Show Recap: Beat Junkies 20th Anniversary at Brooklyn Bowl
The legendary Beat Junkies celebrated their 20th anniversary on Sunday (October 21st) night at Brooklyn Bowl, and it seemed like anyone who has the slightest bit of interest in the art of DJ’ing was in the building. DJs Shortkut, Babu, Melo-D, Rhettmatic and D-Styles all came to Brooklyn and represented the movement that they started back in 1992. Reflecting on his journey, Rhettmatic said, “I can’t believe that I’m still doing this for a living,” stating that he’s humbled and blessed that people still support the Beat Junkies. The list of DJs that were present could read somewhat like a DJ-only-Coachella function. A string of notable East Coast turntable heavyweights were all present and paid respect to the crew from Cali that elevated the art of turntablism.
The Beat Junkies movement, which sparked in 1992, mastered various turntablism techniques (scratching, beat juggling and mixing) and molded a unique lane and scene based off their traditional DJ roots. While the art of DJ’ing has most recently progressed into trends clustered with button-pushing gimmicks, the Beat Junkies maintained their forte as some of the turntablism’s most established and revered collective.
The evening started off with Breakbeat Lou rocking out an all vinyl set that included his classic collection of 45s. He warmed up the set with jams from the ’80s and ’90s, and funky break beats that made the audience dance with nostalgia. DJ Boogie Blind of the X-Ecutioners was up next and exemplified why, according to Sucio Smash, “He’s one of the best DJs in New York City.” With an array of styles, he seamlessly wove from a turntablist-heavy set of scratching and juggling to mixes filled with more current bangers.
The main event was up next and the crowd packed closer to the stage to get a better view of the epic performance that was ready to unfold. The stage was a DJ’s wet dream, six turntables set up with four mixers, including the new Rane 62, which the Junkies would utilize to set up loops and make drum patterns all on the fly. The corner of the stage started to fill up with legendary DJs including but not limited to, Neil Armstrong and Rholi Rho from the 5th Platoon, Lord Finesse of D.I.T.C., Marley Marl of the Juice Crew, Rob Swift from the X-Ecutioners, Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and Evil Dee of Da Beatminerz.
While J. Rocc (who’s in Europe touring with Madlib and Freddie Gibbs) wasn’t present to partake in the performance, the set from the Beat Junkies kicked off with a thump. DJ Shortkut first entered the stage and displayed his sharp, intricate turntable skills scratching at an alarmingly fast rate, before he was joined by the rest of his team. Rhett, Melo-D, D-Styles, and Babu all entered the cipher one after another performing routines that ignited screwed-up facial expressions from the audience. Each DJ took turns manipulating drum breaks—“Ah, fresh!” and James Brown’s “Make it funky!”—with four DJs scratching and beat juggling on stage at the same time. Even to an untrained ear, what appeared to be a chaotic, was a symphony formed by turntable scratches. The Cali posse made everything seemed effortless, busting out flares, double-click flares, and orbits all in sync with three other DJs following each others’ moves—truly creating a harmony.
During the Beat Junkies’ set, legendary hip-hop producer Marley Marl described the clique as, “Revolutionary, explosive, and influential.” In fact, the DJ crew represented all those qualities on Sunday night, truly putting the audience in awe of their incredible skills. Precise scratching, lightning-quick fader control, insane beat juggling—many witness their performance with jaws dropped to the floor. Like the Beat Junkies, the 20th anniversary show was surely the total package.
At the conclusion of the evening, all of the DJs who were present to pay respect, were invited on stage for one last scratch session with the Beat Junkies. Having a roundtable DJ pow wow with DJs’ favorite DJs, destroying records, was a historical moment for turntablism, and hip-hop in general. If you missed it this time, hopefully you can wait another 10 years to witness the spectacle. —Antonio Rivera