Chopped & Screwed
This hip-hop subgenre could be the best thing that's happened to movies in years.
One of the most crucial elements of Barry Jenkins’ Best Picture-winning Moonlight is its instantly iconic soundtrack. Moonlight owes an audible—and visible—debt to chopped & screwed, the subgenre of slowed-down hip-hop that originated in Houston, Texas in the 1990's. Though many articles about the music of Moonlight have touched on chopped & screwed, few have delved deep into its history, or the debt other artists owe to the form. This video essay explores chopped & screwed’s genesis and legacy, from its development by DJ Screw in the early ’90s through its permeation of contemporary hip-hop and experimental electronic music. But as we’ll learn, the genre’s influence extends far beyond popular music. Our investigation begins with a look at Moonlight’s score and visual style, which both bear the mark of chopped & screwed, and continues into the work of Mica Levi (Under the Skin, Jackie), who fuses DJ Screw’s trademark techniques with a more classically-minded sense of composition.