-A strangely addictive Chopped and Screwed tape that takes the simplest approach to remixing.

There’s not much to “smoke break.” Falling in the realm of Chopped and Screwed, it’s so much “chopped” or “screwed” really. It’s just 17 existing songs, (usually of the Southern Hip-Hop variety, as per Chopped and Screwed tradition), titled as Roman numerals, that are pitch shifted up and down, often many times in one song. So while it makes you wonder about the creative merits of it at times, some songs just feel better at different pitches, and this project definitely hits on that magic at times here.

The times it does are most notably on “II,” a Lil Flip song that DJ Screw himself actually remixed back in the day, and on “XI,” the Schoolboy Q song “Hands on the Wheel.” It’s so strange, but the slight alteration of the latter’s hook feels so much betterĀ than the original, and honestly I’m quite addicted to this version to the point where I’m reluctant to return to the actual song. The former takes a pretty bouncy and energetic Southern Hip-Hop song and pitch shifts it down further and further and gets it to sound as serene as the album cover looks, as the electric piano on the track gets more watery as the pitch gets deeper. Just shows how ten minutes with a software program can really change a song.

The rest of this project isn’t quite as magical, but there are some highlights. “IX” sounds like it’s dragging Bryson Tiller’s “How About Now” through mud, the opening track is really bouncy Southern goodness, “VII” really just rests on the quality of the original song’s hook but the shifting of it down gives it a unsettling feel, and “XV” is a beautiful religious folk song, altered so it sounds desolate and peaceful. Again, like the gorgeous cover.

The quality of this project really rests on the original material, though. Some of the pitches drastically improve the songs, like on “XI,” but there aren’t really huge changes made. So when the original song isn’t that good, it’s going to be as not good here, obviously. The closer is just a ridiculously boring pitch shifted E-40 song, and other tracks “VI” and “VII” are just slightly altered bangers that are way better left untouched. But despite the downfalls of this project, there are some absolutely magical moments coming from the simplest of changes.

3.5 stars

Standout Tracks: “II” “XI” “XV”