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THRIFTIN' FOR A SCRATCH: The Hella Broke-Ass Style of DJ'ing



DJ D-Styles

Style Wars:
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Grand Wizard Theodore

DJ Qbert

DJ 8-Ball


Space Traveling (part 1):
DJ Quest

Space Traveling (part 2):
Eddie Def

Space Traveling (part 3):
DJ Cue and DJ Marz


Sacramento Rap History Lesson by X-Raided

He's The King of The Smut... On Two Turntables: The Porn / Turntablism Connection — Part 3— DJ Relm and DJ Streak Interview

Just Whatever Rocks: The World Famous Beat Junkies

Waxing That Wax: The Porn / Turntablism Connection — Part 2 — D-Styles Interview

Thriftin' For a Scratch:
The Hella Broke-Ass
Style of DJ'ing

DJ Pone Reports from the 2002 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas

DJ Apollo Receives "Hip Hop Slam Hall of Fame Award"

2001… A Scratch Odyssey:
Year in Review

QBert Receives "Hip Hop Slam Hall of Fame Award"

How to Manufacture Your Own CD, Record, or Tape

Dirt Hustlin':
Oakland's New Underground'

Filipino American DJs of the Bay Area

Party Blocking at the DMC American Battleground

If I eat cheese sandwiches and ramen soup for the next week, I can probably go hungry for just one day before the next paycheck. Don’t front and act like you don’t know what it’s like. For many DJs, scraping by is the cost of vinyl addiction and equipment upgrades. And in the post dot-bomb wasteland of maxed-out credit cards and pragmatic labor (if you’re lucky to find it), how can anyone afford the hip-hop lifestyle? Welcome to the Hella Broke-Ass Style of DJing.

This first installment of "Thriftin’ for a Scratch" focuses on the relationship between your values, time, money and record buying. Future stories will focus on consumer advocacy specific to DJs. Most of the suggestions below are common practices borrowed from the conscientious consumer; ideals, which I’ll admit, may run counter to the DJ’s culture of must-have collectibles and impulse buying. But, if you’re reading this, you’re probably as fed up with mindless consumption as a sucka with his ass cheeks sewn together. Ka-Plow!

Think Twice Before You Buy

While at the record shop, here are some things to consider before you get to the register. At the end of each item is a suggested action to further clarify your principles, wants and realities.

1) Is this record worth my hours of labor? If a shop at the mall asked you to work a half-day stocking shelves in exchange for just one break record, would you do it? Well, in California, the average entry-level job pays $7.76 an hour before taxes (according to a 2001 state labor report). If that’s you, then each new 12-inch record equals about an hour of your labor. Up to three hours of your labor for just one battle record. Add more labor hours if you pay with a credit card. At that pay rate, a $1,000 credit balance would take an entire month’s earnings of full-time labor to pay off – and that’s without interest.

ACTION: Calculate your per-hour wage after taxes and find out exactly how much of your time is spent laboring for a new 12-inch single or battle record. If you have a fat credit balance due largely to DJing costs, calculate how many days of full-time labor it’ll take to pay it off.

2) Can I find it used? Diggers know to hit the used bins and $1 stacks at thrift shops. In a recent flip through the used section at Amoeba Berkeley, I found near pristine copies of the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, Azeem’s excellent Craft Classic, Aesop Rock’s Labor Days and a reprint of Sly Fox’s "Let’s Go All the Way" from 1986 – all at a fraction of some of the unopened versions just one aisle over. I passed on a few battle-break records I already had. They’re all not old thow-aways, either; some shops will sell promos of brand spankin’ new releases at discount prices. Places to look: used record stores, swap meets, garage sales, used bookstores and rummage yards.

ACTION: Get to know the small and independent new and used record shops in your town. Create a list of retailers and make a point of checking them out.

3) Do I really need this record? There’s a saying in marketing: "People don’t know what they want, until you show it to them." Sales floors, vinyl shops included, are designed to exploit impulsive behavior. If you didn’t need that record before you got to the record store, then why alluvasudden is it something you can’t live without?

ACTION: Commit to staying within your record-buying budget. If over budget, place selected records in order of most need and use. Put back those records that make up the rear of your stack.

4) Do I support this artist’s values and record label? Yes, you can contribute to hip-hop by refusing to purchase certain records and by supporting artists and labels making a difference in the culture. Hell, if you worked hard for your scrilla, then why give it to a no-skill, wack bastard who’s living in the Hamptons? In these hard times, independent labels – often the only outlet for underground artists like yourself – are falling like wads of cash in a jiggy video.

ACTION: Support your local hip-hop scene by buying locally produced records and CDs.

5) Do I have the storage space? As much as you own your records, your records also own you. Anyone with a moderate vinyl collection will tell you that proper record storage is a constant life issue. Finding living space that’s large enough and safe to support a growing collection often means more labor hours going to higher rent, mortgage or a storage facility. Or living at yer momma’s house forever.

ACTION: Make space. Go through a section of your records and donate or sell those you don’t need. Developing a normal donate/sell schedule will also help keep your records in order.

6) Can I get the same use via Internet download? For example, non-scratching beat makers: The downsides of vinyl are higher costs, loss of sound quality and quirky storage. If all you need is a sample that doesn’t need to be scratched, might as well download a clean version off the Internet.

ACTION: For music saved on computer or CD, invest in or download a wave-editing and/or MIDI sequencing software program. Conceivably, you can create an Endtroducing without ever leaving your home or paying anything more than the electricity bill.

7) Is my money/labor/time better used for something else? What’s a better feeling: financial freedom or worrying weather that check you wrote for pizza delivery is gonna bounce?

ACTION: Flip through a few crates of records at home and pull out the ones you’ve played only once and those you likely won’t play again. Be honest with yourself and your role(s) as hobbyist, party-rocker, producer, battle DJ or whatever. When you’re done, consider how much of your money/labor was spent for those records. Could it have been better spent elsewhere? If so, in what ways?

Okay, enough introspection for the day. Do whatever suggested actions you feel comfortable with and check back here occasionally for additional tips on how to save money. We all love vinyl. And there’s always better ways of getting it. The Hella Broke-Ass Style of DJing is not dogma; just awareness of one’s purchasing power and how it can be used to better oneself and the hip-hop community.

Send your suggestions, hate mail, love letters or interpretations of Kurtz’ "the horror" at the end of Apocolypse Now to

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