Journalists Matt Sonzala and Creg Lovett sits with Houston Rap Legends Lil KeKe, C-Note of the Botany Boys, K-Rino and PSK-13 to discuss DJ Screw's impact on Hip-Hop Music and the creation process of 3 in the Morning. CEO of Big Tyme Records - Russel Washington, is also present at the roundtable. Read or watch the Interview below.
Creg: Who was the first person you ever met from the Houston rap scene? Did you go to school with anyone?
PSK-13: I have all kinds of stories about that. I went to school with Egypt E, Deuce, Dope E and Devin the Dude. In 7th grade Egypt was my center and I played Quarterback in school. We go way back. As far as meeting K-Rino man he preceeded himself. When I finally got to meet The Wizard I was kind of like star struck. I was playing ball in school listening to Street Military and all them.
C-Note: Most of the people I know in the group Botany Boys, we pretty much childhood friends. We known each other since we were little bitty kids since we all from the same neighborhood. We all went to the same school and all that. I met Keke when he was like 15 or 16. I first met him, it was in the swisha house (not the label) over there off Higgins.
Lil Keke: I was off the porch early. I was staying in the swisha house. I was doing that in the 9th and 10th grade.
C-Note: We would go there and get Swishers. We went to Worthing.
Lil Keke: I went to Worthing too. I went to Jones and Worthing. I looked up to C-Note and them boy. I was 15 or 16 and they was already popping too. They a little older than us. Where we from we look up to hood stars. Don't get me wrong, when I met K-Rino, we super looked up to K-Rino. This was something else. When we used to get around K-Rino when we was young we used to do a lot of playing around, but when K-Rino would come around we would get our shit serious. Like "Damn ok, I really don't want to do these raps right here like we talking about." Cuz we would be joking around a lot rapping, but when we would see K-Rino we had to tighten our shit up. We were scared of that black book he had right there.
Creg: How old are you now?
Lil Keke: I'm 40. C-Note: I'm 41 about to be 42. K-Rino: 48.
C-Note: I remember seeing K-Rino way back, it had to have been the late 80s. I was probably 13 or 14 years old. He would rock the stage at St. Francis, this church in the hood that used to have dances on the weekends for the kids, and I was in there too young with my older cousins. And I still remember that night K-Rino rocked the stage, my first time ever seeing him or hearing him but that stuck with me. It was a dangerous church, there was fights and everything happening there. I think that night someone got shot.
K-Rino: That's what shut it down, they had a shoot out that night. Crazy part about it is that's the last time I was ever in St. Andrews. One of the guys that was shooting ran right beside me, leaned on my shoulder and did that, shot his gun, and took off running the other way. When all was said and done we all hid and ducked, and when we left we saw the guy laid out in the street. But just to really reciprocate the love and respect, we came first so in that regard, we were first but that don't change the fact that these guys took Houston to another level. I was just in the barber shop before we came here and Boom 92 was jamming some Keke. And I said to my barber "Man Keke album was like Thriller." This was my words two hours ago, I didn't know you were gonna be here. Any song on that album, take any songs from that album and it was a classic. He was one of the guys who along with Scarface, was one of the first guys that the city just embraced whole heartedly like that. The Screwed Up Click, when Botany came out, I remember D-Red coming to my crib getting record so he could take them and go sample them. We have always had a distant affiliation with each other, South Park Coalition and the Screwed Up Click. We always had a mutual admiration for each other. We went through a lot of the same struggles. There was no respect for us. It was east coast, west coast and down south was country and y'all ride horses, that's what y'all do. Just by establishing ourselves through independent labels and showing the world how to make this money without the major machines behind us. A lot of that is attributed to the Screwed Up Click and if I never told them that then, I want to tell these two brothers right now how much respect we have for them and what they did.
Lil Keke: Man listen you have to understand all them songs, the first time we was going to Screw house to make these tapes you gotta understand the songs we were putting on them then was PSK-13 like "Blow Dem Hoes Up." This was a major song for me! And Street Military and all that. I was one of the first solo artists from the SUC to put out a CD but Botany Boys and C-Note they were really first. When we were still trying to figure out how to get our music out, they popped it out on us. They did it, they did it first.
C-Note: This is how I first came from my point of view when I was brought to Screw we was hanging out with Scarface and them a lot and Q-Dog and them from South Acres, they was like Scarface best friends and they was bumping Screw and I looked up to them kinda, they was older than me so I asked them to introduce me to Screw. So they introduced me to Screw and one day it kinda came out that I had wanted to rap over one of the tracks, because his beats was slower. I was already rapping at one of my homeys house but his beats were regular speed. So I had this idea that I would rap over these slower beats and it should work a little better. So we tried it out like that. Little did I know that when we jumped there out on the porch with our CD's and stuff, little did I know that if I would have stayed a little longer, like Keke and them, Keke and them came in and put it down. Little did I know, I didn't know, I jumped off the porch too early because when I came back these boys blew up.
Lil Keke: With Screw, my barber was cutting my hair. See what people don't know man is I looked up to Fat Pat. Fat Pat was my idol, right? So he was the Freestyle King, he had the trophy from High Rollers, this is the stuff that I'm hearing. What people don't know if by the time I made it to Screw house, the reason I was so good with that freestyle and the reason I was working so good was because the neighborhood that I'm from, we kind of like the hot boys. I mean like Dickies and no shirts and wild and it's a hundred of them going crazy. Tennis shoes on the stop sign and bikes and fights, it was crazy over here. So you could not tell nobody over there that I wasn't the man. People were saying "When you get over there, you better kill Pat!" We grew up like that, so by the time I made it to Screw house I already was rolling. So my barber was cutting Screw hair, he already had made a Screw tape and I'm going over there and I'm like the freestyle king in my neighborhood. The first time I went to Screw house on my own I caught the bus man, I caught the bus all the way to Telephone Road then to Screw house. I had been practicing for months and months and months and when I finally got over there, my first time getting to Screw house man I tore that thang down! And then from then on in he just kept calling back and that's when as a youngster, I was leaving school. See I was all like that in high school. I was the dude at school at lunch time they was beating on the tables and we had two hundred people around us. So when I went to Screw house the big timers which was Stixx and C-Note, I was getting picked up by Stixx in 11th grade coming out of school he would take me to Screw house. They were going there to make they tape, and I started getting picked up by all these people, Shunny Pooh, all them.
C-Note: Yeah he came at the right time cuz see when I was doing it Screw was just making personal tapes, so a lot of the flows I did people didn't ever hear them because they was personal tapes for people.
Lil Keke: I can honestly say that everytime I went to Screw house it was getting bigger. By the week literally. The first time me and Fat Pat done one we did a song called "Funk On Your Mind." It was one of the biggest, this was the first time I ever met Pat. The first time he ever walked in the door I was nervous. I was over there doing something with Screw, and we were rapping over a Big Mello beat, making a tape, this was me and Duke tape. Then he knocked on the door and it was Pat! I was nervous and sweating.
K-Rino: A light beam came through that door!
Lil Keke: And guess what he did, he walked through that door and he said "Oh Screw, that's Lil Keke? Let's turn it on and get started right now." I was like "It's finna go down right now!" And it went DOWN though! And from right then each one of those tapes was steady getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I ended up, I got in a little trouble. I went to jail and I came home and made a CD called Home Sweet Home. Botany Boys was there! I had already been practicing this song called "Southside." I had been practicing this song in jail. It used to be a dude from the north side and he used to do a north side song every day in the tank. He used to get up and all the north side people would get up and gather around the table and he would do this north side song and it would be big shit. So I had this dude out of 3rd Ward that used to beat on the table and I told him we was gonna do a south side song. And he was beating on the table to the Whodini "Friends" beat and man I wrote this whole rap and I used to rap this rap in jail every day and everybody in jail was singing it. When I came home the first night I did the Home Sweet Home tape with Screw. I told him to put on the "Friends" beat. Screw went in them crates and he found the "Friends" beat and I did that song that night and after that, it was like platinum right there. The words were a little different back then, with different kind of sayings in it from the album but it was the same thing.
