A Tribute To Scratching Electro35

Hip Hop today may be all about the producers and the rappers, but back in the day no self-respecting crew was complete without a DJ working the wheels of steel. From the beat-perfect intricacies of Cash Money to the raw energy of Code Money, DJs were at the forefront of Hip Hop's Golden Era. They had their own routines at the concerts, their own tracks on the albums, and often eclipsed the rest of the group in popularity (take a bow MC Marvelous and the entire roster of Luke Skyywalker Records).

The second half of the eighties stands out as a particularly inventive time in Hip Hop's history. And while the new school of MCs were taking lyricism to new heights, the new breed of DJs were creating ever more sophisticated scratch techniques. As a generation of future turntablists got hooked on the sound, many records - such as Public Enemy's 'Rebel Without A Pause' - became known as much for their groundbreaking scratches as for their beats and rhymes.

Scratching So Nice Gotta Hear It Twice

This mix is a round-up of my favourite DJ tracks from that time. We begin and end with the magnificent Jazzy Jeff, one of the baddest DJs around and perhaps the first to commit the influential 'Transformer' scratch to wax. In between we have tracks from the likes of Marley Marl, Tat Money, Mr Mixxx, and Born Supreme Allah.

Public Enemy - You're Gonna Get Yours (Terminator X Getaway Version) (Def Jam, 1987)
A simple idea perfectly executed: taking an instrumental and cutting the vocals over the top. Although PE's Terminator X gets the namecheck, the DJ is actually Johnny 'Juice' Rosado from Kings of Pressure (he of the ambiguous 'rhythm scratch' credit on the album). Shattered childhood illusions aside, this is an inspired remix and a classic Def Jam release with 'Rebel Without A Pause' on the flip and a great picture sleeve of PE 'koolin' with their pistol brandishing posse.
N.Y.C. Cutter - D.J. Cuttin (Pop Art, 1985)
For those that don't know, this is renowned producer Marley Marl, the man credited with pioneering the use of sampled drum loops. He was none too shabby on the turntables either, releasing a number of excellent DJ tunes. Here he turns a drum roll and a screeching car tyre into a complete scratch-fest accompanied by some wailing rock guitar for good measure. Very nice - and I still can't work out how he does one of the scratches on here.
Dr. Dre and Unknown - Scratchin' 100 Speakers (Saturn Records, 1984)
Way before Eminem, long before Snoop, and some years before NWA, Dr Dre paid his dues on the Electro scene. On this early track - a 'Dr. Dre Scratchmix' - he teams up with Unknown DJ for some tag team turntable action. It only lasts for half the song but includes one of my favourite ever routines. As the scratching dies down, the bassline kicks in and combines with the whiplash snares and machine gun drum rolls to create a killer Electro tune.
Main Source - Scratch & Kut (Wild Pitch, 1991)
The only post-eighties tune to make the line-up, this classy take on the DJ track comes from Canadian brothers Sir Scratch and K-Cut, DJs with the group Main Source. Over a chilled out beat, they casually cut in familiar flute and horn riffs (from Kool & the Gang's much-sampled 'NT') and the names of the group members. No fancy turntable trickery - just laidback, understated scratching providing the perfect compliment to the music.
D.J. Born Supreme Allah - Two, Three, Break (Part II) (Vintertainment, 1985)
I have no idea who Born Supreme Allah was or why he disappeared with only two records to his (very cool) name, but this is without a doubt THE best DJ track of all time. Billed as a sequel to the B-Boys record of the same name, this version annihilates the original and every other DJ tune ever made. Hard drums, inventive routines (think proto-Skratch Piklz), and a messy, freestyle cutting finale make this a standout among DJ tracks. Most definitely a cut above the rest.