NEW YORK -- For John Carluccio, the DJ is not just a person with two turntables and some quick hands. The DJ is an artist and an innovator in the language of music and the inner-city.
And he's out to prove his point.
"People like Miles Davis and John Coltrane manipulated the horn in ways
that the horn wasn't supposed to be used and created new ways to express
themselves, and that's what these DJs are doing," said John Carluccio Friday, at a benefit for his film Battle Sounds, the soon-to-be-completed documentary on hip-hop DJs.
Battle Sounds, which he directed, has already been screened at the Whitney Museum's 1997 biennial and New York City's New Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as other hot spots throughout the globe. Last Friday, New York City's Knitting Factory in Greenwich Village served as the site of a benefit to raise money for the documentary's post-production expenses.
The evening began with a screening of the wonderfully historical and entertaining 64-minute documentary and ended with a dizzying turntablist manipulation of LL Cool J's "Rock the Bells" by The X-ecutioners' Roc Raida.
The night was highlighted by the synchronized appearances by original hip-hop DJs Kool Herc and Grandwizard Theodore, which was kind of like having Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis share the same stage, except these guys have been criminally ignored by virtually everyone.
Herc has been credited, along with Afrika Bambaataa, as being one of the first to collage breakbeats for dancers who attended mid-1970s Bronx block parties, the popular neighborhood gatherings that gave birth to hip-hop. Grandwizard Theodore is arguably the inventor of the scratch, and he explains how he discovered it in a humorous interview that was one of Battle Sounds' many high points.
But it was Carluccio who explained why Battle Sounds needed to be made, "I started noticing that a lot of DJs were upset because they weren't getting respect for what they were doing and yet they still wanted to do it and up the ante and go further with their technical abilities."
In a night chock-full of exciting moments, perhaps the most electrifying
was the X-ecutioners' mind-blowing performance. This four-man turntablist
"band" consists of Rob Swift, Roc Raida, Mista Sinista and Total Eclipse
who "play" bass, drum and guitar on their turntables, a feat that has to
be seen and heard to be believed.
Lined up across the stage like a low-key Jackson Four, they set their eight turntables in motion and constructed a song using nothing but records and a needle by scratching, looping and fading these LPs all in perfect synchronized motion. The X-ecutioner's new release on Asphodel, X-pressions, is the first full-length record by an all DJ crew of its kind, and is a landmark record
not only because it is groundbreaking, but because it is a great album as
The only disappointment of the night was that their performance as a group was woefully short, despite that each individual member got one or
two solo shots throughout the evening.
"In discussions I was having with people like Rob Swift, these people were talking like pure artists, and I was like, 'why aren't these people being appreciated?'" Carluccio said. "The DJ has created a sort of audio language. When you have language you have new words. These guys can manipulate this language to create personal expression, and if we get more people in tune with this language they can go to a higher level of art with it where these guys can articulate more." [Tues., Sept. 16, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]