Top Ten Scratch Moments

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It was the Scratch that drew me to rap music. Being a wee young lad living in the soon-to-be large city of Tel-Aviv I remember that the scratch is what hit me first. When my virgin ears first heard the sounds of rap music I was amazed at the booming bass, the banging thuds of the back beat, and the intensity of the rapper, or rappers if it was a crew. However, what really drew me to the difference of this music was the cut, the scratch, the moment best translated to the rock gods as an ill guitar solo a la Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix. As an avid music lover I get the same sensation when hearing a great scratch sequence as when I hear an aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” This feeling of elation and spiritual elevation when the music hits you with that pure moment of beauty is how I feel it. I know that some don’t agree, but music lovers understand that feeling deep in your core when you hear that celestial sound coming from your favorite group. The talent of the DJ on these rap records was just as important as the rapper because it held a pristine balance that was lost when rap hit the big time in the late 1990’s. I remember it because the 1980’s, especially with the start of Def Jam, and the early 1990’s the authentic was heard through the guise of an MC, DJ, two turntables and a microphone.

The history of Hip-Hop culture surrounded the DJ. The culture began with parties in recreation centers, high school gyms, and later parks surrounded by apartment complexes. This was a natural extension of what they learned from their parents parties growing up. Who was the focus? The focus was on getting down on the dance floor, which relied on the music, which all relied on one person, The DJ. The DJ was the focal point in the start of Hip-Hop and remained the focus, even after the emergence of the early rap groups, until the music began being recorded in 1979. One of these defining moments was the recording of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash the Furious Five. Although none of the MC’s were on the record except for Melle Mel, Flash was nowhere to be heard. Like earlier recordings Flash, the legendary DJ pioneer and innovator was pushed to the side.

This didn’t necessarily mean that the DJ was dead, because there were a few recordings that acknowledged the DJ. One of the best is Flash’s masterpiece of a record titled “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels of Steel” from 1981.

This was an amazing record because it was one of the first DJ records on Sugar Hill Records, and he did it all by hand. There was no digital sequencing so he had to find the time on the record and mix it all by ear and hand. Flash should get so much credit as he invented some of these techniques.He and the many DJ’s who were lost should receive plenty of accolades and honor for their innovations. So, a big ups to Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata (who along with Flash are the founding fathers of Hip-Hop), Disco King Mario (The sound system man), Grand Wizard Theodore (Inventor, or accidental find of the scratch), Jazzy Jay (Zulu alumni and the DJ who started Def Jam), Grandmaster D.ST (Way out in outer space hanging with Herbie Hancock), Whiz Kid (parter of Caz and a funny guy, just watch him on the VH1 doc NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell), Afrika Islam (Sharp on the cut and DJ for Law & Order MC Ice-T), Breakout (who is forgotten but held down a part of the Bronx along with the founding fathers), Charlie Chase (Cold Crush fame and first of the great Latino DJ’s), AJ Scratch (down with Kenny G and Lovebug Starski, and another DJ for Cold Crush), Johnny Thunderbird (Harlem disco and R&B head), Lovebug Starski (The multifaceted entertainer who could do R&B or Hip-Hop, one of the few renaissance men of Hip-Hop), Hollywood (contemporary of the legendary Pete DJ Jones, who played in Manhattan and is another slept on pioneer. He also had one of the first MC’s, like Coke La Rock for Kool Herc, by the cool name of Eddie Cheeba), Gradmaster Flowers (The best sound system heard playing the bomb disco beats out of Brooklyn, RIP), and of course everyone’s favorite Kiss FM DJ Kool DJ Red Alert.

Without further ado, here’s my top ten list of the best tracks with the best scratch breakdown, or use of the tables in a superior manner. These are the top ten, but in no specific order as they all totally rule!!! Please be advised that it’s a bit subjective, but I don’t care.

10. “Doper Skiller” – Viktor Vaughn feat. Kool Keith off of his VV2: Venomous Villain album.

Coming off the first Viktor Vaughn album, this track from the sequal (which surprisingly banged as hard as the first album) is great. The fact that you have Doom and Kool Keith on the same track is like listening to a late night chat between Rasputin and Nostradamus. To top it all off you had this scratch down which is amazing, and done by the producer (?) by the name of DiViNCi.

9. “End to End Burners” – Company Flow, single released on the heels of their first classic Funcrusher Plus.

