The debate over who and what constitutes a 'Real DJ' is one that will rage into eternity. With rapidly changing technology and multi-million dollar residencies afoot, the art form is constantly being transformed, bastardized, and re-defined. Blistering light shows, and speakers setups that can literally knock you over, make it near impossible to understand what a superstar DJ is actually doing (and in many cases, not doing).
But if you attended any of the famed 'Table Turns' events in the late 90's you got an intimate view to some of the best to ever touch the decks. Craze, A-Track, and the GM Roc Raida are just a few notable wax wizards to grace this legendary event that has recently come back to life.
Picture a dimly lit lounge on New York's Lower East Side. And not one of those trendy leather and glass joints that could sub for a sushi restaurant. But a real, grungy, basic, and lovely New York City lounge. High ceilings, concrete floors, worn in furniture, and just the right amount of low lighting to make it feel slightly shady. It was called The Nuyoreacan Poets Cafe. And despite the tame name, one Sunday per month, it became an absolute musical beatdown. Combining with the MC battle event 'WORDS', this usually mellow room morphed into a den of bass beats and immense progression.
Originally launched by Doug Cohen AKA Sugar Cuts, the 'open turntablist' event provided a unique platform where DJ's could test their routines in a more relaxed setting and get feedback from a genuine jury of their peers. Unlike the stereotypical Celebrity jocks of today who are more concerned about whether their hair will stay in place during the choreographed fist-pump routine, the technicians who attended this event were all about pushing the art form and challenging themselves to be better. Despite the fact that many regional, national, and world champions were often in attendance, the egos were non-existent and everybody supported one another out of mutual respect and love for the craft. The feedback was always constructive, and mistakes were met with a knowing chuckle, as if to say 'We've all been there'.
This golden period of organic collaboration would come to an end with the introduction of computer DJs and a marginalization of the craft as a whole. While DJ salaries fluctuated violently in all directions, the art form slipped into the background as a side note. If someone could draw a crowd, they got the gigs regardless of skill level, and in some cases even using an iPod. (We see you Lohan!)
Luckily for us, things have a way of coming back around. Kids who used to be happy to eat a pill and jump around, are now becoming curious about whats actually going on behind the decks, and increasingly suspicious of fake DJs. In 2016 physical sales of Vinyl out-sold digital releases across all platforms. Is it a coincidence? We think not. So we were delighted, although not entirely surprised to see Table Turns recently resurrected at the Scratch DJ Academy. Veteran battle champion Roli Rho who participated in many of the original events has been pushing to re-ignite the turntable scene in New York and has succeeded by bringing this storied session back to life.
Much like the original events, the 2017 version is all about pushing the envelope, and as you'll see in the video, the art form has extended well beyond two turntables and a microphone.
So what constitutes a 'Real DJ?" We're not really sure! But don't ask anyone at a Table Turns event because they're too busy practicing to care about that silly question.
cover photo credit: ahhyeah.com