C-Note: A lot of people like Screw even said I was one of the first ones to flow. When I asked him who did this before, guess what name came out of his mouth? He said Fat Pat. Man Pat and them, we all kind of from the same neighborhood a little bit. We was al doing the same things and we just was on the same page is what happened. So I don't know if I was the first but I was one of the first.
Lil Keke: Man them flows, man next thing you know people was just knocking on them doors and asking for them Keke's and asking for them Pat's. It just got bigger and bigger. Then when that 3 N The Mornin' came along, see I didn't even know if I was gonna make it on to 3 N The Mornin'. Because the way Screw was putting it together it didn't seem like we was going to get a freestyle on there. So I was at Screw house begging every day. I didn't care what the label was talking about, man I needed to get on that CD. And Screw, you know Screw was slow as hell. So it wasn't looking like it was going to happen.
C-Note: We didn't even know if we was gonna make it!
Lil Keke: So that 3 N The Morning I did that in open space, at Maestro House and that's one of the first raps that I wrote.
K-Rino: I want to say something about Fat Pat real quick. Because I went to Sterling with Pat and Screw. Screw was a couple years earlier. I took Home Economics with Pat. This is how I knew, cuz I was rapping and Pat was a class clown. He'd be rapping, singing, doing everything but I mean I didn't know he RAPPED. I thought he was just acting a fool in the class. Then I started hearing "Fat Pat, Fat Pat" in the streets. And I had no idea, I thought "I guess there's a new dude called Fat Pat." And I went to the Stadium Bowl. They used to have these shows...
Lil Keke: That was my spot!
K-Rino: I don't know how I ended up in Stadium Bowl, I'm coming in and everybody coming out. There was 20,000 people in the Stadium Bowl and I look up and it's Pat, Patrick Hawkins. I said "Man, you Fat Pat?" My God! That messed my head up. But right then is when I knew how big it was. Cuz I mean the streets was just on him so hard. That whole crowd knew every word. They was there. PSK know, back then Boomerang was the spot...
Lil Keke: Man I went to Boomerang when I was 17.
C-Note: I think y'all first show was at Boomerang opening up for us. You (Keke) and Fat Pat wrecking the stage. Right before us, I said "Hold up!"
Lil Keke: Hey man they was paying me and Screw $2,000 to come sing that one song at 1:55 am. I'm not supposed to be in the club, I'm about 17 and I'm sneaking in there! When I tell you $2,000 was some money back then!? Shit! It's some money right now but then!? Man this what people don't understand man, that life right there changed my whole course of life. The biggest thing about Don't Mess With Texas, the reason why it was so big is because everybody that was looking for that cd, when the hype came out, they was really looking for a freestyle CD. For it to be like a Screw tape which would have been fine. But I decided to change, and go into this freestyle rap. I was finna write it, but it was going to sound like all the shit that we saying. All this coming down and all this, I'm gonna juice it all up and that's what did it man. Pat wanted to do his whole album freestyle, but Pat came over during the Don't Mess With Texas run and we was recording it and he was tripping. When he heard "Ballin' in the Mix," "Bounce & Turn" he was tripping and he went to writing his. And at the time man, I loved the music more because I wasn't really worried about the money. I was just really in love with rapping. It wasn't no business involved. I didn't know nothing about publishing, about getting no checks, no shows, all I just knew about was raps and coming up with the best things that rhymed with red and blue. Now, shit, it's bills now. But the love of it was so great and we was building something that was crazy because we was going over to have fun. This is what I tell people about Beyonce and them, and I respect them so much because they was getting boo-ed. They went on Star Search, they was doing talent shows, we didn't never do that. See I never went to talent shows, I never had a demo...
K-Rino: I did!
Lil Keke: See but y'all was from that! And we grew up on y'all, listening to your demos and all this here. And we was checking it out but when we went to Screw house we was going there on some fun shit. We was paying $10 for a tape, and listen as crazy as them freestyles was sounding to y'all, that's how crazy they was sounding to us while we were doing it cuz we weren't really trying to get you to like it.
C-Note: That's what I was gonna ask. This is for everybody. When you record a song, say "Thought of Many Ways" when you finish a song and you knew it was going to rock the city. In my mind I'm thinking, I hope it rock the city, but I'm writing lyrics as if I'm on stage performing or something to a crowd. How would this sound? You know what I mean? And also I wanted it to be not only local, I was trying to think outside the box.
Lil Keke: I'm a performer to this day. Shows is my thing, this is how I live so everything that I pretty much did was always hyped up in performance mode. Like for instance people used to get all this music that we'd get from Screw slowed. But we was over there messing with this music fast about a hundred times. When they getting it it's slow, but we ain't never recorded slow. All these beats was going fast. So my thing about it was, from a performance side, what I used to do was, this me man, this is how I became with this Slab and all this here, it just wasn't nobody could beat me with this slab thing man. Everything you thinking I done already thought it. And I studied and I already been around, I don't care what you think. That's still to this day right now man, I don't even know how, man most of the money, if I make $300,000 a year I'm gonna make $100,000 a year talking about these cars. And it still keep changing over and over again. So that was my whole gimmick, my thang. I decided to become the master of it.
K-Rino: I think everybody is born into the lane they gone be in. Cuz just like what C-Note was just saying, I'm a lyricist. My thing is, I'm technical with putting words together and all that. And when you have your fan base, just like what Keke was saying, when you write something you already know how your fanbase gonna react to it. When you write that line you like "This one gonna kill 'em. This one right here!" The song ain't even recorded on a CD yet and I know somebody is gonna walk up to me at some point and repeat this line. Certain ones you just know. I think that's just a God given thang that's instilled in a lot of artists. See, I'm listening to they stories man and it's funny, it's the same story as us. We used to do these click songs, that was our thing. Every SPC album had that one song where everybody gonna be on it. NIP, Kat, PSK, Point Blank, Dope E, me, it's down the line. And back in the day, Keke mentioned Maestro. For those who don't know Maestro was an engineer and he had a studio in Mo City. A lot of the people in Houston recorded at Maestro's. And at that time it wasn't like it is now where you would email beats to each other. If you show up, you write your part, or we might get together in advance and write our parts, but that catch was we would be in the same room together writing our part. And it's quiet in there cuz it's like Klondike Kat over in that corner, "What Kat saying?" NIP over there, PSK, ain't no telling what they writing. So it's already wrapped up in your mind that you gotta come with it. Because you don't want to be the weak link on this album. AC Chill, you know all these different guys. That was the beauty of it. I think the righteous competitive atmosphere is what made them songs great. Whether it was for us, or Screwed Up Click, everybody went through them stages where the fan ended up being the winner in the end because of our competition.
Lil Keke: Man them songs that y'all talking about y'all did, when we was 13, 14, all that meant something to us. If you could repeat that whole K-Rino verse, that meant something right there. Especially because Gangsta NIP was from our area, hey when N IP came out with all that right there, with all that cuttin' heads, this was serious business! We was singing those songs! That's how we, them songs you talking about with all them, hey bro, I would go through them songs and singing all of them.
K-Rino: It started getting ridiculous because we started trying to see who could get the most people on the song. if he had twelve people on his I would put eighteen on mine.
PSK-13: "Slipped Into A Coma" was ten minutes, we gone try to make this next one twelve minutes.
Lil Keke: Aye South Park Coalition hey listen man, that is real history in the making right there. We wouldn't have been no kind of.... bro that's what we grew up on. These were the first people that we thought could make it. That's why I tell people about Pimp C and UGK when I go out of town. A lot of people think we get everything from UGK, well we didn't get everything from UGK. We had our own swag, and there was a lot that they came down and got from us too. But they were the ones we used to look up to man. I used to worry about wanting to be a rapper because they was the first ones that had a real CD. "Pocket Full Of Stones" I sung this in the 9th grade in the hallway. That was the closest thing to us thinking that we could put out a CD. Back then it was Run DMC and all that there, we knew we wasn't fittin to do that. But SPC and UGK and them showed us we could.
