The Art of War-The DJ Battle:
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win
a hundred battles without a single loss.
—SUN TZU, The Art of War, sixth century BC1
If I’m going to be in a battle [and] I know that your specialty is scratching,
I’m going to practice a scratch routine to take you out, you know? It’s
almost like you’re preparing yourself for combat. You come up with
strategies; it’s like a war. I want to practice it a certain way and be able to
execute it every time the same exact way. If I go up against this DJ, I want
to intercept whatever style he may come at me with. And when I go up
against this other DJ, he DJs like this, so I need to be prepared for this and
that and the third.
—ROB SWIFT, 20012
By the mid-1990s, battles had spread across the world, inspiring a select segment of DJs to devote countless hours to the art of destroying rivals with vinyl. For these highly driven turntablists, battling was a way of life, occupying their waking hours and haunting what little sleep they managed. Their numbers were small, but their influence enormous, and during this period it was the battle, more than anything else, that pushed the growth and development of turntablism. To speak of an “art of war” here may seem grandiose, yet there is an art to battling, one that reveals itself in the preparation it demands, the techniques it inspires, and the music it creates.