Amoeblog

Easter Weekend In Ireland Is Synonymous With Hip-Hop's Four Elements: Amoeblog Report On The 2010 Community Skratch Games & The 3rd Annual All City Tivoli Jam

Posted by Billyjam, April 6, 2010 04:16pm | Post a Comment
All City Tivoli Jam 2010

For the third consecutive year, two excellent, true skool hip-hop festivals took place over the long Easter weekend in Ireland-- the DJ themed Community Skratch Games in Galway in the West of Ireland and the graffiti & b-boy themed 3rd Annual All City Tivoli Jam on the opposite coast in the country's capital, Dublin. Both were highly successful and relatively intimate-scale events, drawing a few hundred die-hard hip-hop heads between the two bi-coastal gatherings. Of course, having two similarly themed events taking place in a country as small as Ireland, where hip-hop happenings like this don't occur often, presents a dilemma for fans who are forced to choose one over the other since they happen at the exact same time on opposite coasts of Ireland. Hence, to properly cover this past weekend's two events for the Amoeblog, I hopped on a bus and headed cross country to Galway to attend the Community Skratch Games while my man, and frequent Amoeblog Irish reporter, Tall Paul Lowe, stayed in Dublin for the All City Tivoli Jam.  Community Skratch Games 2010

Now in its fourth year, the aptly named Community Skratch Games (CSG), which features several DJ based showcases and a scratch DJ battle over the long weekend, is truly all about community with a genuine emphasis on fun & camaraderie rather than on competition & seriousness. In fact, the prize for the winner of the CSG's annual DJ battle is not a trophy (a la the famed DMC or ITF battles) but a big bag of Irish breakfast meats (rashers, sausages, black pudding etc., all supplied by the local butcher) that the winning DJ traditionally shares with the other participants in a big breakfast cookout on "Skratch Monday" after all events are over. At this year's DJ battle on Saturday night (dubbed the "Community Skratch Open Freestyle Battle Royale"), ten turntablists went head to head, scratching for 16 bars each. To help mark the end of each 16 bars, drummer Tony Higgins dramatically crashed two cymbals together to the obvious entertainment of the packed crowd.

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Interview With Rob Swift About New Album The Architect (Ipecac)

Posted by Billyjam, March 1, 2010 11:45pm | Post a Comment
Rob Swift
Released last Tuesday, The Architect by DJ/producer Rob Swift (X-Men, X-Ecutioners, Ill Insanity) has been selling well at Amoeba Music. At the San Francisco store it charted at number three last week on the latest Top Five Chart. Put out by Mike Patton on his Ipecac Recordings, The Architect is the latest in a string of solo releases from the prolific turntable artist, who for this latest release constructed and modeled the album like a classical music composition.

In fact, The Architect is an ambitious project, even for an artist like Swift, who has made a career out of pushing the envelope with his innovative turntable-as-instrument recordings. The Architect, which he dedicated to his former X-Ecutioners band-mate Roc Raida, who died last year, is an excellent recording that raises the bar on turntablist/scratch albums.

I recently caught up with Rob Swift to ask him about the new album and how it came into being. "In June of 2008 I was in my bathroom shaving and my girlfriend, her name is Tess, walked into the bathroom and was like, 'I want you to listen to something. So she set up her iPod and little speakers and played a piece by Chopin for me. I forget what piece it was but I remember being blown away and been really touched and moved by this music I was listening to," he recalled. "So I finished shaving and came out of the bathroom and I was like, Tess you gotta play me more of that music. What is it? And she started to explain to me about classical music. And the funny thing is that all of us have been exposed to classical music at one time or another, whether in a movie or at Macy's in an elevator, or if you're watching commercials. So as much exposure as I have had to the genre of classical music, I don't think my mind and my heart was ready to accept it. But for some reason on that day in my bathroom, my heart was ready to embrace this genre."

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DMC/ITF DJ CHAMPION ROC RAIDA OF X-ECUTIONERS DEAD AT AGE 37

Posted by Billyjam, September 19, 2009 01:29pm | Post a Comment

It has been reported by several sources that New York turntablist Roc Raida of X-Men/X-Ecutioners fame has died earlier today. The DMC and ITF DJ battle champ was 37 years of age. The artist had reportedly been hospitalized for a serious spinal injury following a recent accident while kick-boxing training. Along with Rob Swift, Total Eclipse, and Mista Sinista, Roc Raida rounded out the best known line-up of the X-Ecutioners (formerly the X-Men), whose other members had included Steve Dee, DJ Boogie Blind and DJ Precision.