Matt: Well that is the perfect transition because we are here today 20 years later talking about the 20th Anniversary of 3 N The Mornin'. That was the first above ground DJ Screw release right?
RW: Naw, All Screwed Up came first.
Lil Keke: It did?
RW: It was a compilation, it was all Big Tyme artists, that was the first thing Screw did for us.
Lil Keke: I think I knew that but I don't know.
RW: And see so many people was asking for Screw tapes and then it was like, I went to Screw and Charles Washington and I told him I needed to make a record that's going to be the least expensive record that I could do. Then I told him what I wanted to do and Screw and them told me they price and we said "Bet" and that's when we did All Screwed Up. It was just our old songs but Screw put his twist on it and it was good. And right in the middle of it I said "You know what? We need to do another one!" I said "You need to do your own one." That's how we got 3 N The Monring 1 & 2.
Lil Keke: When Screw told us he was coming to do that, we were on his ass. We thought we was finna blow up now. Blowing up to me was just being on there. See that's the glory about all this and what made us. It was a gift and a curse because when we was going to Screw House and doing that 3 N The Morning, it really was about being important to Houston. I wasn't even really worried about... that's why I named my album Don't Mess With Texas, because that's what I was really worried about. Becoming important to my people. It wasn't until my later career that I got mostly comfortable with what I was doing. For the first part of my career we was zoned into this area. I didn't even know we had the ability or the talent to go out of this area. I was really making this music, catering it to this set of people. I didn't even understand, man back in the game when I got deals with Koch and stuff like that they used to have showcases to come do this in New York, I used to be uncomfortable, until later I just opened wide with it.
K-Rino: The industry dictated that to us early. I come from the era where you make a song, make an album, a tape and you shop it to major labels. We trying to get on Capitol Records, Warner Brothers, and then they would send you these rejection letters. So you had to become comfortable in your own skin and understand that your own people are gonna embrace you. So I get it. That was the climate that we lived in. They always tried to put an inferiority complex in us as artists because we was the third coast. You know "Third Coast Born, Texas Raised." These are significant lines and slogans that people came up with and we didn't even know the power of what we was saying at that time, and the pride of being from where we was from at a time when outside of that bubble the respect wasn't there like it should have been.
C-Note: Some people never even leave the hood. You got people that just stay in the hood, that's all we know. Some of my people never even went down past the Astrodome.
Lil Keke: We have people that haven't left the Screw era yet. I'll be honest I'm not listening to a lot of slowed music. I'll listen to whatever I do if somebody chop it and Screw it for us. But man I got some people that I know that ain't never left this era. They ain't leaving and ain't thinking about it. They ain't buying no car that don't have a CD or cassette player, they ain't changing their clothes, they still wearing these big shirts. They listen to everything that's happening right now, but slowed. If it ain't slowed they ain't trying to hear it. And I'm not talking about just from here, I'm talking about all kinds of places.
K-Rino: That's the culture, that's what the development of a culture is. Screw is a culture. I met people in my lifetime that didn't even know that Screw was an actual person. They just thought it was something they called slowed down music. Naw man, Screw was a real person. That was a man that walked this planet and called himself DJ Screw.
Matt: When Screw was really starting to blow up though, all those different distributors had fake DJ Screw. DJ Scorpio, dudes from Dallas, all that.
Lil Keke: Man Watts used to be a fake person. He will tell you the story. He was another DJ. He couldn't sell them tapes over here for nothing. That dude had a whole nother DJ name and was selling them in the flea market. Watts will tell you. Hatter Screws, all kinds of different Screws and was selling that shit. Watts was DJ Troublemaker because that Watts name wasn't gonna work on the south side and he was selling that shit under DJ Troublemaker.
Matt: Screw came out to a broader part of the world when the 3 N The Mornin' albums came out. One thing that held Screw back was he would not sell his tapes to stores, he would only sell hand to hand, either from his house or from his own shop later. Russell you had a shop on the south side also called Big Tyme Records for many years. Did you ever sell his tapes?
RW: I asked Screw if we could sell his tapes in the stores and he said no. I told him when we was first starting to really make some money on it I was like man look, you want to make the real money lets sell them greys to them stores. We have 2,200 stores let's make that money. We gonna be millionaires. And he was like "Naw man, I don't want to lose my crowd."
C-Note: Screw turned down radio shows on 97.9 all the time.
RW: Sometimes you can do that and it take you out your comfort zone. K-Rino: And that's genuine love for the art first. Nothing is more important, when he says "I don't want to lose my fans, my crowd." He was thinking about the people first rather than the business.
Lil Keke: And he was doing 1,000 cassettes at $10 tow or three times a week, and setting up booths doing 1,500 of them, 700 of them, and I don't buy nothing but Dickies and T-shirts? Low bills, his overhead was ridiculous. And he didn't really even go outside much. He wasn't tripping off nothing. He was making $40,000 a week keeping $38,000 of it. Screw had money, we couldn't even tell. Screw finally bought a car. We didn't even know he could die. He was conservative like that. Me man, shit, I didn't have $5 five minutes. As soon as I went to rolling, I was rolling. I was a kid. But Screw was more conservative, then the radio thing like the "Pimp The Pen" and then "Southside" it went to rolling and I was like "Man, I'm with everything." You wish you could go back and change some things, but then if you could...
K-Rino: You would alter the whole universe!
Lil Keke: Man no matter what God got for you you gonna get it. Everything I am doing now at 40 I wanted to do it at 30. Everything I did at 30 I wanted to do at 20. It's crazy that I'm feeling much better, this 3 N The Morning built my whole everything. It's got me eating 20 years later. I make easy a quarter million dollars on shows. If I do 20 songs in a show, 18 of them is from the 90's!
PSK-13: Timeless music!
K-Rino: There's no difference between what we built in this city than what Frankie Beverly and Maze still coming down here to this day singing "Joy & Pain." What the Isley Brothers are still singing. So that's just the generation and times pass but the hits remain and that's the beauty of it. Lil Keke: There were times I didn't want to perform "Southside." I'm like "Damn, this is all y'all want to worry me about forever?"
C-Note: Yeah like our "Diamonds In Your Face," I'm like what about this song over here? Lil Keke: I make a lot of money off new music. It's a DJ thing, I don't care how much I'm trying to get you on this new song, you want to play "Southside."
K-Rino: Put yourself in the mind frame of the fan. Because if you could think of who your favorite artist is and they come down here, like I love Prince. If Prince come down here and he just singing a bunch of new stuff, I'm gonna leave disappointed.
Lil Keke: I've taken "Southside" off the disc and when I'm ready to turn around and walk out of there the DJ is like, nuh uh, we got it!
C-Note: This music is like a time machine though. When you made "Southside" you was ahead of everybody time. By the time it hit the shelves 6 months a year or so later, it's new to them. But you already on to the next one.
PSK-13: Pimp C used to always tell me "Mayne a good song always gonna be a good song." My most popular song was "Like Yesterday" with UGK, and like Keke say man I'm tired of that one.
Lil Keke: I mean I love it, I'm grateful, you know being in music can do that to you. You just want to do something else, but now, that song "Pimp The Pen" I get in a lot of trouble for not still doing it. I couldn't sing the second verse to that right now to save my life.
K-Rino: You know how you have to do it, you stick the mic out there and the fans got you. Lil Keke: Man 3 N The Morning coming out, that was some big shit.
