From Academic Kids

Turntablism is a subgenre of pop music which emerged from hip hop. One who engages in turntablism is a turntablist, a term coined by DJ Babu whose mix-tapes bore the name "Babu the turntablist". Turntablists are DJs who use vinyl disc records, and turntable techniques like scratching or beat juggling in the composition of original musical works. Turntablism is generally focused more on turntable technique and less on mixing, rapping or vocal delivery. Some turntablists seek to have themselves recognized as a legitimate musician capable of interacting and improvising with other performers.

DJ Grand Mixer DXT is credited with inventing turntablism, the rhythmic scratching of a record on a turntable, then using different velocities to alter the pitch of the note or sound on the recording, making the turntable a fully performable and improvisational instrument (Alberts 2002).

Turntablists like Roc Raida, Q-Bert, A-Trak, and Kid Koala owe a distinct debt to old school DJs like DJ Kool Herc, Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and DJs of the "Golden Era of Hip-Hop" such as Eric B, who originally developed many of the concepts and techniques that evolved into modern turntablism. There are also more experimental turntablists such as Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Philip Jeck and Janek Schaefer. Within the realm of hip hop, notable modern turntablists are the cinematic DJ Shadow, whose influences stretch to both Diplo and RJD2, among others, and the experimental DJ Spooky, whose Optometry albums showed that the turntablist can perfectly fit within the classic jazz setting. Cut Chemist and Nu-mark, members of old school hip hop collective Jurassic 5, and Mixmaster Mike, who collaborated with the Beastie Boys on 1998's Hello Nasty, are also known as virtuosos of the turntables.

Turntables were actually first used as musical instruments in the 1940's and 1950's by musique concrète and other experimental composers, such as John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer, who used them in a manner similar to digital sampling. Hip hop DJs developed independently of the earlier techniques.

The International Turntablist Federation is an organisation which aims to promote turntablism, it also organises a turntablist world championship on a yearly basis (1997 - Present). Another prominent turntablist world championship organiser is the DMC Technics World Dj Championship (1986 - Present).

The selection of a champion comes from the culmination of the battles between turntablists.

Battling involves each turntablist performing a routine (a combination of tricks) within a limited time period, after which, the routine is judged by a panel of expert judges. The winner is selected based upon score.


See also


  • Eshun, Kodwo More Brilliant than the Sun. Adventures in Sonic Fiction. London: Quartet Books 1998. ISBN 0-7043-8025-0
  • Poschardt, Ulf: DJ Culture. London: Quartet Books 1998. ISBN 0-704-38098-6


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