by Dove ~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~
Always appearing to be on the laid back side of chill, DJ Babu’s presence in a room is both calming and electric. He quietly sets up his turntables, barely uttering a word as he carefully tests every decibel of sound that shoots through his needles. As the man behind the vinyl for Dilated Peoples and a partner in perfect time with his crew, the World Famous Beat Junkies, Babu knows a lot about balance. His talents in production and passionate turntable techniques have boosted this Hip Hop shy guy into a realm of well-respected workmanship.
Exceedingly mindful of the dues he’s paid to attain his skill level, Babu expresses his support of young cats in the game – even when they have not learned the fundamentals of turntablism in the ways he did. “Maybe three years ago I would have been like ‘this kid’s wack because he doesn’t know about this or he doesn’t know about that’, but at the same time, somewhere down the line I thought to myself - I remember being a young buck coming up and feeling that same kinda heat from cats I looked up to too,” he explains.
“I think it’s a part of going through the ranks in order to get respect, and earning your stripes. I really can’t knock kids coming up, because if I was 13 right now and I wanted to deejay, I would do what all the other kids are doing. Kids these days have access to different things that we didn’t have – battle videos, mixers made for trick deejays, special records made just for scratching – it’s nice you know.
When I started, I had luxuries that the generation before me didn’t have either, and they had the same kind of gripes. After a few years of being in the trenches, cats who doubted me – if you held it down in the correct way, and really paid mind and carried the torch of cats you looked up to – sooner or later you’re gonna get your props. I think I’m just getting to that stage where I’m getting comfortable with how I’m doing, and I feel comfortable around people that I consider seniors if I was a freshman.
I have nothing but love for new kids coming up, whether or not they know about Grand Wizzard Theodore, or any of the people I grew up on, I can’t knock them for being 13 years old and just knowing Q-Bert. Hopefully they do their homework and catch up on those holes in their history, and maybe five or six years down the line they’ll evolve and be well-rounded deejays. One thing I can say is that the skill level right now is just incredible – from what deejays were doing four years ago to now is just way advanced. But there’s another side to that – there’s not a lot of depth there, there’s not the traditional qualities of what we grew up as deejays knowing. It’s more of a sport now.”
Even with the hectic touring pace after the release of this year’s critically acclaimed Dilated People's Expansion Team project, Babu found time to release his own collection of gems. The cleverly titled Duck Season is a collage of Babu’s production and that of his extended music family, as well as joints that showcase his amazing turntable wizardry. With Duck Season Babu was able to stretch his creative energy and pull in artists he respects and appreciates. Some collaborations took planning of time and travel, but others were spontaneous and clicked in the moment.
“Every song has a little different story to it. On the Beatnuts track, we were out [in New York] working on the Dilated shit – Juju did a song on our album called ‘Self Defense’ – me and JuJu are real cool, I’m always playing him beats and he’s always playing me shit, and I had this one beat – it turned out he had done a beat with the same sample before - I couldn’t hear anyone else over it but them. A few months later my Duck Season project came up and I was like ‘this is it, that’d dope to get this on’, so I put it on tape for them and sent it out to New York - and I got lucky with the timing, because they happened to be cool with Al Tariq again for a second. I can’t speak on the situation, but it was just a window that I got lucky – in a lot of ways I got the last Beatnuts including Al Tariq tracks to date. It’s pretty ridiculous too.”
The Beat Junkies celebrated their 10-year anniversary this summer and are readying projects for their new label. As a crew they are looking to put out an album in 2003, but Babu does not necessarily see the Beat Junkies going the way of their friends, The X-ecutioners. “I think with us we’ll definitely stay a little bit more in the vein of the track record of where we’ve been, but nothing but love to those brothers man,” he says with admiration.
“I feel their gripe, and I feel how they could be frustrated with how Hip Hop is these days – and I understand why they had to go get their love and go pay their bills like that. Bottom line is they’re still making ill music and they’re still showing incredible musicianship and representing turnablism to the fullest. I think it’s nothing but positive things for the rest of the deejays out there – it’s opened a lot more doors for us, and they’re gonna spawn a whole new generation of cats who are gonna be using turntables or turntable-like instruments in the future.
“For us, I think that’s something that made our crew different from other crews – we’ve always had this really traditional vein of deejaying in whatever we did – whether it was rockin a party, entering a battle, making a mixtape, or making beats. I don’t see us straying too far away from that. At the same time, I don’t wanna limit us. I can’t speak for every member and what they wanna do as far as their solo careers, but as a group we all are on the same page of keeping one foot in the past and one foot progressive in the future.”By Dove ~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~
Courtesy of RIME Magazine
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