Matt: Russell, you talk a lot about stuff that went on around that time. You were a really pivotal person in this scene. You put out some of our biggest legends from PSK to Point Blank to UGK and DJ Screw it doesn't get a lot bigger than that. What did you see in Screw? You had a store right in the heart of the south side, when did you first notice Screw and what did you see in him?
RW: I always just listened to the customers and what they were asking me for. And they was asking for a Screw tape. And then like I said, I needed to do a record at the time because I was trying to emulate Master P's thing. Master P drop records and he don't care what they sell but they steady bringing revenue. So I needed to do a record and I needed to do a cheap record. So the easiest thing for me was to just remix my stuff and I said I wanted to do a Screw record. All Screw said to me was to put em on wax. So I bought the masters and put em on wax...
Matt: Didn't you have some issues? Didn't you have to change up some records? RW: Well once we decided to do 3 N The Mornin' we was gonna do 1 & 2 together. And what I told Screw was "Just do it like you do your mix, I don't give a damn." Cuz I had never cleared a sample. So at that time I was like, whoa, and then when they started soliciting the problem came when we had 100,000 orders. So I got to meeting with the property lawyers and all this here and all I was asking was "How much of the money can I keep?"
Lil Keke: Lord take me back to them days!
K-Rino: And what was we just talking about before they came in here Matt? The difference between record sales now and then is the difference is the record stores are extinct. So the physical copy is rare.
Lil Keke: Do you know the numbers we were doing the first week on those records? 25,000, man, Lord just give me one more of those!
C-Note: Before I was doing records with Southwest Wholesale I was doing my thing, and the vision Big Tyme had with Screw, I had that vision, but Big Tyme acted on it.
RW: I'm just thankful that he heard the word that we was trying to get to him!
C-Note: We would sell 10,000, 20,000, 25,000 but man when Keke came out, how many did Keke ship? Keke shipped 100,000! That was what I was trying to do!
RW: That was something that hurt us because when I was with Jive, Jive told us when you have a feature on the record you supposed to sign them to a first look. When he come out you got the first right of refusal. And we had done that over the years, but when we did the record and Keke was on it, we never even gave him the paper, we just did it. So if we was really staying on point when he did the record when he did the record we were supposed to sign him to that first right to refusal. So then we put out 3 N The Morning then we come back with that Don't Mess With Texas. That's something that stabbed me forever. I was like, "How we missed that?"
Lil Keke: This what it is, I was a kid, I was a kid star and really I was gonna take that first piece of change that come across that table. Cuz at this time I don't know nothing but, I'm ready to rap and you got the beats and I'm ready to go. I'm right on point. The thing is Wreckshop came for me and Pat. This is how I got with Patrick Lewis from Jam Down, with a little bit of regret and a little bit of non regret. Patrick and them had Al-D, they wanted me to do a song with Al-D, and I went over there and they got the song and I do it, and it's time to pay. Well they go in their pocket to pull out $200, and at that time I was poppin' and we was like "Naw man, $2,000." So Patrick got in his car, and I guess when he got in his car he did some research, on his way back with the money he done figured out, oh shit, this is the dude, from that day forward he was calling me every day. He said "I got $40,000. What Russell and them say they got? What D-Wreck and them say they got? Well I got $40,000." Little did I know we gone do my album off this $40,000 too, it ain't like it's just going to me, but that's the thang man. So me, if I had to do it over, I would have never went with Wreckshop. I only had two choices, I was really gonna go with Jam Down, they had the most money but I was gonna go with Big Tyme because they already had things rolling, they had 3 N The Morning it's the most logical choice. Really just being honest as a youngster I'm broke, my mama ain't got no car, we ain't got no house, $40,000 sound like a million.
K-Rino: That's a life changer.
Lil Keke: I don't care if I'm keeping ten out of it, it sound like a million dollars. I was so hungry, and only thing I liked about Patrick is he didn't know no part of what he was doing, not at all, zero. But you could not tell him that Lil Keke wasn't the biggest shit in the United States and the world, and he gonna get in a car and drive and tell everyone in the world this shit. He would drive to Alaska and tell them "Man I got this lil dude Lil Keke and no one in the world fucking with him." He had heart. This man went up, bought a blue van, cash, pressed up 30,000 snippets and posters. Got in the van and left for 4 weeks. We didn't see him for 3 1/2 weeks! When I tell you Patrick and Raphiq, when Raphiq and Patrick came back man I was getting $3,500 a show in 1997. Selling 10,000 - 15,000 a week.
K-Rino: That's funny because Raphiq, the first time we went on the road was 1993. We did the whole south, Texas, Alabama, Georgia all the way to Miami and came back. And Raphiq and another guy named Gary Yu, he used to work with Digital Underground, and Pac and Toni Braxton, and that's how we learned the science of that is going on the road, going to these retailers, passing out one sheets, the young generation don't even know what a one sheet is, and getting those record stores to order that music. That's how sales accumulated the way they did! That was a beautiful time man, because I never sold 50-100,000 records but I'm gonna get 20-25,000 and you eating good! But just the fact that there's no more record stores and the physical copy is basically obsolete, unless you sell it direct to people. But you know Houston is a unique place because of the fact that we started doing it like that. We was the ones that established doing it like that. Even the Master P's and all that they got game from the way we did it in the beginning. Now we reciprocated, like Russ was saying, P would put 20 artists on the insert and on his cover, and with his popularity it would make it all sell.
PSK-13: But see when P first started he came down here. He got with Black from 20 to Life. So before he was even super large he was down here soaking up the game.
Matt: He went to the Bay.
PSK-13: That's how we ended up on Down South Hustlers. P was actually trying to sign Black and them.
Lil Keke: I tell people all the time, I been everywhere and this shit saved my life. Everything we doing now it's mostly favor and love. This is twenty years later and I done seen artists that came in and went platinum in that time and they gone now. The thang even when I did different deals with different people, each one of them, Koch or Swisha House, they always turned around and said "I don't care how many songs you don't have on the radio, man you got some loyal fans that would not leave."
PSK-13: Other artists from out of town will tell you that, they always like "Man, Houston, man, what y'all boys be doing down there? Y'all can make money just down there." Nobody else get that love.
Lil Keke: We getting ready to do the same thing for the 20th Anniversary of Don't Mess With Texas. It came out on July 1st 1997. I was 20 years old. Well, 21 and I had been making Screw tapes at Screw House since I was 16 in 1993. I got tapes right now where I hear us saying "9-4" and all this, and for these songs, each one of these artists, Flip, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Pimp C, Bun B, all these samples that they got these Keke samples they all from Screw tapes. Lots of people made hits off my sampled hooks! I probably missed millions of dollars, but the relevancy it gave me, it made me able to be here and stay here. As I got older I went to fix it with Sound Exchange to get my money for it, but the relevancy is so important man. These thangs kept me going and kept me staying here and you know that whole thing, people always ask, what about the money? It just really, all of it ain't about the money. Screw don't owe me nothing. Z-Ro, the opportunity that he gave me and I took advantage of it, if Screw was here man he would give us some credit too for helping him man cuz this was love man.
Matt: 20 years later we can look back at Screw and all of the success, and it really makes me crazy to think of all that Screw missed after he passed.
Lil Keke: Only thing I hate that Screw missed is the side of the game that Michael Watts got. See, I been over there, lemme tell you something. Michael Watts a bad motherfucker. What Screw do and he do is totally different. Lemme tell you what Michael Watts did, Watts took that slow shit to the studio. You understand what I'm talking about? My ABA, that's where this ABA shit come from, this album before the album, it's really bigger than the album Loved By Few Hated By Many. Because we done it waiting on the deal. See I never had a deal with Swisha House. I had a deal with Universal and me and T. Ferris had a deal. Swisha House couldn't even solicit me a deal because of what they had going n with Warner and all this. They never wanted me to sign with Warner or Asylum, they was losing the deal. To be honest that deal was a bad deal. Mike Jones went platinum, and Paul did, and they was trying to get out of there. When I got there they was trying to get me to go to Universal for the whole time. But that Album Before the Alb um that had "Chunk Up The Deuce" on it and everything. Lemme tell you they made a killing off that. That was the first time for Keke to come back to a screw tape. Let me tell you what they whole claim to fame is. Screwed Up Click got money and went into the real game, and then that freestyle shit we left, we left with them. And when we left it to them the CDs came out and it went.
