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Beat Construction: OG Ron C

photographer Mary Kang

One of Houston’s finest finds a second life for screwed and chopped music with help from a famous friend.

For the past two decades, Houston’s OG Ron C has been releasing mixes of chopped and screwed R&B, slowing down original songs with luxuriant, echoing depth. Unlike DJ Screw, who also rose to prominence in Houston in the early ’90s by slowing music down to a syrup-drenched crawl, Ron C and his partner Michael Watts, as Swishahouse, kept the tempos up, holding onto the beat. “Swishahouse style—we always wanted our stuff to have people groove to it,” says Ron. “You can almost dance to mine, in a little slow way.”

It’s this dark, sensual style that got OG Ron C noticed by Drake, who wanted to purchase the entire catalog of Ron’s F-Action mix CDs. The F-Action series reached a creative apex in the four-disc F-Action 40, released in 2005; each disc represented a different era of R&B, from contemporary hits (Usher’s “Lovers and Friends”) to yesterday’s (Ginuwine’s “In Those Jeans”), from the new-old school (Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”) to the old-old school. An incredible version of Ray Charles’ “(Night Time Is) the Right Time” closes out disc four, its yawning texture dusty and atmospheric, as if weather damaged on its voyage through the decades. By converging eras of love songs, Ron gives them a consistent sound and erases trivial generational divisions. It seems as if, as a byproduct of the slowing process, the air in a decades-old recording booth takes on a tactile sensation. It’s easy to see why this might appeal to Drake, whose releases have created a hermetic world within hip-hop.

Soon after he reached out to purchase the F-Action collection, Drake was in Houston, and Ron met him in the studio with his order, where Drake revealed something even more surprising: he claimed to have written the bulk of his verses to the slowed R&B rhythms of Ron’s mixes. “As time went on, I could see that might have been a true thing, just from how his records are,” Ron says. “They’re so Houston-influenced. He listens to all the F-Action CDs in his one-bedroom apartment, and writes music.”

After surprising Drake with a screwed and chopped remix of his debut LP, Thank Me Later, OG Ron C and his associate DJ Candlestick were brought on to slow Take Care as well. Since then, Ron has received a flurry of renewed attention. “When Chop Care [Ron’s screwing of Take Care] came out, I think that really brought Screw music back to the forefront,” says Ron. “[These artists] grew up on it, and now they get to be a part of the culture.” But for him, it’s a lot bigger than that. As a DJ who has played a pioneering role in Houston’s musical history, OG Ron C is optimistic about chopped and screwed music having a continual role in hip-hop and R&B. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see, in 2012, people back on Screw music heavily, like they were in 2003, 2004, 2005. The world was Screw music. It’s finna come back now, the world is gonna be back into Screw music once again.”

Beat Construction: OG Ron C