In the male dominated music world, female DJs are in the minority, especially when it comes to hip-hop. And when it comes to female scratch DJs, aka turntablists, the number of female artists is even smaller. Exceptions include DJ Shortee, Kuttin Kandi, and the Bay Area DJ duo of Deeandroid and Celskiii, who have been busy perfecting their game for over a decade now.
Tonight the Filipino female DJ duo, who were invited on tour by KRS-One a few years back, will be throwing their popular twice-monthly Skratchpad turntablist event (every first and third Tuesday) at The Cellar in San Francisco. The event had been on hiatus for a few years and returned just this May. I caught up with the two Vallejo natives to ask them about their party (including its "funky freestyle jam") and other aspects of the hip-hop DJ music they both so passionately love. They, like many other diehards, spell "skratch" with a K.
Amoeblog: Can you run down the history of Skratchpad -- from the first time out to the revised 2009 version?
Deeandroid: We started Skratchpad at the (old) Sublounge in May 2003. The Resident DJs were Celskiii, Wint-One, Amerriica and myself. We had a desire to organize and start up an open turntable event, since the Bay Area is like a DJ mecca. We loved to skratch and party and really missed the inspiration from when they had night events like the Beat Lounge at Deco. Celskiii and myself
were very influenced by the Beat Lounge weekly party/DJ session that was held at Deco back in 1997, where we [were] exposed to a great selection of rare & original music from DJs that were very talented, guests and rotating DJ residents/turntablists that were making some noise in the DJ scene at that time. The showcases and DJ sets were amazing, from cats like Apollo, Vin Roc, Derrick D, Shortkut, Spydamonkey, Snaykeyes, etc. So when Beat Lounge stopped...years later, Cel, Winst-One and I thought it would be dope if we created our own space for the DJs in the Bay Area to network, come together, and just jam in honor of Beat Lounge and to inspire new heads and practitioners of the DJ arts.
Celskiii: When we started Skratchpad at Sublounge our hope was to just get all the skratchers together for sessions. Sublounge was a nice spot. It had a basement and we just brought in our equipment each month. We also had guest DJs come in to just spin -- my partner, Jus Jones, was also spinning with us in 2003. We started doing it for the love and never made any money off of it. In the late 90s Deeandroid and I used to go to Beat Lounge at Deco and were inspired by Derrick D and the whole Beat Lounge crew. That was our inspiration for doing Skratchpad. We wanted to have a space where we could just play good music, listen to good music, and have DJs showcase their skills. The Bay has so many fresh DJs with all kinds of styles and selection.
Amoeblog: Why did you decide to start doing Skratchpad again now in 2009?
Deeandroid: There is a need for Skratchpad because there is no other event out there quite like this. Folks missed it when we stopped. When we took a break after Sublounge's ownership changed, we tried to continue doing it at Azul with the Distortion 2 Static's Love Movement party. Last Skratchpad was in August 2006. When we stopped, during the 2 1/2 year break skratch DJs who regularly showed up were telling us that they had nowhere to session with folks anymore. Some people from out of town who've heard about Skratchpad sessions before were also still looking for it when they visited San Francisco. So we wanted to keep the event alive to inspire all the DJs in the Bay Area and DJs that visit from elsewhere to help elevate the art of DJing -- from skratching to beat juggling to making beats live to sharing original music, [we wanted] a place for upcoming talented DJs to be seen and heard, [to] get experience performing in front of people and out of their bedrooms and to inspire the DJ art practitioners, kind of like putting DJs in check in case their DJ skills have gotten rusty since some are doing more club partying, rocking events.
It also took us a while to find the right spot. I've been looking at the Cellar for the past year and Skratchpad was planned to come back in summer '08. We were waiting for an opening at a club with two rooms and a basement party feel. With the help of DJ Bizi Beatz, we were able to lock down The Cellar as Skratchpad's new home since there are two rooms, [including the Cypher room and] the party room for DJs to rock a party and show that skratch DJs can rock it on the dance floor just as [well] as when they showcase or skratch, etc.
