DJ Q-Bert Look up the word DJ in the dictionary and you will find a picture of DJ Q-Bert. Q-bert has not only won numerous DMC awards for his skratching skills, but has revolutionized the whole DJ game. Read on to get a DJing 101 class from the teacher!
Interview by Rob Schwartz
WHO?MAG: What differentiates Q-bert from other DJs? DJ Q-BERT: Well just like a signature, every DJ is gonna skratch differently and will know other points of music theory and ways of communicating their different ideas through their music… a big difference for me is that I am predominantly a skratcher, sorta like a musician playing the turntables.
WHO?MAG: For some of those younger artists, can you break down the evolution of the DJ? DJ Q-BERT: In a nutshell, a Disc Jockey started as someone that played records. For example, on the radio in the 50’s they would play the hits. Later in Jamaica, they developed two turntables and a mixer. The art of keeping the records on beat so that the DJ would talk over it and chant. Then, Kool Herc in the early 70’s took that idea back to New York and played the breaks of the records, to where the emcees would rap over and b-boys would breakdance. And this style was perfected by Grandmaster Flash, who even invented a mixer especially for bringing the breaks back and forth, and being able to cue up in the headphones. After that, Grandwizard Theodore invented the Skratch in the summer of 1975. Now it has evolved into a combination of many different forms of skratching and remixing beats into what we call Beat juggling.
WHO?MAG: A lot of DJs limit themselves to the clubs or mixtapes. Can you talk about your particular contributions to help the evolution of the DJ? DJ Q-BERT: One of my main contributions was skratch music, being able to play every single instrument like a band would, but from the turntables.
WHO?MAG: What path should an upcoming DJ follow to be ranked amongst the DJ Q-Berts of the world? DJ Q-BERT: They have to keep in mind that there’s no limit to the knowledge you can learn in music, and that it is a life-long process just as a martial artist would continue his journey of learning until he died.
WHO?MAG: What is the biggest mistake a DJ can make during a performance? DJ Q-BERT: Being unprepared. For example, not practicing. Not taking care of your records. Playing the wrong type of music for the wrong type of audience. There’s a million mistakes that can happen; from forgetting something, to forgetting that you’re an entertainer and not entertaining the crowd.
WHO?MAG: Breakdown exactly what a break beat is? DJ Q-BERT: The part of the record where the music breaks down, where usually the drums would be the break. The break of the music is the root of hiphop. This is where we get the term ‘b-boy’ or ‘break boy’, that dances to the break (breakdancers).
WHO?MAG: What would you say are the top 10 essential albums for breakbeats? DJ Q-BERT: That would be Volumes 1-10 ‘Ultimate Breaks and Beats’. the term ‘breakbeat’ can mean many different things to a lot of younger DJ’s. But for me, when I hear the term ‘break’ it means the breaks from funk and rock records usually of the late 60’s and early 70’s.
WHO?MAG: You won numerous DMC Awards and many other milestones. Do you feel that DJs get the respect they deserve? DJ Q-BERT: It is a very underground art. Just as in Jazz, it may take many years until the true artists get their notoriety.
WHO?MAG: What would you like to see changed in the future of DJing? DJ Q-BERT: I would like to see a cable television channel called ‘Skratch Vision’, and there would be all types of turntable artistry for us skratch nerds to watch. ha ha ha!
WHO?MAG: What does the future hold for DJ Q-bert? DJ Q-BERT: In the near future, the latest Turntable TV DVD will be complete. Check it out at thudrumble.com or djqbert.com. And in the long run, the continuous journey of skratch-exploraton.