Matt: Yeah well I met Watts at Music Mania selling tapes and CDs. And Screw wasn't selling his stuff to stores and never even did CDs.
Lil Keke: He didn't want to do CDs. I was on Koch, I went to Koch and got $200,000, Fat Pat at Wreck Shop, Hawk over here, we all went and got our deal and that whole freestyle over other peoples beats, that whole thing there was a whole void for that shit. And Slim and them picked it up. Them thousand that Screw used to move they went to Slim moving 10,000 of them. That's what ended up happening. So when I went over there to do that CD that was the first time that I had went back into them freestyles and let me tell you something, man Watts is genius with that shit in the lab.
Lil Keke: This why people say Watts not better than Screw because he was never there for the moment, it's all about the moment with Screw. That's what I tell people about Don't Mess With Texas. I ain't saying that it went platinum or it's the best such and such but the timing of Don't Mess With Texas when it came out, you'll never be able to repeat that man. Fat Pat, his CD came behind mine with "Ghetto Dreams" and all that, but when Don't Mess With Texas came out the city and the state was ready for it. The statement, the blueprint that that bitch made for the good of this city is still the same to this day.
K-Rino: And the loyalty, just like you say, you can come out and go platinum, it don't even matter because once that culture was established, and me and PSK can attest to it, the loyalty of the fans, they wouldn't care for a guy that came down and was selling ten million units, they gonna come to see you.
Lil Keke: You could tell us that 50 Cent is somewhere right now and we gonna stay sitting down right here at this here table. This is how Houston is. It's a culture based city. You can be a double, triple platinum artist... we love what we love.
PSK-13: Remember when Yungstar was hot with that "Knockin' Pictures Off The Wall" and he came and did that show with Nas, at Hofheinz Pavillion? After Yung got off and Nas came out that bitch was empty, and it was Nas!
C-Note: People don't believe that story but I was trying to explain to them how big our culture was.
Matt: Shit like that happened all the time actually.
K-Rino: See you can't mix them artists up when that fanbase is one sided like that. You in trouble. Somebody gonna suffer.
Lil Keke: That was the thing man, like Watts he ain't really tripping if he better than Screw, he just took advantage of the moment.
C-Note: Right when you dropped Don't Mess With Texas, you pretty much on the level of releasing CDs, you in the stores on the shelves, man that tape game was over. And the Swisha House came in and filled the void.
Lil Keke: And killed it! Man when I came back and went to Swisha House and did that Album Before the Album, man I was back at $1,000 a show. It got like that. Man within six months of that mixtape I was at $6-7,000 again. It done changed the game for me. I used to go in there with the mindset, like I got pride, I got all kinds of mixed feelings about this, but this what I'm saying, man I had to take advantage of the best opportunity that God gave me at the time. "I'm A G" is the second biggest song of my career. I went through hell to do it but let me tell you something man, I learned so much of what we was missing... We'd been living off of straight talent. When I went over there they weren't only talented, they was hard workers. let me tell you, them niggas is some working motherfuckers. T. Ferris? He would hear that Salih Williams had a beat finished and he was in San Antonio, man there wasn't no emailing at the time, T. Ferris would get up in the car and drive to San Antonio and pick that beat up right now at two o'clock in the morning unplanned. And finna drive it back and at six o'clock in the morning be in the studio with Paul Wall. Man I'm telling you that Album Before the Album and I did a Gangsta Grillz with DJ Drama, me and T. Ferris went in the studio at seven o'clock in the morning and came out there at three o'clock in the morning, we did the whole CD in one night. I had never did shit like this here before. That's how they work man. So the whole thang was they just was, they finessed it. I teach a class at Jones now, it's a Hip Hop 101 class. Right now I'm doing like some plumbing and air conditioning guests to get these kids to do some trades. Because we really giving them some real talk about hip hop. About that camouflaging and what you thinking and my main opening statement to them was talent versus hard work. It's a lot of y'all in here that got talent, but hey bro I was one of the best rappers, but my business game wasn't shit. I'm caught up to them right now, I'm not doing that much rap, I'm doing business now. And making rap count. Every CD I put out, man I got sixty CDs on Itunes, I'm piling it up, working working working and then fixing the business later. Because that's the way we came up. So my thing with these kids is to try and teach them that side of the game man. The difference between talent and hard work. Because us in Houston, we talented. You think about some of them Atlanta artists man, they not as talented as us, but they staying on the road seven days a week, and doing everything they need to do. But that 3 N The Morning it did so much for me. It was the first chance, Russ and them at Big Tyme Records, it was the first time that I felt that I might be a success. I never thought I could go platinum, I just wanted to put out a record. Everything about 3 N The Morning has been about gratefulness and appreciation. Matt: Right well we need to talk about 3 N The Morning specifically now. Russell, for people who don't know, what is the difference between Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 2 The Remix?
Russell: Part 1 and Part 2 The Remix, they uncleared, I just let him do whatever he wanted to do. Matt: So basically for Part 1 you told Screw that you wanted a mixtape to put out officially, and he came with Snoop songs and "Rock The Bells" and that didn't work out because you weren't able to clear all that so you came back and back doored it with 3 N The Morning Part 2 which featured Keke and more Houston guys. And then Part 2 the Remix...
Russell: Yeah everybody on Part 2, we cleared everything. He did 1 and 2 Remix together. Part 2 is Houston, The Remix has a couple of Houston songs on it, but it also had the original version of "Pimp The Pen" on the UGK beat and then after we got the orders, fear took in and after we did the business I realized I wasn't gonna get none of the money off of it I was like, ok scrap that. And then we went through and cleared everything and did the Part 2, blue.
Matt: What made you put Part 2 out on picture disc vinyl 20 years later?
Russell: That was Randy and them there man. I thought it was a good idea and we just rolled with it.
Matt: It's an amazing piece, and with the come back of vinyl I think the timing is really right. One thing that is important to know about Screw is that he didn't do CD's at all, he only used vinyl so I think putting out this vinyl is a real testament to what he did.
Russell: Yeah well if you listen to it, one thing I always liked about Screws work that he did for us above ground is that if you listen to it you like "OK I'm jammin'" but at a certain point on that CD it hit something and it start changing and you be like "Damn that mug just getting better and better." And by the time it hits "Pimp The Pen" you damn near jumping out of your car anyway. I remember when we drove up to the Soundwaves for the midnight release, that line was around the building! That's when midnight releases was something! If you could find an original One Sheet it says 3 N The Morning 1 and 2. We was going to drop them together. But then when All Screwed Up was doing so good, it had done well past what we had thought it would do, that's when I said man, "Do whatever you want to do, I don't care." I'm in the mode of saying "OK let's get this money." And when we did that and we got the orders, the orders was too big for us to put out. We wasn't able to put them numbers out on them records cuz the labels would be hitting us with cease and desists and suing us, so we just went back and redid it. The dude from Soundwaves came to me and said "I know you have them, what would it take to get you to press them up?" And I say "Tell me a number that gonna make me press 'em up." And he said the number and I pressed them up. Both those records, they great records, it's just the business wasn't handled on them.
Matt: Let's go through and get some thoughts on some of the songs on the album. Like, the background of "Watch Yo Screw." That was actually a real saying, you had to watch your Screw, your tapes would disappear and a lot of those tapes were one of a kind. C-Note: That's why I ain't got none left.
Lil Keke: They disappeared, they getting stole! Some of them getting stole by people you know. They in the car, and then they ain't there no more. And Screw is slow as shit too man, cuz when we get through doing this tape it's not just like it's coming in a couple of days.
