TF Archives

The Art of Digging

Author: Chris Wheeldon
Friday, June 6, 2003
To dig is by dictionary definition, "break up or turn over, obtain by digging, find, discover" In the world of turntablist and DJs the definition of digging although the same, has become a separate and different ideal, an ideal and activity in which nobody gets dirty.

It has become part of a culture that has always been considered a 'fad' but one that has been embedded into mainstream society, Hip-Hop.

Similarly digging has crossed over cultures and genres of music and embraced the ever changing face of dance and electronic music.

Digging began out of a need for DJs to produce fresh and original beats for MC's to rhyme or lay down a rap over.

In the early days of Hip-Hop, DJs did not have ready-made beats to drop and most were unable to produce their own music with their own instruments.

Instead they used other artist's records, by mixing them together to create original beats, beats that could be then recorded or simply rapped over live.

As DJ's became more accustomed to the art they began to search further and wider into new and old records, often crossing genres to create their own. The action of looking for the records became known as digging. Essentially that's what DJs had to do; they had to dig into piles of records to find a track they could use.

As synthesisers and drum machines became widely used and producers could create their own beats for MCs to rhyme over, the art of making original beats on stage began to fade, but it never died.

Instead it became it's own genre, DJs no longer had to make the beats for the MCs instead they began to play around with the records, scratching them to produce a certain sound or juggling between two different beats to produce one.

Similarly a new breed of DJs evolved, DJs that spun already recorded Hip-Hop records as well as other forms of electronic music, at clubs for people to simply listen to and dance to.
Therefore a new form of digging began, one in which the DJs search for particular genres of music to be able to play at certain parties and clubs.

As you enter any record store throughout the world today you will be confronted by pale skin men and women form all walks of life and all ages searching frantically through thousands and thousands of vinyl records.

Every now and then they will take a pile away to a turntable set up in the corner and they will listen to every record in their hands, separating them into those they like and those they'll return to the pile.

They often do this over and over again before they reach their budget on records for that week, only to return the next day to buy yet more records.

They return the next day, worried that if they do not return a new track maybe released and they are stranded without a copy while others have been able to pick it up.

As these people search, they are all searching for the one record that will set them apart from all the other DJs on their particular scene, the one record that will get the audience remembering their set.

Digging is in no way refined to the set record stores in any given city.

It extends to second hand stores, to Salivation Army stores and other discount shops, to swap meets and garage sales and to the countless markets that make up a Sunday's worth of looking.

Purest would argue that digging outside of the set records stores is the true art of digging but like anything the original idea has to evolve.

For most diggers in these times, they work perfectly between digging for a set record in a set record store and going of the beaten track to find that rare track that no one else seems to have.

Digging has evolved as has the ideals behind the idea.
For diggers the perfect beat or sample does not simply lay in the set genres of their particular style but it can extend to music from the past and music that could and should be considered bad.

As CDs became the norm, during the mid to late 80s it would not be a rare sight to see people lit