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DJ Qbert Looks Deep Into His Soul for Sounds of Life… and Discovers Himself All Over Again



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In the year 3030, DJ Qbert may finally get his due in the pantheon of 21st Century musical geniuses. Only time will tell. But as for the present, he is reverting back to a state of wonder. After riding a wave of mutilated sound for 15 years, ushering in his own stylized form of "skratch music," DJ Qbert is returning to his musical roots….

"It’s more of a self-expression quest I’m on," says Qbert of his inward journey. "I’m just doing my thing, trying to be different, trying to dig deep into my own being and have my own unique style to offer the whole world. Just like how everyone has a different fingerprint, everyone looks different, everyone talks different—everyone has their own personality."

DJ Qbert.

Although the Invisibl Skratch Piklz are now defunct as a deejay collective, their legacy remains. The impact they made on the hip-hop world with such classic tracks as Invasion of the Octopus People and Klamz Uv Deth will undoubtedly be felt for years to come. And with a new crew on the horizon, consisting of DJ Qbert, D-styles, DJ Flare and Yogafrog, the future remains wide open as ever. But whether they are able to recapture the magic of the past and still move forward remains to be seen. Many heads have left the game never to return, or worse yet, returned only to find themselves no longer a player.

"This is different," says Qbert. "We’re not trying to come back to come back. It’s more of a spiritual thing for us. We’re not coming back for money or anything. If we were doing it for money we’d just keep doing it and doing it. The real reason is that there’s this new style, a bunch of styles that are being done by this guy. And it’s like we’ve got to go back into practice ‘cause we’re kind of late right now. We’ve been doing it for 16 years but this guy’s been doing it for 26 years consistently. So we were very humbled by that experience. We need to go back to the drawing board…."

As DJ Qbert goes back into training to study this secret new system of scratching, the turntable world continues to spin. After all, revolutions don’t stop after just one groove. And even though DJ Qbert has been heavily lauded as the ambassador of turntablism, he can still appreciate other people’s contributions to the art form.

"There’s different types of styles," says Qbert. "I think it’s really nice everyone has their own touch to the art and I think that’s what is beautiful about the whole art of scratching. Everyone brings their own flavor to it. It’s very inspirational."

Though perceived mainly as a scratch soloist, DJ Qbert has also followed in the steps of other artists trying to push the ends of the musical envelope, by collaborating with musicians outside of the traditional hip-hop vein.

"I think working with different artists and musicians definitely broadens your thought of how music is done," says Qbert. "I’ve heard a lot of compositional formulas and time signatures and rhythms from musicians who’ve studied it longer than I have. I took some formal training but these guys are like real deep… that’s definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities."

Just as bebop evolved out of the swing band era of the 1930’s, turntablism was born from hip-hop culture, making it possibly the second original music form to be created in America after jazz.

"Technically, bebop was characterized by fast tempos, complex harmonies, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that laid down a steady beat only on the bass and the drummer's ride cymbal. Bebop tunes were often labyrinthine, full of surprising twists and turns. All these factors - plus the predominance of small combos in bebop - set the music apart from the swing bands of the 1930s."
—from David H. Rosenthal's book, Hard Bop, published by Oxford Paperbacks, New York, 1992

"There’s a big connection there," points out Qbert. "Jazz is very diverse. There’s all kinds of styles in jazz. There’s all kinds of styles in scratching. There’s all kinds of time signatures in jazz. There’s all kinds of time signatures in scratching. It is jazz in its own way…. As how deep a jazz artist can dive into their music, you can get the same energy from different scratch music…and with rock music, too… any kind of music… it’s all music… a free art… it’s free."

With Wave Twisters the Movie making its way into this year’s Sundance Film Festival,
DJ Qbert may have finally found vindication for his art. But that accomplishment by itself probably won’t be enough to stop his musical massacre. Training continues at the Temple Warplex, the Lair of the Octagon, and the Shit Palace. And when DJ Qbert comes back, he’ll come correct.

"It’s pretty crazy," says Qbert, "but y’know… I’m just doing my thing and I still see myself as the same person. I’m still trying to create for people. I don’t know… I just see myself as the same guy when I started 15 years ago… 15 years ago where I had a passion for scratching and I still have the same passion."

This interview took place on December 12, 2000 at the Lair of the Octagon.
Dopestyle, yo.


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