Russell: It took me heck to get them. I done spent the night at that house like "C'mon man you gonna work?" He'd be like "I'm gettin' to it, I'm gettin' to it. " I'm like man this is, I wasn't used to that. Once it started it usually would go, but it was worth the wait. Matt: Tell me about "Smokin' and Leanin'" and about how you might feel now about how so many songs are about smoking and leaning and all the attention that lean is getting now. There's TV specials being made about it.
C-Note: That's a good idea. When we did "Smokin' and Leanin'" it was kind of a swing off of ESG's "Swangin and Bangin." I kind of like to drop stuff on them, I ain't wanna just put lean out there like... they really didn't know what we was talkin' about. We talkin' about smokin' ok, but then we talkin' about leanin' and they kind of probably thought we was leanin' on switches unless you was from around here, around our way, we knew you know what I mean? Our circle knew, but like you say now a days looking back on it, now people probably know what we was talking about. We was a little bit ahead of our time. I remember Screw came to me with this 3 N The Morning and he wanted to use "Cloverland" and "Smokin' and Leanin'" on there. Like Keke said, I was just happy to be on there. Not one but two songs, I was like "Go on and put 'em on there Screw." I was just happy to see his own album coming out, it was a good time. Everybody was dropping albums at the time. Screw, Keke, Fat Pat was working on them, he would say "A song a day keep the haters away," and that's how we did 3rd Coast Born. That was Fat Pat's saying. We had some good times back then. One thing I remember about 3 N The Morning, all the sounds and songs he had mixed together, he had like this whole, he had got like a bunch of tape decks and he would have probably about six beats playing together at one time and they was all mixed together if you listened to it. That was because he had multiple double tape decks and everything was just playing. It took him a while to make it, it was a time consuming thing. I remember the process. I was like "Damn that's how you doing that Screw?"
Lil Keke: I gave up cuz man Screw trying to do that and he trying to do them Screw tapes and them Screw tapes is #1. He was like "Hey man this shit cool, but hey man they need this fire by Friday."
C-Note: It had gotten so popular, like I say, when I used to do it, it was mostly personals, but then when he moved to Greenstone, what was the last house he was at? Not the one in Missouri City, the one before that. When he moved over there that's when he told me, "Man the tapes that I make for y'all they might gonna get duplicated. Cuz I got so many customers, I can't make everybody a personal tape. It's impossible." So he couldn't make everybody a personal tape. He was like "If we do something just know it's gonna get duplicated." So it might be a thousand copies of your mixtape out there...
Lil Keke: Blowing you up and you don't even know!
C-Note: So I was like cool mayne.
Matt: Well Botany Boys were leaders in the streets before this ever came out. You guys had put out records before a lot of people did. When this came out did you see your popularity increase? Did you change what you were doing as a result of this album?
C-Note: Most definitely, it only bettered everything. And I'm on there with that Keke, that "Pimp The Pen" was on there too and that was on the radio off the album and everything was a good time, it was all good. Like I say, I was happy that he put me on there. I already knew before it dropped that it was gonna be a good idea. That Screw yeah, he did big things. I knew he had the potential.
Matt: What did y'all think of this type of imagery? The skulls and all this, where did that come from in those days? This is before Three-6-Mafia and all that.
Lil Keke: That was Pen & Pixel, they was the first ones with this, they did all the covers back then.
Matt: Yeah but this is some heavy metal shit. This didn't look like a rap cover in 1996.
Russell: That was gonna be our logo, the Big Tyme logo, cuz we had been left for dead many times. My brother in law actually drew the skull and I went to Pen & Pixel and told them to make me something like that. They made the original skull. But it was from a drawing. If you look on Still Afloat, it says the skull idea is from Jason Green. Which was my little brother in law. I think he was 15 or 16 then and he drew it for me. When we was doing the Screw's he never wanted his picture on it so we just ran with it. Cuz Still Afloat was the first one with a skull on it, then All Screwed Up was the second, we just threw the Screw in it. Like I say we was trying to save money and release the record so it was easy to just change the color and throw a Screw on it. That's what we did, but then when we did 3 N The Morning we kept going with it. We just added a clock. Then what was crazy, it became where it wasn't our logo no more, it was Screws logo. They just took it from us.
Matt: Man well there were other slowed down DJ's at the time who were using similar imagery.
K-Rino: They were marketing after that.
Russell: Yeah it became a thing and some of them actually had some pretty good skulls I liked. I looked at them all.
Creg: On Part 1 how close did you get to being able to find a margin with the lawyers?
Russell: I met with my attorney here, an intellectual property lawyer. Cuz he was telling me the penalties because I was still going to do it even though I knew it because I'm a gun slinger. I was like, I ain't got sued for no samples yet, I'm gonna roll the dice. But then he was like "Oh they can get four times the damages, for each song." I was like "Man skip all that, what am I gonna go home with?" He said "Zero." So then of course I had to go back and start doing it right. Zero was a number I didn't want to hear. I was like if I got a hundred thousand orders, I'm finna make a mill ticket. if he would have said the right number there never would have been a two. There would have been a one and a remix.
Lil Keke: If they would have been able to accept that Part 1 where they really getting to see his real skills and everybody that he really loved and the music that he liked, these C-Bo's all this crazy shit, Snoop, it's over.
Russell: What's crazy is how many people submitted stuff, man Master P slid wax under the door, all kind of people. Screw turned all that stuff down. He like, "It don't fit." I was like "It don't fit? Just put a piece of Master P in there cuz he was hot." I said man "You just need to take a look. Do the outro on one of his songs, just so we can put Master P on there.
Lil Keke: When his mind made up, it was over. Now on your tape, on what you doing, you can do whatever you want to do. Screw would put whatever. You want to start over fifty times, we gonna do all that because it was going to be a hundred years before he get it done anyway. But on his own shit, the tape that Screw is doing for himself? You ain't finna tell him shit.
C-Note: It wasn't even like, Botany Boys, I was trying to get him to Screw it from the CD and Screw was like "Naw man, you got to have the wax! I'm not finna do that for you." And I said man, you know how expensive wax is. Man I had to get everything done to get all my songs on wax...
K-Rino: I had a song he wanted to put on something back in the day and I had it on CD, and he said "Man I'ma get the test pressing, and then we gonna cancel the order."
Russell: That's how I did All Screwed Up! I said I'm gonna get me some wax, I got the test pressings, I said "You got a few more?" And they gave me them, and I ran with it.
Lil Keke: Now me, from 3 N The Morning, me and Screw we didn't fall out but he lost baby boy. This was, he just was busy as Russell. But this was my thang to him, "Screw, there is no way in the history of the United States of America that I could wait for you." It just took us a year and half to do this thing, and you want me to tell you that I am going to wait on you to do this for me?
Russell: We kept asking about Keke when we was doing this, asking if Keke was signed to Screw and what's the deal? He said "I'm down with y'all, Keke down with me, we gonna do this." But then it's that politicking side where you can't just go around somebody. If he saying the man with him, you gotta respect that there.
Lil Keke: Well I was with him, but Screw was doing these Screw tapes and he was doing an album. I've done a Screw tape. Lemme tell you something, doing a Screw tape ain't what you think! Doing a Screw tape is "Heyyyyy, this is hell!" Like you going over there like 12 noon, leaving at 12 noon the next day. And you might not even be through with it. You might get a six hour period where Screw just be like asleep. When Screw say he finna go to Jack In The Box, aw man it's a whole new ball game. Dots and Jack In The Box. Jack IN The Box was in the middle of the night. When that Screw tape turn off and we finna go to Jack IN The Box? That's a three or four hour stretch. That getting the food, taking it out, getting it back home and back to the tape this is hours and then we finna go back to him asking "Where was we at?"
Creg: Did any of you go to Dots with him?
