To me, turntablism at its best should be a seamless blend of great music and DJ skills that keeps a crowd moving and a party rocking. It’s about showcasing skills like cutting and scratching as well as matching and juggling beats. The Beat Junkies understand this, and their show tonight is a masterclass in the art form. The three DJs, J-Rocc, Rhettmatic and Babu (one of the first people to use the term ‘turntablist’ to describe what he does) are all great Djs in their own right. Together, they elevate their game with a great combination of classic hip hop tunes and devastating turntable skills.
All three are using a laptop running Serato alongside the Rane mixer that integrates with the software allowing additional looping and special effects but they keep this usage to a minimum, choosing to showcase their DJ and party rocking skills. For me this completely kills the irrelevant argument that a DJ set isn’t “real” if it’s delievered off a laptop. For the purists who think a DJ is lazy unless they lug loads of vinyl everywhere these guys proove it’s not the tools you use but the music and how you choose to put it all together during your set.
They’ve brought along Rakaa Iriscience from Dilated Peoples to MC the proceedings in the old school sense of the word, acting as hype man for the DJ’s musical selection. He’s a good choice and let’s the trio showcase their skills without interrupting their flow. Towards the end of the set he performs a couple of new Dilated Peoples songs as well as his verse from their classic “This Way” which includes a shout out to Jam Master Jay.
All in all a great show. Far too many Djs hide behind mountains of technology and forget to even look at the people they’re supposed to be playing for. I always rate the DJs who look up to see how the crowd is reacting throughout the set and we get this sort of eye contact in triplicate tonight. Whether they’re cutting up James Brown faves, throwing in some Latin, funk, soul and of course those hip hop classics, The Beat Junkies know how to move the crowd. Excellent.