Great track and the DJ, Mr. Len cuts it up nice. It’s even better with the video because he swipes his hands like a wizard bubbling up something wicked.

8. “Blue Flowers” – Dr. Octagon from his masterpiece album, Dr. Octagonecologyst.

I can never get enough of Kool Keith and it’s not his fault that he’s worked with some great DJ’s. This album, produced by heavy-weight drum taster Dan the Automator, is bizarre, experimental, and far out of this world. Also, DJ Qbert, legendary scratch DJ in his own right, kills it as you can hear.

7. “Ugly People Be Quiet” – Cash Money and Marvelous, off of their Where’s the Party At? album from 1988.

DJ Cash Money should have been mentioned with the list of pioneers above. He’s an amazingly talented, and award-winning, DJ out of Philly, and this is an example of his prowess.

6. “On & On & On” – Dungeon Family, off of their seminal powerhouse of an album Even In Darkness.

Great track off the family album which includes the Goodie Mob, Outkast, and more. This track is essentially a Goodie Mob hit with Big Gipp, T-Mo, and Khujo from the MOB along with Witchdoctor and Big Boi from Outkast.

5. “Alive” – The Beastie Boys, an unreleased track that appeared on their boxed set titled, Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science.

I know that since the Beastie Boys picked up Mixmaster Mike that you can pick other notable tracks. However, the second chorus part (at the 2 minute mark to be anally precise) where he spins KRS-ONE hollering, “Bring it back that old New York rap!!!” is my kind of anthem.

4. “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” – Gangstarr, from their second album titled, Step Into the Arena.

This is another dispute because the group consisting of the man, the myth, the holy legend of scratching by the name of DJ Premier, should have other picks. However, this track hits the head with the piercing beat throughout the song, and Premier just adds the singer to the song with his tables. You – Can’t – Handle – The – Whole Weight……..cut!

3. “Madness” – Deltron 3030 from the album titled 3030.

This is not so much a chop down for the breakdown, but why not veer away from categorization? Deltron, consisting of Del the Funky Homosapian, Dan the Automator on the boards, and Kid Koala on the tables, is an unconventional and criminally slept on album from the turn of the century. Kid Koala’s work is genius in the way he uses the tables as an instrument, via the sounds of the trumpet. Like the cool darkly lit rooms of Jazz, this is the same only light years away in a far off galaxy.

2. “Rebel Without a Pause” – Public Enemy from their masterpiece, that should be mandatory high school listening titled, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, circa 1988.

This is THE group, consisting of the fiery verse spitting Chuck D. and the court jestering of Flavor Flav, the S1W’s, and the hard-hitting beats of the Bomb Squad – you know they got the best DJ – Terminator X. The mysterious DJ behind the huge sunglasses cuts it the hardest on this track as Chuck screams his name he cuts it up like a funky drummer.

1. “Interview With Colored Man” – Rob Swift Feat. Supernatural & DJ Radar, from Rob Swift’s album titled, Sound Event.

This, hands down, is one of my personal favorites and I feel one of the best rap songs of all time. It has all the key ingredients with one of the best DJ’s, Rob Swift, and a helping hand with DJ Radar along with one of the most underrated battle rappers of all time, who never got his justice on wax, by the name of Supernatural. The cuts play along with the interviewers words, but they also carry the tempo while Supernatural weaves his tales of the adventures and life of the super hero known as Colored Man.

It’s a biting commentary on how non-blacks view black men as both dangerous, mysterious and exotic beings. These images are strewn throughout popular culture, and remain in the white psyche to this day. Interestingly enough it reminds me of one of my family’s most favorite Richard Pryor albums with the same idea titled….

Enjoy the cutting and scratching and I’ll see you in the next dispatch,

Peace

#ViktorVaughn #CompanyFlow #Dr.Octagon #DJCashMoney #DungeonFamily #BeastieBoys #Gangstarr #Deltron3030 #PublicEnemy #RobSwift #MCSupernatural

 

 

 

Jews Have Horns!!! Unforgivable Jewishness

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My fiancée and I attended a lovely Friday night Kabalat Shabbat service two weeks from this past Friday. We are part of the Jewish Renewal Movement based out of Northern New Jersey. What drew us to the congregation was the spiritual ease and loving affection given to us by the Rabbi and the congregants. Their ways of devotion are beautifully connected to a more humanist message, but full of deep Jewish spiritual wisdom and meditation. Interestingly enough Saskia (my Jewish-wife-to-be) and I are the youngest congregants so we’re extra caring and observant of the elder community, as well as the elderly in general. We learn so much from our elders, yet this generation has discarded them at such speed that it’s sad to see the disconnect. Now they can bestow upon us with great wisdom due to their many experiences, love found, love lost, as well as tragedies that pulled them away from Judaism.