Lil Keke: Yeah, lemme tell you something, you want that Screw tape so bad, you finna put up with all that shit. You going to Dots, so 3 N The Morning man, when Russ went there working on that, that was good luck. And that's why the process was killing us, so we was going through the process, through the motions with him. It took some months to put this project together. Russell: Yeah some real months. By the time he was finished with that record, I owed Southwest Wholesale $50,000. I had borrowed $50,000 just cuz I kept thinking it was almost done. And I was like "Oh God please let this money come back!" Because there's been times you think a cd is gonna do what it do, and it don't. So we was blessed with that one. I remember that day, man I owed so many people, when we dropped that record if you could be there the first day that we got that off the presses, man the bosses from Southwest was packing orders, Aaron and Shawn from Pen & Pixel was boxing orders, me and Eddie boxing orders, we shipped 58,000 the first day. What was so crazy, we owed every person in the room money. They was finna get all our first money cuz it took too long to do it. They knew it was gonna do good so they loaned me money to keep me going while we waiting. I'm sitting at the table saying "Man it's gonna be good. It's going a little slow but..." I was lying, I didn't know what it was gonna be! They advanced me a little bit and at the end of the day...
Lil Keke: That's why we here where we at today, because Robert Guillerman from Southwest Wholesale was so nice.
Russell: Robert was so nice.
Lil Keke: We loved it, we miss Robert.
Russell: Yeah man, we miss Robert.
Lil Keke: Lemme tell you where he been good to me at. In my later days in life, all the ways I been making money, he sort of turned me on to everything. He made me a boss. Like when I got through, cuz I was on his ass. Patrick missing, everybody missing, somebody owe me some money. Robert said "Let me tell you what I can do. I'm gonna turn you on to this and that and I'm going to make you a boss." And I'm saying all that to say that all of that was created from that 3 N The Morning. Man Robert coming to see us was like Lyor Cohen coming to see us. Like when Patrick from Jam Down was first telling me he needed me to be at the studio and be on time because Robert is coming. I was like, Robert must be the shit. Robert gonna bring them projects and cut them checks. Those were the great days, them numbers, see now, I'm sad now. First eight thousand albums? Boy if I could just hit one more 58,000 selling album, right there, that would take me right on out.
Creg: So you are saying you were making good money independent?
Lil Keke: Maaaaaaan! We was getting like $8.75 a pop! That Soundwaves game was big too! We would go down to see Jeff from Soundwaves in the Montrose, the main one, and he would buy a thousand cds, fifteen hundred cds at $8 a pop! Man them was the good old days!
C-Note: Man the thang about Big Tyme too mayne, I was listening to UGK, PSK-13 and I ain't even know where it came from. Until you know right around the end when UGK was leaving or they went they separate ways, around the time when they dropped Screw I was like, ok, Big Tyme Records.
K-Rino: Russell evolved and stayed relevant. We was just talking about how there ain't no more record stores, and Russ still here. I remember Russ opened up in the flea market! We had C.O.D. out, Russ was one of the first people that bought tapes off us on consignment. This how far back I go, we was pressing up tapes and vinyl before it really got to CDs. And he was one of the first stores that bought consignment on us, or even bought it straight up. Darryl Scott, Big Tyme Records, Top Hits, there was a store on every store like a liquor store. Now you need a telescope to find a record store.
Russell: If you find one they might not even sell music! K-Rino: Yeah they selling surf boards, t-shirts, bongs and everything else.
Matt: One question I think can wrap this up. Releasing the picture disc, I think what you did with that vinyl, is a great testament to Screw and is a great way to keep his name alive. But a lot of people have made money off of what Screw did and to me it's one of the most heartbreaking stories in music ever to see all the incredible stuff that has happened with the music that he created in the 16 years since he died. But there is a core group of people who have kept things real since he died. In the big picture Screw was in obscurity to the world, he had his fanbase but he didn't have what he has now.
Russell: You gotta think about how many fans made shirts and stuff and pictures for him. They love him.
K-Rino: What other artist in the city of Houston, and I want to say Texas period, this is one person you know who name gets said every day. That's a name you gonna hear in this city forever. You gonna hear somebody say Screw. He did what he was born to do. When he said he want to Screw up the whole world, he did that. Some people are just born to make they mark and get on out of there.
C-Note: With that being said what level do you think Screw would be on if he was alive?
PSK-13: He'd be bigger than Khaled.
K-Rino: Or because he was so humble and down to earth, he might not be! Because he wasn't trippin' off that type of stuff!
PSK-13: But he was kind of though, he was getting into production and even rapping on a couple songs.
Lil Keke: Man I had him rappin' on "Pimp The Pen," he went to trying to make a couple beats. This the thing about Screw, it wasn't really that he didn't want it. Let me tell you what the detriment was, a thousand, five hundred, six, seven hundred tapes times $10 three or four times a week, it's too hard to think about other shit. It's hand over fist. I'm thinking about it now, cuz I'm thinking about these machines they have now, man Screw was boxing up thousands of tapes, dubbing in the house.
C-Note: He lived that. He sold so many units right next to my booth at a car show one time, man... he did six figures that day maybe.
Russell: I know man that's what I tried to tell him, I showed him the list and said "This is all the stores, just give the OK bro and you gonna collect money, money!"
Lil Keke: He don't know how much he could have really done doing that because if he would have done that he could have taken his tapes to the real dubbing machine. He got this one over here that's doing thirty or forty but we could take it over here to one that will do ten thousand with the labels and everything on it, but see all that was getting too, it was moving too fast. Man Screw liked that burglar bar $10, $10, $10... and he liked to just, Screw the type of person, you tell him he's going slow it's going in one ear and out the other. You tell Screw to hurry and he ain't hurrying. He wasn't never hurrying. That's also the greatest thing about him, Screw was Screw man. From a sad standpoint, from a dead stand point, when Screw died it was from Screw not being Screw to me. That was from everybody coming over there and everybody pulling on him to do this and do that. When Screw was just doing Screw you came with a respect for Screw. You came to get a tape and you knew you was gonna get it, when he got done with it. I'll tell you this, in the Screw house in Missouri City, you put a million dollars on the table right now on Screw porch in Missouri City, nobody can't get no direction, no navigation, they say "Keke go get that million dollars off that porch right now." I can't get it. I never been there before. Never. I never seen that house, I never seen that part of Screw life. I ain't never tell y'all that these other people not in the SUC, Screw had lots of friends, but they not from where I came from. I never even been there before, not one time. I don't even be thinking that some people ain't Screwed Up Click, I tell people a crazy Screwed Up Click story, did you know that Screw wanted the Screwed Up Click to be, before it was a huge click? Screwed Up Click was me, Fat Pat and Screw, like Run DMC, the DJ and the two rappers. Me and Pat was the Twosome Two and this was the thang, this was his come up. This was the first thing he seen to go to the other side from a rap stand point and put something out. Not just putting out a Screw tape, but being a CEO/Boss that was Screws vision, me and Pat, that was the SUC. So we used to talk about this here, me and Fat Pat the Twosome Two. Man I tell people this here, we beat everybody to Screw house. That singing that Big Moe did, me and Pat was already thinking that we could sing like that. Moe just could really do that. Big Pokey will tell you, Moe used to say "Man I want to get over Screw house, what can I do? I love Fat Pat." Pokey was going to play football, never been to Screw house, ESG was really not at Screw house every day all day like that. He was a rapper from Louisiana that had a song called "Swangin' and Bangin'" and he brought it over and Screw chopped it and done it. People don't like to hear this. But the Screwed Up Click was born while he was gone. It's unfortunate, I love ESG, he in it, but ESG ended up being incarcerated. When he came back me and Pat was the biggest thing he ever seen. When he left we was swangin' and bangin' and that was like a song. See these were songs, we hadn't made a song yet, we still were freestyling. He had brought that song on there, he had better recognition than we had as an artist. He wasn't from none of these neighborhoods, he painted that picture and let us know that we was on the right route. He ended up getting in some trouble and he left. When he came back, man we was south sidin', all this was poppin'. I watched Pokey come over there. Pokey was at Blynn College, Abilene Christian playing football coming over there, his claim to fame is Who's Next With Plex and Leanin' On A Switch. Those were the two biggest Screw tapes of his life and they were the ones that made him an SUC artist and started getting paid as a rapper. Pokey was pure football. Hawk used to stay with me and worked at American General. Wore slacks and button downs every day and went to work. Could not say a rap. Hawks first raps were very simple. If you go back to Screw tapes, Pat don't have no freestyles. I kill people with this shit right here. Fat Pat wasn't on 3 N The Morning. Pat was doing something else at the time. It wasn't nobody here but me and Screw. Pat had started hanging with 3-2 and became Southside Playaz and such and such. He left Screw a whole long message on his answering machine about this 3 N The Morning about "You and Keke went nationwide, and all that." See people don't know this stuff. I'll back it up with this here, where he at? He not on there. He missed it. That's a major story. One of the biggest SUC artists, Fat Pat, the first person at Screw house, he not on there.
