Southern hip-hop producer Robert Earl Davis, known in the hip-hop community as DJ Screw, was found dead in his Houston studio Thursday, according to the Houston Chronicle. No cause of death has been determined for Davis, who was 29.
Davis pioneered a unique production style — known as "screwed," or "screwed down" music, which involved slowing songs to half-speed or less. Though his own albums — including last year's All Work No Play — were not big sellers, Davis was better known for his style and his remixes, many of which were traded over file-sharing community Napster.
A "screwed" version of Outkast's "Stanklove" appears as a hidden track on the group's Stankonia, the No. 2 album in the country on this week's Billboard charts. Last year, Memphis, Tenn.'s Three 6 Mafia showed his influence on the hit "Sippin' on the Syrup." He distributed many cassette tapes, and numerous bootlegs of his are exchanged on Napster.
The slowed-down remixes are said to be the equivalent of "stoner rock" in the rap genre. Police have speculated to the media that Davis may have died from a drug overdose, though they have not given reasons and are still awaiting results from toxicology tests.
A Houston-area rap promoter, who calls himself Lump, told hip-hop magazine the Source that DJ Screw's sound helped invigorate Southern rap. "[He would] put an a cappella over three or four instrumentals at the same time, slowed the pitch up and made you feel the South!"