Monday, November 2, 2009

The Basics: Deconstructing the DJ

"My contribution to this whole thing is that I was the first DJ to take an inanimate object called the turntable and play it like it was an instrument" - Grandmaster Flash, a hip-hop pioneer

Whereas the emcee uses his or her own words to identify themselves, DJing is basically the artistic element in hip-hop involving a turntable. Artists spin records in such a way that expresses their musical taste and can also express their views on a political or social issue. An advantage DJs have over emcees is that DJs can tell a story without saying a word; their stories are instead told through the records they play, samples used and many other techniques.

In the beginning stages of Ding, DJs used to just play disco records. What set them aside from disco clubs -- aside from having these spin sessions at a house or block party -- was that they would cut and blend two records together during a song's break. Everyone who attended the party waited for the break to come so they could hear the mixture of the bongos and drums flow together and dance the night away. Much credit for cutting and blending goes to Grandmaster Flash. During the mid 70s he took his family's turntables and would find as many ways possible to creatively repeat a certain line by James Brown or any other record with a break beat.

But it was during the mid '70s, a DJ by the name of Grand Wizzard Theodore discovered the "scratch" -- when a DJ would move the record back and forth to make a scratchy sound while keeping it in rhythm with the record, which was not being scratched. Once the scratch grew popular among the rest of the DJ's, many techniques formed out of it, most replicating sounds and motions of animals, cartoon characters, TV personas and political figures. This particular art -- the experimentation of music through multiple turntables -- is now known as turntablism, where all forms of expressing one’s self with a turntable is fair game.

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