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27 jui. 2006, 14h15m

Invisibl Skratch Piklz


If hip hop can be likened to a body, each of the elements serves its own function. Emcees are the mouth and the mind, graf writers the eyes and the hands, bboys and bgirls the body. Where does that leave the DJ? They serve as the feet (as in the foundation) and the heart.

In the early days of hip hop, DJs were the stars. It is not for no reason that Kool Herc is seen as hip hop's father, Afrika Bambaataa its godfather and Grandmaster Flash its favorite uncle. If you wanted to be known in hip hop, you became a DJ, and these three were the biggest. Anyone who participated in the other elements did so knowing that they were in hip hop's periphery while DJs were the centerpiece.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the attitude towards DJs began to change. There were several reasons for this:

1) the emergence of the emcee as the frontman. In retrospect, this is not surprising. While DJs were stuck behind a table and had to concentrate on cueing up records, emcees could slap hands with fans at the edge of the stage and initiate the call and response;

2) the cost savings of just taking a DAT tape on the road rather than have to invest in turntables, mixers, records and a DJ to mix it all together;

3) and, perhaps most importantly, the new laws against sampling which crippled what a DJ could effectively do in studio.

For all these reasons and more, hip hop crews begin to increasingly grow detached from DJs. That could have led to the extinction of that one element of hip hop had it not been for the emergence of three groups of men in the 90s.

While many crews were beginning to see what could be done without DJs, there were DJs who decided to see what they could do on their own. In New York, there were the X-Ecutioners. Los Angeles gave birth to the World Famous Beat Junkies. However, the most important DJ crew (and the tenth most essential hip hop group of the Magusi Era) was based in California's Bay Area and known as the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. It was Beat Junkie DJ Babu who first said that the turntable was his instrument, therefore he was a musician called a turntablist. But it was the ISPs who took this motif to the pinnacle.

In the 90s, the way one made a name for himself as a DJ was through battling, especially the DMC Championships and the New Music Seminar Battles. For a period in the 90s, these titles were being continuously held by members of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. In fact, their dominance reached such a level that the people behind the DMCs had to ask them to stop entering the battles because other DJs were refusing to compete. However, this served just as well, since they were destined for bigger things.

It was the Invisbl Skratch Piklz who forced people to reevaluate what a DJ was. They were among the first to release solo albums; their innovations led to the invention of literally dozens of new scratches; and it was their example that led to a paradigm shift in the way DJs thought.

Since the very beginning, hip hop DJs had tried to keep their collections secret. If someone found a rare record or a new break, he would do his best to make sure that no other DJ learned what it was. That way when he played it, it would be known as "his" and be one of his signatures. This furtive mentality was so great that it was not uncommon for DJs to soak their records in soap and water and scrub off the labels so that no one else could read them.

The Invisibl Skratch Piklz took the completely opposite approach. They wanted to see the art of DJing go as far as it could. So rather than hide what they were doing, they had no problems showing anyone in hope that there was someone out there who could see things that they may not have and take it even further.

They also helped to legitimize the place of Asians in hip hop. While they are loath to talk about it themselves, DJ Babu has stated how Filipino children look up to DJ QBert the same way that black kids playing basketball look up to Michael Jordan. Many Asian-American periodicals have named members of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz among the most influential Asian-Americans of all time. And the proof is there. While black people still reign on the mic and Latinos are still lords of the floor, Asians are begining to have quite a hold on DJing and their participation in the other elements is growing as well.

In 2001, the Invisbl Skratch Piklz decided to disband and held a farewell show in their hometown of San Francisco. At this performance, no less an authority than the legendary DJ Red Alert stated that DJ Qbert was the greatest DJ of all time.

Omagus' favorite Invisbl Skratch Piklz moment: DJ Qbert's "Electric Scratch Dome."

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