Coinciding with the ongoing 2011 DMC World DJ Championships happening currently in London, England at the 02 Arena's Indig02 this is the second in a two-part Amoeblog series on the current state of turntablism/skratch music (here's yesterday's Amoeblog). Note that the results for the DMC World DJ Championship battles (which end by midnight Friday, Oct 7th, UK time = 4pm West Coast time) will be published tomorrow in the Hip-Hop Weekly Rap Up Amoeblog. As you know turntablism is a musical form born out of hip-hop by the DJ but not given an actual name until the mid nineties when DJ Babu coined the term turntablism to describe the DJ as a turntable manipulation artist - one as worthy of respect as any other musical instrumentalist. By that stage I personally had already been a convert for a good decade and a half to this infectious component of hip-hop music. In fact when I first heard hip-hop in its formative days I was drawn more to the DJ than the MC. And ever since I've been hooked on the sound of scratching and spellbound by beat juggling and all the other skilled moves that the DJ as mixer & turntable master so effortlessly throws down. To me this musical style, unique to hip-hop and whose pioneers included Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Grand Wizzard Theodore (creator of the scratch), has always been deserving of its own genre or at least sub-genre. And as a diehard fan and supporter of DJ scratching from hip-hop's earliest days when I first heard in the late 70's through all the years later up to and beyond including that point when QBert altered the spelling of the word from scratch to skratch, I have thoroughly enjoyed closely following its evolvement; warmly witnessing turntablim/skratch music's creative growth as it blossomed with a seemingly never ending array of new sounds generated by an ever-progressing arsenal of new styles and techniques been added to this vibrant art form.
Today and tomorrow (Oct 6th & 7th) one of the most important events in hip-hop and DJ culture takes place in London: the 2011 DMC World DJ Championships at the 02 Arena's Indig02 in which the top hip-hop battle DJs from 21 countries (reppin' the USA is DJ Vajra - full DJ battle details above) battle it out in this Turntablist World Cup in three major battle categories: DMC World Final, DMC Battle for World Supremacy, and DMC World Team. Additionally this two day scratch DJ event will present a bunch of great showcases including ones by last year's DMC World Champ DJ Ligone from France, the 2003 Supremacy Champ DJ Tigerstyle, three time DMC World Supremacy Champ DJ Switch (who'll perform the piece: Concerto for Turntables), plus an anticipated triple threat set from the revered X-ecutioners' Total Eclipse, DJ Precision, & Rob Swift.
This year's DMC battle comes at a time when turntablism or skratch music seems to be on a comeback in popularity on a global level. It's always been popular but after its honeymoon with the mainstream in the late nineties it seemed somewhat dormant (in actuality it had just gone underground). But lately there's been a noticeable increased interest in DJ battles like the DMC and turntablist events like Ireland's annual Community Skratch Games of the past few years or the recent Thud Rumble presentedFader Fest in San Francisco with the reunited Invisibl Skratch Piklz as trio (QBert, D-Styles, Shortkut) and showcases from the likes of US DMC representative DJ Vajra. There seems to be a flurry of new turntablist releases lately too including ones from DJ ALF, Teeko, DJ Needlz, ThatKidNamedCee, Jimmy the Hideous Penguin, and DJ Quest who is about to release this month his latest turntablist album Cosmic Parasite (a collaborative effort with the two former bandmates from his original DJ crew Bullet Proof Scratch Hamster (BPSH) - DJ Cue and Eddie Def).
