Is there a sc-scratch on the record?
Last Tuesday the legendary DJ Disco Wiz, Pop Master Fabel, and UNC’s own Dr. Katz gave a panel discussion on “Latinos on the founding of Hip-Hop”-with their discussion finding its way back to the roots of hip-hop music: in the drums of Africa, the rhythms of the Caribbean, and finally to the 1970’s in the Bronx which was at, according to DJ Disco Wiz, it’s worst-impoverished and on fire. Explaining and re-living the cultural setting which hip-hop emerged from, Disco Wiz emphasized the constant music of the summer, and the cultural influences that the Afro-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and “New Yor-ricans” (in the words of Pop Master Fabel) contributed: all giving birth to the true culture of hip-hop, which Dr. Katz breaks down into four categories: the DJ, the MC, graffiti, and the B-boy and B-girl.
DJ Disco Wiz began his career with lifelong friend and hip-hop partner Grandmaster Caz in the early 1970’s, when “jacking” power from streetlamps to power the party was a way of life. His duo also produced the first “mix record”, which re-defined DJ-ing by putting together all the breaks, sound effects, and voices needed for a show onto one record plate. Meanwhile, Pop Master Fabel started a few years later with his dancing, and now is Vice-President of the Rock Steady Crew-one of (if not THE) most renowned hip-hop dance crews. It became clear throughout the talk that the energy and life of that original cultural birth is still alive and burning today, even if it’s not on the radio. Pop Master Fabel described the Record Industries affects on hip-hop as having stripped it down to only a sound-no graffiti, no dancing, not even DJ’s anymore-just the MC (evolving to be “the rapper”) and his voice. In harsher words, Disco Wiz described “the bullshit top six songs today” as the brainwashing of our generation-instead of crack, the de-sensitizing effects of images and lyrics are doing their damage. Both were quick to note that the need for a panel on the “Latinos” in the founding of hip-hop goes to show just off out of touch the world has come to the true culture of hip-hop: which was always based on skill level and the love of hip-hop, rather than any one race or skin tone.
In fact, the “breaks” themselves which B-boys and B-girls would dance to, and which Disco Wiz and others looped endlessly to create new songs, originate in the percussion solos of salsa and latin music, as well as from the drumming so instrumental in traditional African life. Trying to distinguish the source of hip-hop between one culture and another assumes that the cultural groups were separate to begin with, which both Fabel and Disco Wiz recognized may have been true with some “unconscious” individuals, but was not the case on a larger scale. Both also discussed the importance of women, as a group completely overlooked in the founding of hip-hop culture-fitting well with an article recently published by Dr. Katz entitled “Men, Women, and Turntables: Gender and the DJ Battle.”
Two hours later, the discussion ended in a formal, then informal, then conversation styled question and answer session, in which it was obvious that both Fabel and Disco Wiz were happy to talk indefinitely of their experiences and of the energy of the culture they are such a large part of.
DJ Disco Wiz can be found on his website (discowiz.com) or on his weekly radio show, and now has just published his book as the first Latino DJ. Pop Master Fabel, when not spreading the hip-hop gospel around the world, can be found at the Rock Steady Crew website.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the origins of hip-hop, check out the “Hip Hop Box Set” from the Music Library, or the book “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey”.