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BILLY JAM: How did you first create the scratch 26 years ago in 1975?
GWT: I used to come home from school and go in my room and practice a lot and this particular day I came home and played my music too loud and my mom was banging on the door and when she opened the door I turned the music down but the music was still playing in my headphones and she was screaming ‘If you don’t turn the music down you better turn it off’ and I had turned down the speakers but I was still holding the record and moving it back and forth listening in my headphones and I thought ‘This really sounded something….interjecting another record with another record.’ And as time went by I experimented with it trying other records and soon it became scratching.
BJ: At that time Kool Herc was around here doing his thing but he wasn’t doing anything like scratching, was he?
GWT: Well Herc is like an old school DJ. Basically he would put a record on and let the record play. He might have both on at once but the cross-fader was on one side only. I think many people were on the verge of discovering it back then but I happened to be the first.
BJ: After you discovered the scratch who did you show first?
GWT: Well actually I didn’t show anyone. I just did it. I was always the type of DJ who wanted to be different from everyone else coz everyone else was playing the same records the same way. So after a time people started to notice that I played different records and was scratching the records and interjecting different records and needle dropping coz I also invented the ‘needle drop’ and basically I would just display my talents when it was time to do a party. At first I would only scratch maybe one or two records during a party but as time went by I would scratch more and more and soon I would scratch on every track I played.
BJ: So what kind of parties would these be and how did people initially react?
GWT: These would be house parties and big parties here in the Bronx and people loved it when they first heard it. It was raw and they appreciated it!
BJ: What was it like in the very early days of hip hop?
GWT: I had an older brother named Mean Jean and he was down with Grandmaster Flash. They were partners and I was like the record boy for them and I would carry their records for them or go downtown to Downstairs Records and pick up 45’s for them. But Flash and my brother had different ideas about music so they split up and Flash formed the Furious MCs and my brother and me and my other brother Corleo we formed The L Brothers since our last name is Livingston and everybody was like ‘The Livingston Brothers’and for a while they called us the ‘The Love Brothers.’ And we took on two emcees… and later on my brother quit DJ’ing and I went on and formed my own group… and back in those days it was not just Blacks but Latinos as well who helped form the culture of hip hop: like a lot of the graffiti artists and break dancers were Latino. We were all down together.
BJ: Does the fact that hip hop is so popular all over the world today amaze you?
GWT: It does and it doesn’t but really I just did it for the love. The money was good but I did it all coz I love music. My mother and my uncles and my family growing up would always gather around and play good music and eat good food so I was always surrounded by music so I had the love for it and when I would DJ parties I would always try to make it a good time for people to forget about their problems.
BJ: How important is the DJ in hip hop?
GWT: The DJ sets the tone for the party. He has the records, the speakers, the amps—he has everything. The b-boy couldn’t come out and break until the DJ was playing the music. And the rapper: all he has to do is show up and pick up the mic and just start rapping, but not until after the DJ had set everything up. Back in the day with someone like Kool Herc, he was the DJ and he had rappers with him but he was the one out front and they just backed him up. But as time went by the rappers started phasing out the DJ as they became more and more popular and moved to the front. So I think it is great that the DJ is now making a comeback coz the DJ played a major, major part in this hip hop culture.
BJ: What do you think of all the new techniques being developed by today’s ‘turntablists’ and how companies are streamlining DJ equipment for scratch DJs.
GWT: With all of these new developments, like say the new needles made just for turntablists, it means that the art form of DJ’ing is going to keep evolving and I think it has a little further to go until it is fully evolved.
BJ: What are you working on nowadays?
GWT: I am working on a new CD called The Nights of the Round Table coz the turntable is round and when you think of a DJ he does his work at night… And I do a lot of traveling to other places like Europe. I just want people to know that I am still out there and I want to educate people on the culture coz a lot of people do not know about the culture.
BJ: Which brings us to Heineken beer’s recent TV ad campaign in which they got their facts all wrong and misinformed people saying that scratching began in 1982, seven years after you created it.
GWT: I don’t know if they knew what they was doing and just decided to make a spoof out of it or whatever but they have to realize that this is a culture and that this culture affects a lot of peoples’ lives and we want people to understand the truth of a culture so it won’t be misinterpreted. Like back in the days we never called women ‘bitches’ or ‘hoes’ but nowadays you’ve got guys calling women these things and rapping about ‘my big car this and that’ and ‘selling drugs this and that.’ But back in the day hip hop wasn’t about that. It was only about ‘clap your hands’ and ‘stomp your feet, you know?’ People have to learn the culture.
