In 1996, all of us devoted screwheads (DJ Screw fans) in Texas were holding our breath. Lil’ Keke and ESG, two of the most prominent voices dominating the freestyle tracks that had made screw tapes a ‘hood phenomenon, were both in jail. So we fully expected to have to wait a long while before we got another classic tape from DJ Screw and his clique. That summer, though, DJ Screw dropped “June 27,” an otherwise routine tape highlighting some of the more ubiquitous-but-credible rap songs that had swept the summer (Bone Thugs’ “Crossroads”, Too Short’s “Gettin It”). But we flipped to Side B, and there it was–the title track, a 35-minute-long freestyle over a Kriss Kross beat, of all unlikely sources. It was a celebration of Screwed Up Click affiliate Big Demo’s birthday, hence the title, and everybody was there. And it just. kept. going. In a month or two, everyone I knew was listening to it constantly. Every time an old school Caddy or Cutlass Supreme passed by you on the street that year, the chance you’d hear the “June 27” freestyle banging out of the speakers was hovering somewhere around 117 percent. By ’97, it was already hands down the most popular, most quoted, and most sonically recognizable screw tape ever made, a fact that is unarguably just as true today, as people across the globe can sing the words.
It’s hard to say what made the tape catch on like wildfire when it did, while other obscure screwhead favorites didn’t.
On the most broad level, this freestyle was a perfect example of why we loved screw tapes in the first place. These weren’t famous rappers popping champagne in videos. These were real hustlers, dope dealers, and street legends from the same environment we were from, rapping off the top of their head about what they saw right in front of them. The beat was perfect for DJ Screw’s medium, and I think for a lot of us it was really the first glimpse of greatness we saw from Big Pokey and Yungstar, the two obvious standout rappers from the tape. But really for lack of a better phrasing, it just went “viral,” in that way things did way before the Internet. Hand to hand, word of mouth, stereo dub to redub to re-re-dub until the tape you got sounded like it was recorded in a sinking U-boat. The best compliment I could pay the tape is that I’ve had to buy it no less than four times over the years, simply because it kept getting “borrowed” or straight up stolen. No matter how far I move from Texas, I still put this tape on once a year and turn it up as loud as I can to reminisce. RIP DJ Screw.
In honor of a day for Twitter nostalgia, the 10 best lines from the 35-minute epic.
“Beam, 735 with screens/ Teal green, I be shootin’ my machine/ Like a trained marine”
— Big Pokey
“5th in the back and I’m feeling so true/ Got much love for my nigga named Screw”
— Big Demo
“Some in Alabama, some down in Asia/ I’ma do it right and move my cheese on my pager”
— Big Pokey
“On late nights cookin’ kees in the kitchen/ Give me 9 ounces let me get up on a mission”
— Key C
“Broke ’em off when I snatched my diploma/ I walked across the stage/ I turned the page/ No more minimum wage, and my corner got paid”
— Big Pokey
“We comin’ down bald fades, not afros”
— Big Moe (back in the ’90s in central Texas, hairstyles were more divisive than gang colors. People on the southside of Houston, ie: most of our screw tape heroes, had bald fades)
“It’s that Screw-you, he’s a teaser/ Boy had a seizure/ It’s that ’96, Keke locked, we gon’ please ya”
— Yungstar (Reference to Screw’s early health problems that would eventually kill him, and a concession that yeah, Keke’s not here, but we’re gonna give you some classic shit anyway)
“Gotta flip my tongue/ Bitches, be leavin em sprung/ Asamasalakesum(muslim shit)assalum”
— Yungstar (no explanation needed why this is the best line in rap history. Riff Raff is funny, but he’s a pale imitation of Yungstar in his prime)
“It’s the ones that smoke blunts witcha……..”
— Notorious B.I.G. (sampled vocal track from “Warning.” The whole state of TX still gets excited when the track starts and they hear this line.)
“Sittin’ Sideways, boys in a daze/ On a sunday night I might bang me some Maze”
— Big Pokey (one of the most quoted screw tape freestyle lines ever, became the hook to Paul Wall’s “Sittin’ Sidewayz” a decade later)