Lil' Jon: Just Plain Screwed
Chopped & Screwed is a strange art form indeed. Who would have thought that by slowing hip-hop albums down one could then market the result as a completely different album altogether? The mic work remains intact, and some of the production as well; even the cover art looks exactly the same. The drastic slowdown of a screwtape has had the tendency to bring out a darkness in its subjects. Indeed, by slowing the record to a sludge-like pace, each verse begins to sound as if its MC needs an exorcism. There is much dispute about C&S’s legitimacy as a form of remix, though. For every bit of praise there seems to be the school of thought that a C&S album sounds like a record being played on the wrong speed.
Now, despite Lil’ Jon’s popularity (which, in itself, is perhaps gratuitous), his Crunk Juice gets the screwtape treatment. This is the true test: can a Chop & Screw salvage an album without redeeming qualities in the first place? Let’s find out.
First, a definition; not because you don’t know what C&S is, but because this particular definition contextualizes this review:
According to MTV News, “[Chopped & Screwed] music is the antithesis of the relentless, ballistic bounce of Atlanta’s crunk: Hip-hop records are literally slowed down to a molasses-like pace, and beats and lyrics ooze lazily out of the speakers”.
Some of the first words out of Crunk Juice? A howling declaration that this is an album by “the kings of mothafuckin’ crunk!” Not to mention the album title itself. Lil’ Jon is crunk, and we all know it. He has a “crunk cup” bejeweled with bling, for God’s sake. But this is to show that there are, by definition, opposing factors at work here. Both factors seem vain. It seems like a mess could ensue. But my question is, how can things which are supposedly the “antithesis” of one another come to work in a symbiotic fashion?
The truth is that it really can’t. At least, not in this case. Unfortunately, beneath it all, this is still Crunk Juice. C&S remixing removes the distinctive, repetitive beats but does not remove the misogyny, the gratuitous hollering, the violent delivery, the “WHAT?!” and “YE-YEAH!” for which Lil’ Jon has been immortalized. In fact, all C&S remixing seems to do in this case is prolong the songs, adding anywhere between 15 and 25 seconds to each track as a result of its slowed pace, and frankly the last thing I want is Crunk Juice to be any longer.
There are, despite all my loathing, some highlights. “Stop Fuckin’ With Me” (called “Don’t Fuck With Me” on the initial issue of Crunk Juice) becomes a cross between sludge metal and Southern rap in its slowed version, its beats and guitar line turning crunchy and huge. The song comes to herald an even more macabre sound, a horrorcore beat worth keeping around. Unfortunately, the lyrics (once again) don’t own up to the song’s eerie feeling. “Aww Skeet Skeet” somehow ends up with a reggaeton beat in the C&S version, which is a momentary breath of fresh air.
For DJs, the C&S form presents an interesting alternative to the song one hears on the radio; the slowed drawl leads to what could either be an extremely unique or awkward result. The basis here—the structure of these songs—is solid, making the remix perhaps an easy task. It’s simply a matter of what one has to work with, though. Here, Michael “5000” Watts remixes what is more hype machine than music in the first place, and I can only hope he couldn’t have expected to turn it into much.
Lil’ Jon himself freely admits in the group’s bio that he and the East Side Boyz don’t claim to be rappers. “We’re not really considering ourselves rappers, so we got the best rappers in the game to get on the tracks. We do our chant thing, make the beats and let other people who really rap do the rap”, he says in his artist bio. In some ways, this is sad. In other ways, it explains everything.
Crunk Juice: Chopped & Screwed shows Michael “5000” Watts knows his game, but ultimately, since there is no new material here and what he began with is widely accepted as sub-par in the first place, Watts’ product simply can’t raise itself past Crunk Juice itself. Lil’ Jon’s resolve to be a beatmaster rather than a rapper becomes painfully evident here, and the result fares quite poorly.