Hip Hop Superstar: Mixmaster Mike Aight'-
Thursday, September 20, 2001
Well, hasn't rap music come a long way since this 1978 ditty, 'Rapper's Delight'.
Inspired by the first piece of vinyl he bought in 1978, the Sugar Hill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight', Mixmaster Mike remembers growing up around his uncles' 70s and funk vinyl collections. "They were collectors. I remember watching sci-fi flicks and listening to John Coltrane and Miles Davis and being a kid, I was into crazy B [grade] science fiction movies and listening to jazz and blues," he recalls with fondness.
It's no wonder that, like some kind of American road movie, Mike ran away from home at fifteen to join the growing ranks of DJs in Sacramento. This multi-DMC champion, Invisibl Scratch Pickl and Beastie Boy muses, "it was kinda like the movie Kung-Fu where the guy sets off on an exploration, I kinda did that to try to find myself." In 1984, Mike was turned onto hip hop and b-boy culture and he set himself up as a mobile DJ playing weddings, house parties, anything. It was at one such event that he hooked up with Richard Quitevis (who would soon be known as Q-Bert) and they subsequently formed would become one of the most renowned DJ teams in hip hop. Some even venture to say that their 1993 routine at the DMC finals is 'the greatest scratch routine' in the event's history, a sentiment that Mike echoes nearly a decade later. "It was like me and Q-Bert had reached a certain peak, a level of intensity. As far as our skill goes, we were on this level; he was on this Miles Davis stage and I was on the Jimi Hendrix stage of making music so we adapted both skills and made something that was like a clash, it was pretty explosive.
"I felt like we really made a mark as far as tag-teaming went, like a scratch orchestra of the future. It was a moment in our time that we'd always dreamed of. It was like the ultimate routine. We made that same routine and bumped it in our car and drove around with it, and figured out ways of making it more crazy," he laughs. In three years in the DMC finals, Mike cleaned up, picking up four awards and, along with Q-Bert was inducted into the DMC Hall of Fame in 1998.
Three time DMC champion both in the team battles as the Rock Steady DJs with fellow Invisibl Scratch Picklz, Apollo and Q-Bert (1992) and then with Q-Bert as The Dream Team (1993/4), Mike acknowledges the continuing value of the competition to the hip hop arena. "It allows kids to get discovered. The first stages of DJing, of becoming a real hip hop DJ is to get into the battle scene. That's what got us discovered, being battlers, and it's important for kids to get that recognition. If you win battles, all of a sudden, people know who you are and from there you take it wherever you want to take it."
After three years' involvement with the DMC competition, in 1995, Mike and Q-Bert were asked to stand down as champions. This forced retirement resulted in a new role, as judges. "It kind of left us lost for a little bit," Mike reflects. "We were ready to defend our title each year so when they decided to make us judges, it was kind of a blessing in disguise. That's what started us making records and composing music on vinyl." Mike's been judging the finals since but this year's event at the London Apollo may be a different story. "To tell you the truth, I've been asked to but to me, these days, I don't feel like I'm anybody to judge these competitions anymore. Everybody's got different styles and I just don't like to be put in that position to say oh, he's the best one. It makes me feel kind of uncomfortable."
You could say that Mixmaster Mike is obsessive with his craft. Even today, with worldwide recognition of the DJ, the notion of the turntable as an instrument may seem foreign to some. Not so for Mike whose International Turntablist Federation introd Tags