrepresented artists and writers in addition to the more widely known artists I’ve already done threads for.
There’s no way threading articles will put any sort of significant dent in the deeply ingrained issues that have long existed in the world of music journalism and writing in general. But it was nice to see something positive and writing-focused receive so much love on Twitter.
These small victories tend to be very helpful when times are tough.
Thanks for reading, see you on Wednesday!