Sunday, October 9, 2011

Screwball Week, Day 4.5: Screw Nuts

So, here it is, Screwball's underground debut single: 1996's "Screwed Up" on Screwball and Hydra Records. The debut of their trademark screwball logo, and their signature "Hu-haaa!" call. The four members artists finally united as a group.

And they come with some surprisingly big-shot guest producers for their first release, The Beatnuts. The 'Nuts come with a sound not too far removed from their usual production style, but it also manages to anticipate Screwball's hardcore sound that would be provided by their future regular producers. Maybe part of that, though, is just that Screwball bring their signature, hardcore flows to the track and make what would've sounded different in another MC's hands unmistakably their own.

You've got a funky little guitar riff sample, which on its own is quite soft. But married with a single deep bass note, hard drums and these strange, atmospheric wailings, it becomes pure, rugged hip-hop. As great as the material Marley's fam was coming with on Warner Bros., this record made it clear that Screwball was the real street shit, but with no loss in musical richness. Everything that makes Screwball Screwball is right here.

"Screwed Up" eventually turned up on Screwball's compilation album of the same title. But the B-side, "They Wanna Know Why," has never been released anywhere else but here.

This one's produced by Screwball regular Mike Heron, who's a pro at complimenting their style. This track's a little unusual for them, though, with a slower, smoother vibe. It's dark and still hard, especially with Screwball's angry flows on top of it - they almost sound like Onyx at times on this. But it's a real cool, head-nodder at the same time, and you don't find a lot of that in Screwball's catalog. There's also a fuckton of nice scratching by an uncredited DJ (unless it's Heron himself?), just to take the song up one final notch. All elements together, this is a monster of a track - a brooding dragon in a cave that you don't want to piss off.

This 12" is a little rarer than most of theirs, but not much, and it's damn sure worth it. Dirty, Clean and Instrumental versions are provided for both tracks. Apparently some were sold in sticker covers and some in plain covers. Unfortunately, mine was one of the later - d'oh! - so if you're after this, make sure to get one with a sticker.


  1. Actually there's a compilation from 1999 on a UK label called Beat Street Sound Collective called "Hip Hop" (also the cover suggests the title "Street Life In Zoo York") that put out some Hydra (and other) material from that period, including "They Wanna Know Why", "Cookies N Cream" etc.:

    Don't know too much about it though, I guess this was destined for the UK / European market. Can still be found on amazon etc... only CD as far as I know

    Also I hope to see you elaborate on the Screwball-Hostyle beef that went down around the time of Loyalty and (to my knowledge) hasn't been resolved to this day

  2. Oh, that's interesting... never heard of that comp before.

    And yeah, I got you. I'm writing my Hostyle post right now. Talking about the beef and more. I wanna have the spotlight on each member for at least one entry. 8)