BJ: Do you think that the new documentary Scratch that you are featured in is a fair portrayal of the scratch DJ?
GWT: Yes I do.
BJ: And where do you see the scratch DJ in the future?
GWT: I see scratch DJs getting more and more recognition and winning awards like Grammies just like rappers and any other type of musician. And nowadays you have a lot of bands with DJs in them so I see the DJ evolving and getting the type of recognition that they have always deserved.
Interview by Billy Jam
by Afrika Bambaataa
Hip-Hop vs Hip-Hop (Take it for what it is).
I, Afrika Bambaataa, have heard it all, read it all, in many magazines throughout the world, and seen almost all in this continuing bullshit about which rappers are better, east coast v west coast, Miami bass hip-hop is bullshit, British Rappers sound funny rapping, electro funk, techno rappers are soft, I like hardcore rap and beats, this one group is like that, old school vs new school, Rap wouldn`t be rap if it wasn`t for the battles, I`m the quickest, baddest rapper, deejay around, Go Go music in Washington D. C. is dead. It`s all about hip-house or house music all night long. I dis you, you dis me, my crew will take you out or kick your ass, fuck this or that, Nigger, Bitch, Nigguz, Nigguh, Hoe, Hooker, Bitches with Problems, Hoes with Attitudes. Just look at yourselves, sounding like a bunch of fools, who really don`t have any true knowledge of self and knowledge of hip-hop culture and what it`s all about.
First of all, let me tell you that the music (beats) that makes up hip-hop, comes from different nationalities and races, especially from black people, and if you think I am a brother who don`t know what he is talking about, just check out many of the music, beats, grooves and sounds that many of your rappers use to make their records or rap over. Hip-hop music in general is colorless and not racist.
It comes from many categories in music, for example: Hip-hop music is made up from other forms of music like funk, soul, rhythm & blues, jazz, rock heavy metal, salsa, soca (calypso), TV shows, kiddie shows, horror movies, techno, pop, disco, african, arabic, reggae -etc. . . . and if you use any records from these categories, you will see that the music is made by people from different races or nationalities from all over the planet, but it`s roots start with black people.
I have read many interviews by different rap groups throughout the world, just to see where their heads are at, whether they are really knowledgeable about hip-hop music/culture or whether they are just plain assholes. Many of the rappers will down(dis) another rapper because he or she wanted to experiment with hip-hop by singing or adding a different sound in hip-hop to create something new.
When are all of you in the hip-hop world going to “wake up”? You love to keep dissing each other for nothing and if you were wise in your disrespect of each other, you would know how to make money with respecting your disrespect of each other, if you truly understand what I am saying. Many who are into hip-hop or part of hip-hop culture throughout the world need a check up from the neck up.
In fact, and in truth, the whole human family needs one. Everyone needs to check up on their own roots and culture and seek the real truths on life on this so-called planet Earth. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, facts and truths about black, brown, red, yellow and white people and not that brainwash white supremacy shit that white people in power have taught all over the world and to their own people of the so called planet Earth.
Yes there are many wrongs in the worldwide hip-hop community, but there are also many aspects of positivity within the hip-hop community that the media or trade magazines rarely focus upon. Many of you in hip-hop culture don`t even listen to the rappers who are trying hard to wake your asses up to what is going on in the bigger scale than of what you see in your neighborhoods, their message goes in one ear and out the other.
The media does play a big role in destroying the hip-hop culture movement, but many of you in the hip-hop community are the biggest enemies of hip-hop and you will be the ones who will help the enemies of hip-hop to destroy it, or to bring it back underground, because of your ignorance of knowledge of hip-hop. This has started the difference between “old school” and “new school”.
To myself (Afrika Bambaataa) there is only one school and that`s the learning, evolving, going through the different phases or cycles school of hip-hop. That is the real hip-hop school. A lot of you in the world of hip-hop better start looking at the problems in your own backyard as well as the world, because while you are enjoying yourselves etc. there are many plots being sprung to destroy hip-hop in the world.
Because many people in government look at hip-hop music and its culture as a radical music that gets straight to the point and music that will wake up the youth and young adults throughout the world. They can also use hip-hop to backfire and destroy itself. You can believe what I`m saying. But time will tell and I see what you see not.
Peace be unto you,
Your brother in music and faith,