The Parsha for that week was the first from the second book of the Torah, Shemot or Exodus. The Rabbi decided to ask us to share our thoughts on the concept of assimilation in the United States, and asked if we ever compromised, or played down our Judaism, in this white Christian nation. Many of the congregants, being middle-aged ranging from their 50’s to their 60’s in age, had stories of being emotionally, physically, or even psychologically abused by certain classmates in their school days. Some spoke of seeing the drawn swastikas, some spoke of teachers being extra abusive due to their lack of Christian or Waspish etiquette, while others spoke of being picked on by disgruntled individuals. Then came the moment that threw me off completely shoving me into a Woody Allen scene straight out of his masterpiece film Love and Death. A congregant spoke of an incident in St. Petersburg, Florida. Apparently she was asked by a certain individual if she was Jewish, and she replied in the affirmative. As a follow-up question the person asked her, “where are your horns?”

The moment she said that I flashed back to that particular scene in Woody Allen’s film. The scene is hilarious because it exploits this stupid idea that came from a misinterpretation of the Torah, big surprise. When I came back to reality I couldn’t even fathom to think that an American Yukal would think such a primitive thought. But what annoyed me more, as well as made me immensely proud, was the fact that I NEVER compromised my Jewishness. Nor did I ever compromise my Zionism and love for Israel. This post is not a dirge into the history of Jews and horns. No, it’s much closer to your humble narrator’s love of Jews and Rap music.

In its entire history Rap music has been about an unadulterated form of expression. This form could take on many shapes from political lyrics, to braggadocio, to the more nonsensical raps coming from the far out likes of Kool Keith, Ghostface Killah, and MF Doom to name a few. But what they all have in common is the freedom to express what ever they want on record. Now we should differentiate between the corporate crap that is fed to most American teens and the many diverse underground, indie, and local rap scenes across the globe. On a whole greater scale music is that platform which allows us to shed our inhibitions and repressed feelings. Hip-Hop is the mother of all these forms as we’re striding through the beginning of the 21st Century. That is why I, and many other Jews, am so drawn to the power of rap music, and how I identify as part of the Hip-Hop Generation more than most American Jews I’ve met in my lifetime.

I was made aware of the fact that from the moment I moved to the United States, at the age of twelve, I was very different from my co-religionists. American Jews are a different breed than me and my brothers, but there are many like me out there. Some where in the far reaches of the world you’ll find half-breeds like myself who spent times in both the US and Israel. I attended an all black Middle school in New Haven, CT and then moved to the uber-suburbs of Guilford in the same blue-law state. But what struck me, from my early years all the way to today, is how others identified me as an “other.” I always got the saying that “you’re not like them” or “you’re not Jewish, you’re Israeli,” which was my acceptance card to most inner cliques and circles. It’s quite an experience, but it’s made me even more resolved to be nothing more or less than an unapologetic Jew!

Peace and watch out for the snow…daze

 

Top Ten Beatbox Moments!!!

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Viewing the urban landscape for the past two decades you will not be surprised that many youngsters equate Hip-Hop with Rap. Rap music has been at the forefront of the culture, because it was the easiest way to sell part of the culture. Unfortunately, like DJ’s once rap was put down on wax, other aspects of the culture dimmed from the mainstream lights. The art of graffiti writing has been around for centuries, but it was also, and remains, a key aspect of the culture. If it wasn’t for the tags and pieces of the 1970’s and 1980’s in New York City street art would not be what it is today. DJing has also had its ups and downs with regards to greater public exposure. However, I’m sad that the great art of the Beat Box has fallen by the wayside. Gone were the days where the street ciphers were helped by the one person who would create the beat with their mouth. Beatboxing, like the other arts, is the epitome of creating something from nothing. Once the art grew many beatboxers accompanied rappers or became rappers themselves. There are many great recordings with prominent beat boxers. This is my top ten since the genesis of Hip-Hop. Many of these artists have multiple tracks of beatboxing gold, but these tracks are my personal gems to the masses. Although it’s a personal list, feel free to enjoy and put your mouths together and blow

#1 – Biz Markie – Beatboxing on the track titled “Mr. Large” from Prince Paul’s seminal A Prince Among Thieves, and accompanied by the great MC, Chubb Rock. Biz has been part of the history of Hip-Hop and a cultural maven of many trades. He still performs by DJing while keeping his title of crowned clown of Hip-Hop. He has many beatboxing tracks including a great rendition of “Def Fresh Crew” alongside Roxanne Shante from the newly released Dutch documentary from 1986 titled Big Fun in the Big Town.

