SCRATCH: A TURNTABLISM DOCUMENTARY PART 3 OF 5
The film also reveals the artists' diverse approaches. Mix Master Mike jokingly extols his supremacy as a DJ with the Beasties: "I start scratching some roosters for no reason. They have no choice. I'm the maestro and whatever I throw in, they have to rhyme over it." Self-described "soul searcher" DJ Qbert explains his process like this: "It's kind of like talking, you know, you just speak what you're saying. Each technique is a word, so the larger your vocabulary, the more articulate you speak."
Qbert articulates a lot in the film (and is responsible for the cleverly scratched interviews and introductions, say, of the X-ecutioners). And his knowledge is deep. "Since earth is kind of like a primitive planet," he thinks out loud, "What about the more advanced civilizations? What would their music be like? I guess that's how I come up with my ideas." I guess. Scratching does seem here to be alien, in part because it's so very smart and strange.
That strangeness -- inspired and exhilarating as it is -- may have something to do with the rise of the MC, whose language is obviously more accessible to the average listener. Several speakers rue the escalation of the MCs' role in popular culture: Dot A Rock of Fantastic Freaks asserts of the early days, "The DJ was the backbone and we were the arms and legs and everything else to make him colorful." Bam adds, "The DJS are the ones that put the MCs out there, but then the MCs became the power; a lot of the MCs got away from the cultural part and got into 'all about the benjamins,' and they left the DJs behind." The film doesn't fret too much about this turn of events, however, instead focusing on the ways that DJs maintain their own sense of the culture, by sharing their sensibilities and politics.
by Cynthia Fuchs