Senior Year, 1998: Time 4 Skratch Practice
A pair of Technics turntable decks will cost you around $800 maybe cheaper if you can get them used (or if you opt for a lesser brand like Numark). A DJ mixer will set you back another $300. A copy of the Turntablist's Super Duck Breaks costs around $10, and you'll need two copies. But the ability to scratch like DJ Q-Bert? That would be priceless.
In 1998, there was real value to being a DJ who could scratch, mix and cut records. Crews like the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, The X-Men (who changed their name to X-ecutioners to avoid a Marvel Comics lawsuit), the World Famous Beat Junkies and the Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters roamed the earth. Turntablism, a term coined by Beat Junkie DJ Babu, came into vogue as DJs attempted to create a furiously abstract style of music built around turntable exercises attempted during OM Records-sponsored Deep Concentration tours and SF-based Future Primitive Soundsessions. The mania spread from the compilation series Return of the DJ to the Beastie Boys (who adopted the Piklz' Mix Master Mike as a DJ and honorary "fourth Beastie" for 1998's multiplatinum Hello Nasty) to DJ Shadow's 1996 masterpiece Endtroducing to DJ Q-Bert's Wave Twisters, another '98 release billed as "the first all-skratching album."
But you can't talk about turntablism without noting all the teens at home scratching away on custom-made vinyl like Bionic Booger Breaks and Sqratch Fetishes of the Third Kind. These records usually included several two-minute sound loops (aka "breaks"), along with seconds-long sound snippets that you could cut back and forth, most famously the simple exclamation "Fressshh!" When they weren't practicing how to be a DJ, these young turntablists were studying old-school classics like Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause" and Terminator X's infamous Transformer Scratch, or partying to "real hip-hop" anthems like Gang Starr's "You Know My Steez," Black Star's "Definition," and KRS-One's "Rapture's Delight." But did they listen to any Jay-Z, Puff Daddy or DMX? No way that stuff was wack and too mainstream! It's funny how times change.