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Related: djs - sampling - turntable - hip hop

Turntablists: Grandmaster Flash - Afrika Bambaataa - DJ Kool Herc


Turntablism is a subgenre of pop music which emerged from hip hop. One who engages in turntablism is a turntablist, a term probably coined by DJ Babu.

Turntablists are DJs who use vinyl disc records, and turntable techniques like scratching or beat juggling in the composition of original musical works. Turntablism is generally focused more on turntable technique and less on mixing, rapping or vocal delivery.

Turntablists like Rob Swift, Q-Bert, A-Trak, and Kid Koala owe a certain debt to old school DJs like Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and DJ Kool Herc who originally developed many of the concepts and techniques that evolved into modern turntablism. There are also more experimental turntablists such as Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Philip Jeck and Janek Schaefer.

Turntables were actually first used as musical instruments in the 1940's and 1950's by Musique concrète and other experimental composers, such as John Cage, who used them in a manner similar to digital sampling. Hip hop DJs developed independently from the earlier techniques. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turntablism [Dec 2004]


  • 1937 Artist and experimental musician John Cage discusses the merits of sound manipulation using the phonograph.
  • 1948 French avant-garde composer Pierre Schaeffer champions turntable-based music.
  • 1973 Bronx DJ Kool Herc originates hip-hop by DJ'ing with two turntables and extending beats by "looping."
  • 1977 Grand Wizard Theodore invents "scratching" by rocking a record back and forth while the needle was resting on it.
  • 1983 Herbie Hancock's hit-record "Rockit" features scratching by Zulu DJ Grandmaster D.S.T.
  • 1987 The first Disco Mix Club World Battle (DMC) is held, establishing DJ competitions worldwide.
  • 1990 "Beat Juggling" is pioneered by Steve D. and introduced at the New Music Seminar.
  • 1992 Rocksteady DJs (who evolved into the Invisibl Skratch Piklz) pioneered crew routines at the 1992 DMC.
  • 1996 Legendary battle between the X- Men (now known as the X-ecutioners) and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz.

    Must-have mixes

  • Grandmaster Flash "Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" 12-inch (Sugarhill)
    1981 This seven-minute song captures Grandmaster Flash cutting it up on the turntable with songs by Blondie, Chic, Queen, Spoonie Gee, Sequence, the Sugarhill Gang and his own Furious Five.
  • DJ Shadow "In/Flux" 12-inch (Soulsides) and DJ Shadow "Endtroducing" (Mo' Wax)
    1993 Over the course of 20 minutes, DJ Shadow lays down a beatscape with his two turntables and a sampler that still sounds completely fresh today
  • Herbie Hancock and Grandmaster D.S.T. "Rockit" 12-inch (Columbia)
    1983 Always on the cutting edge of music, jazz master Hancock employed a young upstart DJ to spice up his electro/jazz composition
  • MixMaster Mike "Anti-Theft Device" (Asphodel)
    1998 Recorded in his bedroom. By the time it was completed and released, he was a full-fledged member of the Beastie Boys. "Anti-Theft Device" sounds like Frank Zappa reincarnated as a B-Boy. It's a mix of furious beats, sick scratches, and sci-fi samples.
  • PhonosycographDISK "Ancient Termites" (Bomb)
    1998 Perhaps the most adventurous mix release. This album by Invisibl Skratch Piklz is the first full-length recorded document of mixologists interacting with traditional instruments — in this case, bass, guitar, and drums.


    In 1976 Grandmaster Flash introduced the technique of quick mixing, in which sound bites as short as one or two seconds are combined for a collage effect. Quick mixing paralleled the rapid-editing style of television advertissing used at the time. Shortly after Flash introduced quick mixing, his partner Grandmaster MelleMel composed the first extented stories in rhymed rap. Up to this point, most of the words heard over the work of disk jockeys such as Herc, Bambaataa, and Flash had been improvised phrases and expressions. In 1978 DJ Grand Wizard Theodore introduced the technique of scratching to produce rhythmic patterns. -- unkown author, 19??


    Rap is where you first heard it [sampling] --Grandmaster Flash's 1981 "Wheels of Steel," which scratched together Queen, Blondie, the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, Sequence, and Spoonie Gee --but what is sampling if not digitized scratching? If rap is more an American phenomenon, techno is where it all comes together in Europe as producers and musicians engage in a dialogue of dazzling speed.

    Grandmaster Flash

    Rap is where you first heard it [sampling] --Grandmaster Flash's 1981 "Wheels of Steel," which scratched together Queen, Blondie, the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, Sequence, and Spoonie Gee --but what is sampling if not digitized scratching? If rap is more an American phenomenon, techno is where it all comes together in Europe as producers and musicians engage in a dialogue of dazzling speed. [...]

    Kool Herc

    By most accounts Herc was the first DJ to buy two copies of the same record for just a 15-second break (rhythmic instrumental segment) in the middle. By mixing back and forth between the two copies he was able to double, triple, or indefinitely extend the break. In so doing, Herc effectively deconstructed and reconstructed so-called found sound, using the turntable as a musical instrument, making music with music.


  • The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash - Grandmaster Flash [1CD, Amazon US]
    Strut Records hooked up with Grandmaster Flash and asked him to delve deep and faithfully re-create the original days, to play the tunes that actually were played. Flash has got rhythms you haven't even used yet. The result is a real piece of dance music history for anyone remotely into hip-hop. Flash takes us through different aspects of the block parties from the extended freestyle mixes to the tracks he used to play in their entirety. There are even some snippets of original block party tapes and some exclusive interview footage with Flash himself. The deluxe packaging features cover photography from Vincent MacDonald along with a 28-page booklet featuring original photos and memorabilia. A comprehensive Flash history courtesy of Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton is included. [...]


  • The Freshest Kids - A History of the B-Boy (2001)[1 DVD, Amazon US]
    The subtitle couldn't be more accurate: A History of the B-Boy is a comprehensive look at the world's "freshest kids." This lively documentary isn't about hip-hop or hip-hop culture as much as about an integral part of that culture. B-boys are defined, variously, as "breakboys" (the original term) and "breakdancers" (the more widely known one). These "kids," many now in their 30s, helped to shape hip-hop's look and spread its gospel. The narrative traces their evolution from the South Bronx 1970s to media-crazed 1980s--when they were featured in movies from Wild Style to Flashdance--to today, as the phenomenon has returned to the underground while remaining as popular as ever (as exemplified by footage from Germany, Japan, etc.). The old and new school are on hand to explain and to praise the b-boy; everyone from rappers like KRS-One and Mos Def to breakers like Crazy Legs and Ken Swift. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com
  • Scratch(2001) Doug Pray [1 DVD, Amazon US]
    In the language of hip-hop, the MC raps on top of the beats. The DJ--or turntablist--supplies the beats. Doug Pray's lively documentary is a tribute to these unsung heroes of the "scratch." His approach is neither dry nor academic and is designed as much for the masters of the form as for the fans. Pray was also behind Hype!, which focused on the Seattle scene in the 1980s and 1990s. In his 2002 follow-up, he travels as far back as the 1970s (DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa) and roams the U.S. from New York (Gang Starr's DJ Premier) to the Bay Area (DJ Shadow, Q-Bert). After watching the film and grooving to the beat, you're likely to wonder if there's a soundtrack to accompany it. Fortunately, there is--Bill Laswell, producer of Herbie Hancock's seminal "Rockit," is behind a compilation featuring many of the same artists celebrated in Scratch. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com [...]

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