#2 – Click the Supa Latin – Beatboxing on the track titled “Click Beat Box” from the group Styles of Beyond’s debut, 2000 Fold. In a past blog of albums you never heard I wrote about this album. This short segment is amazing and he’s also a rapper along with his wife who is also a performance artist.

#3 – Davey DMX – Beatboxing on the track titled “Kool and Deadly” from Just-Ice’s album of the same name. Davey DMX use to beatbox for the group Mantronix who produced Just-Ice’s debut album Back to the Old School. DMX got his name from the beat making machine of the same name, and later another beatboxer turned rapper took the name, hence we have DMX.

#4 – Scratch – Beatboxing on the track titled “3rd Acts/ Quest vs. Scratch …Electric Boogaloo.” He was part of the Roots crew so it was on their fourth album titled Things Fall Apart. No so much emphasizing the beat, Scratch uses his mouth to manipulate the sounds of scratches from a record played on a turn table. The Roots crew at one time had him and the grandmaster of beatboxers Rahzel.

#5 – Buff Love, AKA The Human Beat Box from the Fat Boys on the track aptly titled “Human Beat Box.” The track is from their self-titled debut album release in 1984. Buffy is undisputedly the original grandmaster Beat boxing king! He uses the sounds along with his girth in order to complement his two compatriots, while always carrying a sense of humor, like the Biz! RIP.

#6 – Doug E Fresh giving a live demonstration in the streets of Harlem in 1983, footage is from the Dutch documentary listed above. We’re all familiar with his work with his Get Fresh Crew, and his work backing Slick Rick when he was called MC Rickey D. However, this opening segment is a perfect example of his skills. It should be noted that he lived next door to Spoonie Gee, and ran up to him one day to show his skills. The rest is history.

#7 – Rahzel from the Roots crew, and the track is titled “Quest vs. Rahzel” from their amazing sophomore effort titled Do You Want More?!!!?!. Rahzel’s main talent is how he can manipulate sounds from either a voice or instrument, and then he reinterprets it with his mouth. These albums that had both him and Scratch remain the pinnacle for the Roots that has since set.

#8 – Boogie Down Productions – “Breath Control” from their third album titled Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop. This is not so much highlighting a specific beatboxer, as I’m not sure if it was D-Nice or a stand-in who did the beatboxing, but it’s on point. The track is even greater due to the domineering presence of one of the greatest rappers of all time, KRS-ONE!

#9 – Run-D.M.C. – “Son of Byford” from one of my personal favorites of theirs, Tougher Than Leather. It’s a simple 30-second snippet about D.M.C.’s family tree with a strong beatbox for quite the emphasis.

#10 – Edan The Humble Magnificent – The track is titled “Primitive Plus” from his debut album with the same title. It makes sense to loop the circle with a rapper who draws on the treasure trove of beats and lyrics from rap’s obscure corners. Keep em coming.

 

Honorable Mentions

#11 – Eazy-E – We don’t hear much beatboxing from the West Side of the country, but this is a great song about what we love best, a “Fat Girl.” It’s also funny as an ode with similar sounds from the Fat Boys’ “Human Beat Box.”

#12 – Bad Boys Featuring K-Love – on the track titled “veronica,” which might sound kitschy and dated, but you gotta love it.

#13 – The two ladies from the Club Scene from one of the greatest movies of all time, Coming to America. In this scene Eddie and Arsenio are looking for Eddie’s ideal mate. Fast Forward to the 1:17 mark and you’ll see and hear the best rhyme and beatboxing by some of the finest ladies of Queens!!!

Who could rock a rhyme like, “My name is Peaches, and I’m the best, all the Dj’s want, to feel my breasts,” followed by a great roll.

Enjoy

#BizMarkie #ClickTheSupaLatin #Scratch #Rahzel #TheRoots #DougEFresh #BDP #Eazy-E #ComingToAmerica