Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Chadwick Jenkins

Committee Members

Shaugn O'Donnell

Jeffrey Taylor

Graham Harman

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Hip Hop Studies | Musicology | Philosophy


Southern hip hop, authenticity, Houston, DJ Screw, place and space, popular music


This dissertation traces the impact of the mixtapes of DJ Screw on the emergence of Houston hip hop culture in the 1990s. The relationship between these “screwtapes” and local culture resists demonstration through conventional modes of representational analyses, due in part to the screwtape’s preponderant use of hip hop tracks that originally represent other places. I suggest that representation itself is the result of the structuring tension emerging from a threefold field of representation of sound, objecthood, and place, and that when a hip hop artist or critic or fan claims to "represent" Houston (or any other constituted and constituting place) the mechanisms that make such representation possible are not a mere matter of indexicality (pointing in some relatively direct manner to the place one professes to represent) but rather the result of competing exigencies among materialities, localities, and sounding presences.

This dissertation divides into three chapters, each of which highlights a different sonic-cultural tension. In the first chapter I argue that the sonic techniques Screw uses to deform mostly non-Houston tracks are the force behind the screwtape’s representation of Houston, which problematizes conventional analyses of hip hop representation. Through close musical analysis and an expansion of the philosophical concept of the sublime, I advance a theory of the screw sublime, which foregrounds an enduring strife between local cultural autonomy and wider mainstream heteronomy.