DJ Swamp "Invasion of the B-Girls" (2011)
Ever since DJ Swamp first arrived on the music scene in 1996, when the unique long-haired turntablist with an affinity for setting his turntables on fire in his performances took the national DJ battle title of USA DMC Champion (his first year in the contest!), he has remained both an ever-engaging figure and a most prolific artist. Over the past dozen-plus years, the Cleveland-born/West Coast-based turntable artist/producer/vocalist has been mad busy consistently performing live (both solo and with others; many first got introduced to him as Beck's DJ) and recording a slew of solo projects, including his excellent Never Ending Drum & Bass Loops album series and many other DJ skratch tools vinyl releases (all self-released on his own Decadent Records label). DJ Swamp has also collaborated with or made cameos for a long list of other artists including the likes of his old touring mate Beck, Kool Keith, RL Burnside, Devo, StickY fingaz, Kid Rock, Crystal Method, BT, Hanson, Richard Humpty Vission, The Bloodhound Gang, Morcheeba, Ill Kid, The Dandy Worhals, and Faithless.
Most recently, the DJ has been especially prolific cranking out music videos and, having released the new album Vinyl Disciple earlier this year, a new series of videos to accompany this rock-tinged, hip-hop/electro/breakbeat driven skratch album. Just last Friday, he unleashed the above video for the new album's song "Invasion of the B-Girls," which comes hot on the heels of numerous other music videos he made this year, including "Rock Rollin," the new album's title track, and "Pyro," which were all completed in the past few months. Today (Wednesday, August 17th) he is shooting yet another music video! This one is for "Feast of Flesh," also off the new Vinyl Disciple album.
2011 US DMC champ DJ Vajra (this pic + all photos courtesy of Joe Conzo)"How long you been practicing?" host Lord Finesse quizzed DJ Immortal at last night's 2011 DMC US Finals DJ battle before the talented turntablist launched into a six minute routine that could determine the path of his future as a DJ. "My whole life," said the Florida DJ born Jamie Keogh, qualifying that ever since he started DJing at age 15 he has dedicated every spare moment to honing his craft as a DJ/turntablist in preparation for an opportunity like last night's big battle. As with each of the other anxious eleven contestants at yesterday's heated national DMC DJ finals, held at Santos Party House in New York City, (and all the other hard-working battle DJs who didn't quite make it as far as this final round) DJ Immortal, who earlier this year triumphed in the 2011 DMC New Orleans regional DJ battle, has spent literally thousands upon thousands of hours practicing the same moves over and over to the point of perfection so as to get to this stage. Indeed it is that level of love for the art, and that type of dedication/obsession that it takes to become a competing DMC battle DJ nowadays.
Amoeba Music San Francisco Hip-Hop Top Five Week Ending 08:05:111) Wu-Tang Legendary Weapons (Entertainment One Music)
2) Teeko Light Up the Darkness (Mellow Orange)
3. elZHi Elmatic (2 DopeBoyz)
4) San Quinn Can't Take the Ghetto Out A Niigga (Prominent House Records)
5) MellowHype Blackenedwhite (Fat Possum Records)
The Wu-Tang's anticipated latest, Legendary Weapons, dropped last week and since has shot to the number one position on the latest Amoeba Music San Francisco hip-hop chart, which comes courtesy of Luis at the Haight Street store. So is it a great album and does it live up to the Wu-Tang (formerly Wu-Tang Clan) legacy? Yes and no. No it doesn't top 36 Chambers - but then nothing will ever surpass that timeless, pitch-perfect, hip-hop masterpiece that the Shaolin crew burst onto the scene with eighteen long years ago. But yes it is a really strong hip-hop album from the Wu who, even though they appear here minus the major player Genius/GZA and the lesser Wu warrior Masta Killa, still deliver a kick ass album with Legendary Weapons whose production is handled by the production trio of Fizzy Womack, Noah Rubin, and Andrew Kelley who keep true to the RZA formula (RZA is credited as the "executive producer" which I assume means he popped into the studio here and there to look over the trio's shoulders and make sure they delivered that unique WU flavor.) As well as the RZA on board for this release are Wu-Tang core members Ghostface, Raekwon, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, and U-God as well as cameos from a variety of talents including AZ, M.O.P., Termanology, Trife Diesel, and Killa Sin. Below is a sample track from the album; "Never Feel The Pain," that features Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Tre Williams.