various artists :: Return of the DJ, Vol. V
Label: Bomb Hip-Hop Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Clockwork. The circling of a fine record under a needle. Clockwork. The
passing of a hand around the dial to count time. In hip-hop, these things often
work in tandem. In Bomb Hip-Hop, these
things seem to come into sync every two years with the release of a new "Return
of the DJ" album. Turntablism is not overlooked in the interim of course,
because there are fine organizations like the Temple of Hip-Hop and the DMC World
Championships which help keep the lifeblood flowing, and artists like
DJ QBert and
constantly spreading the gospel of stylus to vinyl
through music like Jehovah's Witnesses door to door. Still, when a new "Return
of the DJ" volume hits stores, it's like an affirmation to the faithful who
still believe hip-hop is more than just a man on the mic, who believe in all
of the elements - beatboxing, visual arts (graffiti), b-boying (breakdancing)
and the Grandmaster like Flash of them all, the turntable.
For those who don't follow turntablism, this record will slip quietly under
the radar. For those reading this review however, the noise will be as loud
as the '89 Skratch Gangstaz (DJ Pone and Snayk Eyez) giving us their "Director's
Cut." You might presume that turntablism a.k.a. "deejaying" or "scratching"
is the art of providing a fresh sample for the hook of a song, producing a
fat beat for a track, or both. If you've been following DJ Premier for years,
those would be natural assumptions. What a "turntablist" does though is both
of these things, and more. The aforementioned track is an ideal example.
In representing Fairfield and Vallejo, these California wizards have assembled
a comical montage which is both a tribute to and spoof of the Governor-elect
Arnold Schwarzenegger. With their records and their skills, they create
multiple layers of sonic sounds. Swift hands moving back and forth make up
the beat, make up the music, punctuate the clever samples, and build up a
stellar song. Without giving away which Schwarzenegger samples are used
in the process, suffice it to say they are rearranged in a way that will
make you want to reconsider activites like driving while listening - you may
swerve off the road. As they carry you away to the ambulance though, you'll
still hear the dope beat in your head, and Ah-nuld's voice quipping "chill out
dickwad" and "fuck you, asshole."
Even though the Technics 1200 has been recognized as a musical instrument
by even the most un-hip of stodgied musical academians by now, it's still
a profound revelation to hear them arranged in symphonic harmony like this.
Any single DJ with the technical skills can turn two turntables into the
excellence of execution, but when a group of them get together like Timestretch,
DJ Nerve and Trouble B do on "Panic," it's one hell of a mindfuck. The
bass line in the background builds constant tension, the DJ's trade back
and forth showing their ability to split sounds into composite elements,
and when Busta Rhymes quips "it ain't motherfuckin SAFE no more" you're damn
sure ready to believe him. While the track itself showcases DJ unity across
the Atlantic from Canada to the United Kingdom, "Vol. V" is even more
global than that. "Disc Duel" featured DJ Hype and his Phaderheadz co-horts
representing Berlin, Germany on an ill track that pays tribute to everything
from 1980's hip-hop to classic video games like Pac-Man and Castlevania.
DJ Astro busts out some hard rock guitars on "Hate Me," representing the
unlikely mecca of Fort Collins, Colorado. The "Quattro Respirato" brings
fine Japanese styles to the ears courtesy Azzurro and Hashim B, by way
of Shibuya, Tokyo. New York wasn't left out though. DJ JS1 busts
off banging beats and serious anger over "weak beats and corny
producers" through "Ventilation," a song proudly sampling the Daddy-O
line, "we just did it - created a song with no bullshit in it!"
No matter where the representatives come from though, the only thing that's
important is that they REPRESENT. For the most part the
turntablists selected for inclusion in "Return of the DJ" editions do, and
artisans like DJ Shortfuse, Alien Army and DJ T-Rock are no exception.
Some of them have made a name for themselves through competitive turntablism,
some of them have made a name for themselves with their music, but without
a doubt they all rock the soundset. Picking favorites on an album like
this is harder than quantum physics, but songs like "1-8-7" by DJ Marvel
are guaranteed crowd favorites, as the magician mixes new words and MC's
like Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube into that old Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg classic.
On the other hand, experimental songs like "Recognize" by the Fingerbangerz
take the sound into a futuristic world previously only inhabited by insane
space aliens like Dr. Octagon and Dan the Automator. Whether you "Catch
Wreck" with the Jazz Addixx or take "The Old School Day Trip" with DJ
X-Rated, you can't go wrong with the fifth installment of "Return of the DJ."
Skillful DJ's lift breaks, beats, words, and previously unheard sounds
and create new worlds for music to inhabit; this album will lift you
straight off terra firma and take you into their orbit. If you don't
cop any other DJ albums in 2003, you should at least cop this one.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Scratch Vibes: 7.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: October 28, 2003