Today, when someone refers to a DJ they might just be talking about a hired gun that comes to parties and get-togethers to run sound and spin some music, not actually performing as a turntablist. Such terms didn’t even exist prior to 1995, when DJ Babu officially coined it to differentiate between performers and event hosts. Yeah, in the hands of a master, a turntable becomes a real musical instrument, loops and strange samples all coinciding with scratches and more – basically whatever the DJ has in their bag of tricks. But before we start talking about all of that stuff,, let’s dive into a bit of the history first.
A brief history of real DJ-ing
Basically, a number of factors aligned which would later give rise to the possibility of certain equipment like DJ Controllers and techniques landing into the hands of key experimenters. For one, the rise of disco had to occur in order to popularize many of the most popular types of mixers, etc. Had this not occurred, a number of elements would be missing, thus not allowing latter DJ’s to begin doing things like “beat matching” or “beat mixing”. Because of the need to try to keep the action flowing on the dance floors, DJ’s would wear headphones and covertly match bpm tempos to mark smooth transitions. Naturally, this led to the emergence of special dual play turntables which would later become extremely popular with turntablists, obviously.
Then along comes this cat named DJ Kool Herc, who basically created the looping breaks stuff, thus allowing for specific and fresh types of beat construction. As one might have expected, this in turn began to catch on, basically forming the technical roots of hip hop which in turn influenced major artists like Grandmaster Flash. Then came scratching – apparently discovered by accident by the Grand Wizard Theodore. From there on in, the rest is history. Electronic music was entering the fray and integrating with street sounds in various ways, all of this led to form what we consider to be modern DJ-ing.
How DJ equipment has changed over the years and more
Well, the most obvious change has been one going from virtually all analog over to all digital. In the past you only had a vinyl record setup to choose from – that was it. There were no CD-based turntables, ya dig? This also meant that a the serious DJ not only had to get their techniques down cold, but that they also had to make regular trips to the record store to stock up and stay fresh. Basically, there used to be more of an investment mindset to being a turntablist. Of course, nowadays, you can grab tracks straight off the net (completely legally) and/or pick up all the hottest CD pressings for literally pennies on the dollar, that is, if you’re still using CD’s. Even a basic, bottom shelf DJ controller unit today utilizes jog wheels, trigger pads, auto tempo matching and built in effects to control sounds digitally. Rather than lugging around boxes or LP’s, you can bring a tight, compact, feature-packed setup to a gig and pull of hundreds of techniques on the fly while accessing hundreds of thousands of tunes and cues without breaking a sweat. It’s basically a brave new world…