Celskiii: We always wanted to keep Skratchpad going but we got busy with life...Also right now, it seems like Skratchpad and hip-hop events such as Mighty 4 Jams that promote the music, culture, and our art form are so necessary. If we want to keep the music and culture alive, then we have to pass it on. This is one way to pass it on. A lot of younger cats didn't grow up during that raw 90's era but that doesn't mean that they don't [get] to experience what we were so lucky to have been exposed to. Skratchpad is just another dope hip-hop event that is pure edutainment--like KRS-One calls it. We can entertain and educate at the same time. That's hip-hop!
Amoeblog: How has the new 2009 Skratchpad series been?
Deeandroid: Skratchpad started up again a few months ago, on May 5th, and every single Skratchpad since [has] been great. Skratchpad's comeback has been so dope, and [has had] such a great turnout from an audience that is really open to hearing something different and original that you can't get anywhere else in the Bay or in the world perhaps. There definitely is an amazing energy at Skratchpad with the crowd/audience who shows up. There's a lot of love for DJing.
Celskiii: The very first one had...Shortkut as our special guest. This is how much folks were waiting for this to start: one of our OG Skratchpad heads, C-Plus, drove up from L.A. to SF just to cut it up! That's love. And that passion and energy is definitely felt in that Cypher room and with the party people on the dance floor in the other room. The Q & A sessions have also gotten smoother. There's actually a sign up sheet for DJs who wanna get on and rock. We also have so many DJs that are contributing to the event and part of the rotation and even helping out with bringing in equipment. It's great! So many people are doing this out of strength right now as we build the party. It's a free party and we need more free hip-hop events in the Bay.
Amoeblog: How different is it now from the first series?
Deeandroid: We have more DJs involved from different crews, so it brings us all together and inspires us all to get better collectively. There is more support with more folks coming through. We still have the regulars from Skratchpad at Sublounge rolling through, so it's cool to see how we've all evolved since then. It's more fun! This time around we have more support and respect from DJs. Seems like DJs understand more and more how important this kind of event is for this present time with the true art of hip-hop being sort of a "lost art" for the masses, great for us all to get together and jam.
Celskiii: It's different because now it's just not Dee, Winst-One, Amerriica, and I who are running it. Everyone in the roster is contributing and it's bigger than it was six years ago when it started. The energy is different too -- people are really excited -- because it seems as though people were missing a place to just session and get together since we ended it back in 06-07 at Azul. It feels like folks are compelled to practice harder and come with it at the next [event]. It feels like I'm kind of reliving what I felt in the late 90s in the Bay. The format is also a little different because we are encouraging DJs to spin original breaks/rare grooves to vibe out (a dope element inspired by Beat Lounge at Deco) before we have our guest DJ showcase, then after that we have the open session until the end. We also are incorporating producers -- so many of them are DJs anyway -- including Lady Fingaz and Mike Boo, to rock their beats. Also, it's a bi-weekly so we don't have to wait around for a whole month to session again like the old Skratchpad days.
Amoeblog: Who are the DJs, the rotating residents, currently involved?
Deeandroid: Myself and Celskiii of course, Winst-One (Skratchpad), Bizbeatz (Collab), Swiftrock (Mighty 4), Teeko (4Onefunk), Ant-One (Wild n Crazy Kids/Risky Bizness), Mista B (4Onefunk), Lady Fingaz (Females Wit Funk), Delrokz (All Mighty Fam), DJ BEV, Jus Jones (Horse Power), Sir Tipp (Wild n Crazy Kids/Risky Bizness), BeatsMe, Max Kane (4Onefunk), Tyra from Saigon (Females Wit Funk), DnZ (Amazing Zoo Crew), DJ Fooders (Zulu), Kwest, Erock707 (Live Mix Show), Thatgirl, ShredOne (Brookyln Circus), Charlie Darker (Jimi Handtrix), Deanski, Mr. MuddBird (Nod Factor Crew), Chungtech (Sweater Funk), Rok Fresh, PriMO, Jasper Johnson, Ruby Red I (Wild n Crazy Kids/Risky Bizness), Amerriica (Skratchpad), Shawn Dub, Gel-O (Wild n Crazy Kids/Risky Bizness), Jerm Nutt, Wessyde, Kiddee (Rock Force), Chicken Skratch, Joonyer, Am-Almighty, C-Plus, Mike Boo, and Rawkbeez. Plus we've had very special guest performances / showcase sets by Shortkut (Beat Junkies, Triple Threat, ISP), Swift Rock (Mighty 4), Teeko (4onefunk) -- amazing sets using the very innovative Contoller One turntable plus made beats on MPC. Coming up we have Mista B (4oneFunk). So many special guests just show up, too, it's like a DJ reunion & place for b-boys and b-girls to do their thang on the dance floor.
