DJ Scratch: On Hip Hop’s Past, Present and Future
In celebration of Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary, we’re turning up the volume on the DJs who paved the way to one of the biggest genres in the world. To kick things off, we’re shining the spotlight on DJ Scratch—a DJ who’s not just GOATed but who has produced some of the most iconic tracks in Hip Hop history. For decades, he’s been synonymous with innovation, creating music that has electrified dance floors and powered up protests alike. Here’s what he had to say about all things DJ culture.
The Birth of a Grandmaster
“Hip-hop started with the one and only father, DJ Kool Herc,” Scratch says, his voice tinged with a palpable respect. After all, it was Herc who christened him ‘Grandmaster Scratch.’ Scratch’s first experience DJing was at just three years old, back in 1972 inspired by his older brothers. “The first time I DJ’ed, it made me feel good that I made people feel good by just playing music.”
On His Contribution to Hip Hop
DJ Scratch’s contribution to hip-hop? Longevity, he says. “Allowing and being blessed to have DJs and children see me DJ for the past four decades is a blessing,” he elaborates.
Scratch’s pet peeve for up-and-coming DJs comes in the form of advice: Be on beat. The most important skill for a DJ is to stay on beat. He elaborates, “I’ll be in a club and, and DJs just slam records. They go from 128 beats per minute to, to like 80 in a heartbeat without even thinking about it.”
On His Best DJ Moment
Picture a 19-year-old straight out of Brooklyn, stepping off a plane in 1988 to open for none other than Run DMC on their iconic ‘Run’s House’ tour. Wild, right? The gig was a serious game-changer, not just because it was the first time he left the U.S., but because it shattered all his preconceptions about where life could take him. DJ Scratch didn’t pay much mind to foreign language classes in school—being from Brooklyn, he never thought he’d be in France or Spain. But there he was, a few years later, standing under the Eiffel Tower, all thanks to Run DMC.
On The Future of DJ Culture
“Everybody profits off of hip-hop except for the people who make it, who create the culture.”
Looking to the future, DJ Scratch envisions an independent era for hip-hop and DJ culture in the next 50 years. “I think it’ll be completely independent,” Scratch predicts, emphasizing the importance of embracing technology and owning your own publishing. He already leads by example with his own platform, Scratchvision.com. Launched in 2009, it serves as a hub for giving the next generation of DJs a platform to be seen in a space that’s created by the culture and for the culture.
DJ Scratch’s DJs to Watch
“The Steph Curry of turntables”
Scratch names DJ Koco from Tokyo as his personal favorite and one to watch. He goes on to say that many in the industry have been reluctant to elevate him because “he’s so dope that he’s intimidating” but lives by the idea that if someone is “better than me, then you’re with me. We’re all going for that chip.”
“She plays it all, she does it all”
Scratch also had high praise for Natasha Diggs, a multi-genre connoisseur he labeled as a ‘musical polymath.’” From playing vinyl, playing 45s, playing disco, playing house, EDM, she’s a DJ.”, he says. In an age where DJs are increasingly specialized, Diggs is a testament to the art’s foundational versatility.
After looking forward, DJ Scratch also makes sure to acknowledge the unsung DJs that laid the foundation for the genre. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing trailblazers like Grandmaster Flowers. Noting that he’s more than just a footnote in DJ history, but he opened for the legendary James Brown in 1969, a defining moment for the genre.
“That’s how big Grandmaster Flowers was that James Brown, the person who is responsible for Hip Hop, had this guy open for him.”
The Signature Beat
If you’ve ever found yourself jamming to a hip-hop track with hard drums and distinct baselines, chances are you were vibing to a DJ Scratch beat. The eminent producer opened up to us about the tracks that define his career: LL Cool J’s “Ill Bomb” and Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some More.”
“Every producer is blessed if they wind up having a signature style. That means you’ve produced enough for people to recognize your sound.”
When asked about the one record that defines him, he mentioned EPMD’s ‘What You’re Saying.’ But get this— it’s not just about the beats or the scratches; it’s about the artistry. He explains how he approached this track like a musician rather than just a DJ, aiming for his scratching to be another instrument that complimented the entire arrangement. That’s a masterclass in not just doing your thing, but doing it well. He elaborates, “You gotta know when to scratch and when not to.”
On Honoring the Past, Present, and the Future
As we wrap up, Scratch serves us the ultimate mic drop: “I just wanna thank the DJs around the world for keeping this culture growing and allowing us to create legacies.” He acknowledges the genre’s forefathers like Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster Flowers, DJ Kool Herc, and DJ Afrika Bambaataa.
Check out DJ Scratch’s legendary tribute to 50 Years of Hip Hop on his Instagram.
Don’t miss out on paying tribute to the DJs who have helped shape Hip Hop culture. Feeling inspired? Join the Serato HH50 movement and create your own routine using #ThankYouDJs and #Serato hashtags – and don’t forget to tag @serato so we can help you share the love.