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Just Whatever Rocks:
How a Three-Word Philosophy Helped the Beat Junkies Become World Famous



DJ D-Styles

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Just Whatever Rocks: The World Famous Beat Junkies

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The World Famous Beat Junkies
(click to enlarge)

Photo by Stephanie Lewis, ©2001

When I first heard of the Beat Junkies crew, it was the summer of 1998. I was approaching my senior year in high school and I had finally saved up the cash to take a pair of turntables for a spin of my own. At that time, the Beat Junkies were to budding DJs like myself what bands like Nirvana were to aspiring rock bands in the grungy early 90's. They represented a dream — birthed and nursed in music infested basements and bedrooms — come true. They were somehow able to go from being your average kids on the block with a pair of turntables in their bedrooms to world-renowned disc jocks. And what separated them from fellow phonograph phenoms like the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and X-Ecutioners was that they were good at everything — not just scratching. They won world championship team DJ battles in '97 and '98 but their names were also on mixtapes, fliers for clubs, break records, radio airwaves, and the tongues of everyone who loved hip hop music.

Today, the Beat Junkies have advanced to a level beyond where they were when I first laid ears on them. Their collective has continued to build — several members have pursued successful solo ventures without disrupting ties with the crew, they have established their own record label (Beat Junkie Sound), and they recently released a compilation of their older projects, Classic Material. The hard work put in by Los Angeles' most famous group of disc jocks has helped spread the Beat Junkies' musical flavors around the globe and has also helped aspiring DJs and fans to better understand how these legendary turntablists approach their craft.

"There's no formula to what we try to apply to our stuff," asserts DJ Melo-D, speaking to me over the phone as he relaxes in his Cerritos, CA home. "Just whatever rocks."

For anyone learning the art of the DJ, sitting in front of the television studying videos of Melo-D executing cuts with astonishing precision or clutching your headphones tight trying to hear every detail of the seamless blends from a Rhettmatic mixtape might not be the best way to develop a feel of what being a disc jock is all about. If there is anything the Beat Junkies are telling their fans, it is the idea that careful scrutiny of music and technical prowess is not necessarily the key to a DJ's success.

Thinking back to the early days of my DJ career (if you would call it that) when I used to look to the Beat Junkies almost exclusively for inspiration, I now realize that Melo-D's description ("just whatever rocks") of the style that crowned these disc jocks as turntable royalty is the best possible definition of the group's distinct sound.

It is Melo-D's philosophy that has situated the Beat Junkies in a unique position within the hip hop DJ community. Typically, there are two types of DJs: those whose focus is mixing records that will incite booty-shaking riots on dance floors (the party rocker), and those who feel their primary purpose behind the decks is to cut sound into aural oblivion (turntablists). Amidst all of their world championship competition belts, critically acclaimed mixtapes, club residencies, and radio mixshows, the Beat Junkies fit snugly in between these two definitions.

"People say we're turntablists, and of course we are," says Rhettmatic, "but the bottom line is that we're hip hop DJs." And as the be-spectacled Beat Junkie will tell you, the job title of a hip hop DJ involves much more than the physical ability to scratch and juggle. The disc jock is expected to be able to mix songs, read a crowd, be able to dig for records, and above all, to have an understanding and a love for the music they spin and for the culture that produced it.

Rhettmatic is a known proponent of these ideas, taking the stage at the Skratchcon 2000 convention and making a now infamous speech about the importance of a DJ's all-around skills. As the elder of the two disc jocks, with almost 18 years of experience freaking Technics, Rhettmatic's story is quite different than Melo's. While they both share a love for the same types of music, his outlook on how the wheels of steel should be approached is rooted in the ideas passed down through sound to the DJs of his generation by the fathers of the culture, folks like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. "This is our culture, and it's our job to show it to the next generation as the generation before us showed us what we were supposed to do," Rhettmatic explains. His teaching and relaying of information to the next batch of disc jocks can already be seen in the form of instructional videos such as Shure Turntablism 101 and his defining mixtape, Beat Junkies Volume 2.

Although they are members of the same crew — friends who hang out and eat together as well as DJ together — Melo is a member of the generation that Rhettmatic has helped teach. The elder Junkie had already been spinning for eight years when Melo's hands first graced the turntables, and like many older disc jocks, Rhettmatic took a more traditional approach to DJing. Early on in his career, he "paid dues" by mixing at parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs — ventures that helped finance his vinyl obsession and support the scratch fetish that he indulged in at home.

Melo, however, was a scratch animal from the start. He spent his first several years behind the ones and twos in his bedroom, perfecting the incredibly precise cuts and complex juggle routines that won him the 1996 Vestax World Championship title. Only after years of scratch practice did he begin to learn the advanced mixing styles he has become famous for and that are showcased on his lauded mixtapes such as The AM Workshop.

While he is the younger of the two and is the self-proclaimed "new jack" of the Beat Junkies crew, Melo-D is also a teacher — an informal instructor in the arts of turntable trickery. His new-school flavored scratch styles and mind-blowing trick-mixing techniques have influenced an entire generation of DJs and have helped instruct the next batch of disc jocks as to how to progressively elevate their skills to the next level.

But while these two members of Los Angeles' most revered DJ collective have an undeniable role in influencing younger cats, there are elements responsible for the success of the Beat Junkies that cannot be taught, passed down, or copied. First is their love for hip hop. It is a love so deep that they have chosen to make the music their livelihood, even if platinum plaques on the walls of the studio are a far-cry from their daily realities. Listening to these two talk about new records they have found or rare 12"s they have unearthed from dusty used bins is like hearing die-hard Raiders fans talk about their passion for the silver and black.

"We get free stuff from labels, but still, we go out and buy records, cuz man, it's fun buying records. It's a drug," Rhettmatic says of his addiction to wax. "Back in the days for us," he continues, lamenting on his high school vinyl hunting adventures, "you didn't have a lot of money… and sometimes you have to sacrifice just not eating a whole week and just go get that record because you gotta have it!"

But a bonding force even greater than the Beat Junkies' love for hip hop music is the foundation the group is built upon — the crew's friendship. "We were all homies from way back in the day," Melo says. "We don't treat it like we're all employees in a company or something like that. The way our crew functions, I think it's really a unique thing. That's something we've always taken pride in." In a time when some of hip hop's most lauded DJ crews have fallen apart because of business issues, the strong friendship and the careful managerial aspects of the Junkies are what have helped keep the crew functional.

Due credit given to their strong friendship and love of hip hop, in actuality, a large part of their success has come from their adherence to the three word philosophy of Melo-D, "just whatever rocks." It is these words, the words that define their sound, that have earned the Beat Junkies the broad, diverse fan-base they have today and that will continue to win them support well into the 21st century. Should the next batch of disc jocks take heed to the wise words and sounds they pass down, the upcoming years will prove to be an exciting time in hip hop Djing indeed — and it will only get better.

Mike Gadd has been DJing for four years and is a member of the Golden Plate Warriors crew. He is currently eating a chicken strip sandwich and listening to the album, The Best Part by J-Live.

This article originally appeared on, where Mike Gadd is a contributing writer.

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