Amoeblog: What do you tell the participant DJs is the format and do you try to explain "funky freestyle jam?"
Deeandroid: We have DJs fill out a sign up sheet before midnight, so we know who is cutting it up during the open turntable session, [and] try to be sure everyone gets a chance to get on and jam! Before the session, we have the Skratchpad residents spinning rare/original DJ sets by DJ Fooders, DJ Mr. Muddbird, Lady Fingaz, and Mista B. Open turntable session opens up with the showcase set by the Cypher room headliner of the evening, who does his or her thing for a ten minute showcase, and then does the beats for about a total of 45 minutes. Then two more Skratchpad DJs hold down the beats for the rest of the night's Q&A session. Skratchpad is so jam packed with goodness from 10pm to 2am with ten DJs on rotation every time -- people love the variety.
Celskiii: The guest DJ showcasing is free to do his/her thing. Whatever they wanna share is cool. As far as the other room with the dance floor, we encourage the DJs to play whatever they feel. No need for us to micromanage! We selected dope DJs with a lot of style to get down and be a part of the roster. As far as the Cypher room, after our guest DJ rocks, we have signups and have people Q & A for a few bars and a couple of turns before we have the next ones up to bat rotate. We have hosts that help with the transitions including Bas-1, Profo, Dee, and myself.
Deeandroid: The emcee host of the night calls out the DJs' names. We have seven turntables and five mixers usually for the open turn session. We have DJs rotate after they do their thing twice and we have them switch to the next DJ. There's been lines. For the first one, we didn't have a sign up sheet, [it was] super crowded, lots of left handed DJs. It's great to see so many DJs thirsty to get on and cut it up.
Amoeblog: Is it ever a problem with some DJs taking too much time on the turntables?
Deeandroid: Yes, there will always be DJs who forget their DJ etiquette or need to learn it. So Skratchpad is a great spot to learn how to jam with others and in front of a crowd. Plus, DJs are drunk and can't keep track of [the time], which is why we have an emcee host it with [myself] and Cel.
Celskiii: The policy really is bring your own needles, headphones, records and sign up, wait your turn! Also, use table etiquette and don't hog. We do have the occasional really excited DJ that wants to go 16 bars, but so far everyone has been pretty cool with taking turns. If there was ever a problem, I'm sure Profo has called em out on the mic to pass it! Maybe we should do something like Project Blowed sessions where they say, "Pass the mic!"
Amoeblog: What about dancing to scratch music-- can people dance easily or do people ever complain they can't dance?
Deeandroid: People can dance to it; b-boys & b-girls show up and do their thang. It's totally danceable. The general public really [doesn't] get to see skratching all the time so usually they're in awe and just watch and listen. The sound system is great! Plus, we have that main party room for folks to get down & boogie. DJ Bern It Up says, "Kut some Rug or Kut some Wax!"
Celskiii: I remember the first one, a group of friends came in while there was skratching goin on and they were getting hyphy! That was dope to see! But then they left and went to dance in the next room -- we have DJs rockin' out there too -- just for those that wanna just dance. No complaints yet.
Skratchpad happens every first and third Tuesday at The Cellar in San Francisco. The Cellar is located at 685 Sutter St., SF, CA 94102. 10PM-2AM/ 21+. No cover.