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
If, indeed, music historians look back at 1999 as turntablism's
zenith, DJ Craze's Crazeë Musick will be among the albums
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