Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ

By Mark Katz | Go to book overview

5
Turntablism: 1989–1996

In 1995, Chris Oroc was a gas station attendant and a talented amateur DJ living in Southern California. One day as he was labeling homemade CDs, he unwittingly gave a name to an emerging musical movement. When he performed, Oroc was known as Babu, and on each CD he wrote “Babu the Turntablist”; later he called one of his tracks “Turntablism.”1 As a member of the Beat Junkies, a DJ crew that specialized in scratching and beat juggling, he had recently come to the realization that their whole approach to music had little in common with the work of traditional DJs. “I was telling my crew, ‘You know, we can’t even really call ourselves DJs anymore. There’s guitarists, there’s pianists, why not turntablists?’”2Turntablist came to designate a distinctive type of DJ, an instrumentalist who does not simply reproduce existing music but creates entirely new music out of records; turntablism is their art.3 D-Styles, a fellow member of the Junkies, defined the art with a simple equation: “Records + Turntable + Scratching=Music.”4

The “-ism” in turntablism was more than a simple suffix—it was a crucial signifier. Turntablism lent a sense of seriousness and cohesion to the art and even suggested something of a philosophy. To many, turntablism was a separatist movement, independent from dancers and MCs. The music of these DJs was meant for listening, not dancing, for head-nodding, not rump-shaking. The ideas behind turntablism, we know, were not actually new. The seeds were planted with “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (1981), “Rockit” (1983), and the increasingly complex battle routines of the late 1980s. But it was not until the early and mid-1990s that a form of DJing, self-sufficient and largely independent from MCs, really flourished. Several crucial factors were at work: the rise of DJ crews, the growth of the battle scene, the simultaneous expansion of turntablism into California and the Filipino American community, and advancements in DJ technology. Taken together,

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Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xiii
  • About the Companion Website xv
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Breaks and the Bronx- 1973–1975 14
  • 2 - Mix and Scratch—The Turntable Becomes a Musical Instrument- 1975–1978 43
  • 3 - Out of the Bronx and into the Shadows- 1978–1983 70
  • 4 - Expansions- 1983–1989 100
  • 5 - Turntablism- 1989–1996 127
  • 6 - The Art of War-the Dj Battle- 1991–1996 153
  • 7 - Legitimacy- 1996–2002 179
  • 8 - Fallinq Barriers- 2002–2011 214
  • Conclusion- Full Circle 249
  • Appendices 254
  • Notes 265
  • Discography 296
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 313
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