In addition to performing and recording with his DJ crew (in 2002 the X-Ecutioners dropped Built From Scratch on Loud), he also collaborated with numerous hip-hop artists over the years, including Big Pun, Immortal Technique, O.C., Buckshot Lefonque, and Smif N' Wessun. Above is one of Raida's great turntable routines from the 1995 DMC battle that he won in which he displays his typical playful, fun approach to the art of scratching, incorporating ample use of body tricks. Note that at this time his crew was still named X-Men (they eventually were forced to change it due to Marvel Comics sending a cease and desist) and the DJ was known as Roc Raider (with an "R" at the end). I knew Roc Raida for many years and last interviewed him about two years ago. I will try to find that interview to transcribe for a future Amoeblog. R.I.P. Roc Raida.

SCRATCHING AWAY HIS US AIR FORCE PRESSURES - DJ ALF INTERVIEW

Posted by Billyjam, May 4, 2009 10:20pm | Post a Comment
dj alf
While every turntablist has their own individual story of exactly how he/she became a hip-hop scratch DJ musician, most seem to share a somewhat similar history. Typically this starts out with them first becoming bedroom DJs, practicing their mixing, cutting, scratching, and beat-juggling, etc., skills for hours on end to prepare them for the typical next step, becoming battle DJs, entering contests and going head to head with other aspiring scratch DJs.

Baltimore, MD area turntablist DJ ALF took a slightly different path, having never entered a DJ battle in his life. A self-taught DJ and producer who is currently putting the finishing touches on his debut album This Way Or That Way, ALF developed his scratching musical path while simultaneously serving as a member of the US armed forces.

In fact, practicing hip-hop scratch music while a member of the US Air Force (which he is no longer a member of) helped maintain ALF's sanity, especially while stationed overseas. He would "scratch away" his "pressures," as he reveals in the interview that follows.

Amoeblog: Pre DJing, did you ever learn to play any musical instruments? If so, how has that influenced your approach to DJing?

DJ ALF: I used to play the clarinet from 4th grade to the 12th grade. I remember some basic music theory, which has helped me some in my DJ career. Since I used to play in a marching band, concert band, and orchestra, I must say that alone has helped me easily figure what fits in terms of doing freestyle turntable orchestration with others.

Amoeblog: When/where was the first time you ever scratched?

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TURNTABLIST ROB SWIFT EDUCATOR AS MUCH AS ENTERTAINER:

Posted by Billyjam, March 1, 2008 02:53pm | Post a Comment

Hip-hop DJ trio Ill Insanity, whose just dropped debut Ground Xero on Fat Beats is available in CD and vinyl formats at Amoeba Music, have been kept busy since the record's release two weeks ago. Last week the Queens, NY DJ group were in California doing sets at Guitar Center in SF and LA on Pico, in addition to some club dates. And the last couple of days they were on TV and will be again this coming week on Monday and Tuesday (March 3rd & 4th) when they are DJ guests on BET's Rap City at 5PM each day. Meanwhile upcoming tour dates include stops in Seattle and Boston.

"It's a brand new start," said Rob Swift of the new group that he formed along with younger DMC champ DJ Precision and alsoTotal Eclipse -- the fellow former member of the famous DJ crew that Swift and Eclipse were in with Roc Raida and Mista Sinista, the X-ecutioners (originally known as the X-Men before Marvel Comics objected to copyright infringement).  Unlike the two albums that the X-ecutioners released, which had several vocalists featured, Ill Insanity's debut stays truer to the art of the DJ with only one of the album's fourteen tracks featuring an emcee: the rapper Dasha who cameos on the song "Decorated Vets."

Rob Swift says the freedom to make an album just as he and his bandmates wanted was  a result of being on a smaller label.  "When we signed to Loud Records as the X-ecutioners we were the first turntablist group to sign to a major label and overall we thought we were doing something good for the art form and introducing it to a wider audience," he recalled. "But the reality is when you sign to a major label you don't have the freedom that you would have if you put out the record with a friend on a makeshift record label. You have to compromise a lot with a major label....and we ended up working with artists we wouldn't normally work with. We were kinda bossed into this trap of being told what to do by the record company who said if you want to be popular you have to work with this or that artist."

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