Brave And Crazeë

The warriors in the turntablist revolution score another victory.

At the beginning of the year, I interviewed Dave Paul, founder of Bomb

Hip-Hop records, the label behind the influential Return of the

DJ series. He said he thought 1999 would be the peak year for

turntablism, and so far, he's been right — the Jeep Beat

Collective, Rob Swift and Peanut Butter Wolf have all blessed us with

excellent collections and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz have dropped

another edition of their highly eclectic Shiggar Friggar Show

series.

If, indeed, music historians look back at 1999 as turntablism's

zenith, DJ Craze's Crazeë Musick will be among the albums

they cite.

You think you've heard every scratch? Every possible combination of

juggled beats? Are you under the impression that DJs can't put beats

under spoken-word selections or kiddie-albums that would surprise you?

Can you tell a crab scratch when you hear it? Are you sure? These are

the kinds of questions raised when listening to Crazeë Musick.

Take "Hey Little Girl," for example. Everything in the song, except a

male voice saying "feel me," is backwards — the shuffling beat,

the string loop, the muddled bass, the scratches. It sounds not unlike

a soundtrack to a high-school health class "Don't Take Drugs" flick.

For all its backwardness, though, "Hey Little Girl" has a forward

motion to it, a groove that communicates what it must feel like to

push your way through a swimming pool filled with creamy peanut butter.

A song like this we expect from a trip-hop artist, or maybe an

ambitious experimental musician — but a turntablist? One backward

beat is adventurous for your average spinner — DJ Craze impresses

by taking us to the next level.

There is not a tired sample spun nor an overused beat nor an atypical

scratch performed on Crazeë Musick. Where DJ Craze really

excels, though, is in making his scratches sound like part of the

music, as opposed to a transition point between beats, hooks and

samples. The high-pitched scratching on "Dangerous" (RealAudio excerpt) is prevalent

throughout the song, but it is only at the end when it comes to the

forefront and reveals itself as vinyl manipulation and not a sample.

"Ride Dat Donkey" (RealAudio excerpt), meanwhile, is a sneaky wannabe dance-floor

sensation — sneaky in that its hook is simple enough to get your

feet moving (a cut-up sample of the doo-wop version of "Blue Moon"),

but those listening with headphones will find the song's multiple

layers to be equally, if not more, satisfying.

Not everything on Crazeë Musick is a direct hit. "Miami

International Break" is a dusty sounding electro-funk loop that clocks

in at 2:48 but feels much, much longer. After a full album of cutting,

scratching, juggling and engaging juxtapositions, a sterile loop that

sounds lifted from a grimy garage-sale album just doesn't thrill.

Additionally, those fond of traditional song structures will probably

find a lot of this one too esoteric to enjoy.

Those who are able to tune in to what DJ Craze is doing, however, will

find a lot of funk for the synapses to chew on for a while. Once you,

er, rap your brain around it, you'll realize it: the bar has been

raised.