DJ Premier is one of my all time favourite scratch DJs and producers.
No one cuts up hip hop vocals quite like Premier, with his instantly recognisable funky chirps and stabs (scroll down for audio samples).
His cuts definitely inspired me when I first started scratching and still do to this day. There’s not a single beat he has produced that I don’t enjoy scratching to.
This video gives a great insight into how he approached scratching when he first started:
2022 update: Apologies, the videos have been taken offline and I am leaving this post here for archive purposes.
I’m sure most of you have already heard Premier on the cut, but then everyday someone is born that has’t heard him! Let’s take a listen:
Ex Girl to next Girl, The Militia II & DJ Premier In Deep Concentration are three of my favourite examples of Premier’s funky scratching style:
Ex Girl to next Girl
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The Militia II
DJ Premier In Deep Concentration
What Makes DJ Premier’s Cuts Great?
Now you’ve got an idea of the history and heard Premier’s cuts, let’s breakdown why his scratching hits the spot.
Before Premier even got on the decks, he had an innate understanding of music, rhythm and the placement of notes. He hears it in his head first.
Music has influenced him and he already had a style in his head. Scratching was purely an instrument to express this from the inside out.
His scratches are used to great effect and are integrated within the track to make it whole, rather than being a separate unrelated part, over the top of a track.
He uses vocal cuts to tell a story. He isn’t scratching for scratching’s sake or to show off, instead, each vocal cut adds something to the track.
You won’t hear any flares, boomerangs, or autobahns, but it really makes no difference and proves that good scratching is more than just techniques and clicks. His musicality and flow are what make his cuts truly great.
Even if you don’t know anything about scratching, you can still nod your head, which is something I personally aspire to with my own scratching and always appreciate in other DJs styles.
Applying This Approach to Our Own Scratching
Following Premier’s example, the focus is to bring a musical flow to our scratching, not just performing random techniques with as many clicks as possible with little context or thought for how it adds to the overall vibe.
We want people that don’t know anything about scratching to be moved by our cuts and nod their heads.
Here are my top tips to do this:
Find a beat that you really like and makes your head nod. Feel the beat and then figure out the scratch patterns that would sound good. You don’t necessarily need turntables to hand for this. I often listen to beats and lear the scratch patterns in my head.
Express yourself! Tell a story with your cuts. Try vocal samples in instead of the usual ‘ahhh’ or ‘fresh’.
Keep it simple! Don’t worry about advanced techniques so much.
Whenever I get too caught up in techniques, I take it back to the old school, listen to Premier cutting it up and remind myself of musicality, soul and funk, allowing it to infuse my cuts.
Just how funky can you make your chirps sound?!
Next time you are struggling with some complex cuts, why not take it back to basics and see how musical you can make your basic scratches, e.g chirps and stabs, sound?
Remember – scratch techniques are only one small part of scratching. How you use these techniques to best effect, creating something musical and flowing that other people can appreciate and connect with, is what truly counts.
Happy Scratching! 😀
– Emma Short-E