C-Note: I never noticed that.
Everyone: Me either.
Lil Keke: Cuz I got the story. I beat everybody to Screw house. I was fifteen! Man you can't make the Screw movie without me, I got all the stories. People don't understand that. I'm talking about, Hawk stayed in the same house as me! He wore Hush Poppies and slacks and worked at American General insurance company. He wasn't rapping. I taught Hawk how to write his raps in 16's. Hawk used to write his raps in a paragraph and he used to read it. When I first started rapping I used to think I'd rap like Ganksta NIP, you know saying wild shit and listening to they music. Pat not on 3 N The Morning. He was hanging with 3-2. 3-2 was a real rapper to them. 3-2 used to come to Screw house and laugh at us, like "Y'all playin'!" He'd be smoking and not passing. C-Note: He'd say "This not really the studio."
Lil Keke: They first Screw tape was called Call Up On Drank. That's when they kind of big time. 3-2 was with Rap-A-Lot. Fat Pat had kind of transitioned over with them because he felt like we was wasting time. So while he was burning off and running, Screw was making 3 N The Morning. I was steady begging! I needed to get on there, in my mind I was thinking this gonna do something. Pat not even on this tape. See that's a significant story. Nobody even know the reason. How you miss 3 N The Morning and we worked on it damn near a year? You was missing the whole time. I was still there. I was still freestyling.
C-Note: So that was when he got with Wreckshop eventually right?
Lil Keke: Well DWreck called me, he wanted to sign me. His brother played for the Atlanta Falcons. He wanted to sign me and Pat. He booked the plane tickets to Atlanta. I never got on the plane because I already took the deal with Patrick. Pat got on the plane, left and got the deal. C-Note: I never knew he went all the way to Atlanta to get that deal!
Lil Keke: He got us both tickets, he wanted to sign both of us. Guess who he wanted to sign? The SUC! The Twosome Two! This is when he had been talking to Screw, this is what he discovered. He wanted to sign both of us, when I didn't go he signed Pat. Pat missed that 3 N The Morning. Pat left Screw a message on his answering machine as long as day. Because the juice had went to flowing. That "Pimp The Pen" went to radio. People never knew, never knew to this day. Listen to all three versions, Pat ain't on there. Listen to my album Don't Mess With Texas, Hawk wasn't on there. They wasn't rapping then. Hawk stayed in the same house with me, drove a Thunderbird and went to work everyday. Could not do one freestyle, would not do one rap.
C-Note: Tell me this, when Pat dropped with Wreckshop, I jumped on the album, I got on there, one thing about it he died before it dropped. But man on Screw voicemail, that number 289-1092 if you call Screws phone you gonna hear that "How we miss our G's." That nigga had that shit on there from the time Pat album came out until Screw died, that nigga was hurt about that shit.
Lil Keke: Oh he was hurt, he was super hurt. The thing is, we wasn't tripping with Pat. Pat wanted this. Way before Lil Keke ever wanted this, Pat was in rap mode and wanted this. Pat real flamboyant, a star, this is serious. So when 3-2 started to come around, 3-2 was in a 1996 El Dorado, video out, Pat mezmirised. I'm mezmirized too but 3-2 ain't really messing with me like that. He messing with Pat because he and Mike D, they rolling, they dranking. To be honest they moving faster. Lemme tell you something. This gonna kill y'all. Pat wasn't feeling Hawk. He was like "Man Hawk can 't rap, my brother can't rap." What is you trippin' on? Man Pat and 3-2 was over there coming up with a click, Southside Playaz. "Money Over Bitches." This shit was big! They on right now! Me and Screw over there, like, yeah I'm still going to Screw house two to three times a week. Pat missed this whole era because they was all the way out of bounds, and on top of that Screw was taking a million years. So this was the thing, they missed it. This was a major, significant album and this what gave me the jump to the front. This CD right there gave me, now the Screw tapes did one thing but this right here, come on mayne... right now this "Draped Up and Dripped Out" word, everybody owe me at least a dollar a month. Gimme a dollar a month, the whole game until I'm out. This is some serious, and that's how I'm gonna sum that up. I owe it all to 3 N The Morning and Maestro with the microphone in the middle of the thang. Lemme tell you something, Screw was tripping on that "Pimp The Pen" too. He was like "Man you wrote that shit!" I could have done that shit freestyle and man it was gonna go right on that tape. But when I came in there and hit that Screw with that "Draped Up and Dripped Out," man, he was shook!
C-Note: So tell me this Ke, when you did it, you knew that you done killed it?
Lil Keke: Oh I knew it! Cuz it was all my talk rolled up in one and the way Screw had it, it came up BOOM. I came up like man I'm on my way now.
C-Note: Cuz we was busy freestyling. I'm not the best freestyler I'm just doing it having fun but when Keke came with that "Pimp the Pen" I was like, "Man Keke wrote that there mayne."
Lil Keke: Man to be real I'm kind of mad at 3 N The Morning cuz I fell out of my freestyle. Hahaha. I'm a writing man now, so that's what kind of took me out of the freestyle thing. But let me tell you what's so cold because I can bring it all full circle cuz I come back and I got a CD coming out and I'm back into the freestyles on there, everything, cuz my friends been demanding that, it's 20 years later and they want it and it's beautiful man. I'm so glad. I tell people all the time, no regrets, no nothing man, because in order to take one piece of that history out you gonna lose the rest. Yeah I almost had a deal with Priority with Master P and this and that, I had a thousand things. Let me tell you one of my first regrets,k that Patrick and them talked me into, I rarely tell this here, but this is one I do. Man, Lil Troy begged me for that "Wanna Be A Baller" for weeks. He let me hear what Yungstar did, man, at this time I'm the shit though. I'm in there. So he coming over there and we in a mode like "Man everybody want a part of Lil Keke right now." So he coming over there and he is begging me to be on it, and I thought that shit was horrible. This before the Pat part on there though. That ain't on there. It was crazy. No we done fell in love with that Yungstar shit later, but imagine hearing that right then. Man I done missed out on a double platinum...
C-Note: Man nobody saw that one coming man.
Lil Keke: Nobody mayne! And guess what that gonna lead to? The same thing that he talking about from a 3 N The Morning standpoint, Yungstar really fried the deal after that. They popped him with a deal right after that! I was like damn, Lil Troy done went around the world, made a million dollars, he ain't even rap on the song. That's why, what God got for you, he gonna give to you. He lost on that Scarface thing, J done took it from him, and that was one of the worst things that ever happened to Lil Troy. Man God came back 15 years later and blessed that man with two platinum records 15 years later at 40 something. The point was made, what God got for you, you gonna get it when you supposed to. --
Interview by Matt Sonzala