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Proselytizing Piklz

[whitespace] Invizbl Skratch Piklz
Spin Doctors: With the Bay Area turntablist community fostered by the Skratch Piklz, East Coast DJs are tempted to relocate.

The Skratch superstars bring turntablism to the masses

By Angela Eaton

By now, you've surely heard of those five deadly turntablists, The Invisbl Skratch Piklz. DJs Shortkut, D-Styles, Yogafrog, Q-Bert and Mix Master Mike work predictable hip-hop into beat mutations in much the same way X-rays affect genetic code. Q-Bert alone has deconstructed more sounds than any DJ who ever put fingers to wax and is widely credited with creating the most exotic turntable noise ever recorded--most of it appearing on his regional multiweek chart-topper Wave Twisters.

Mix Master Mike brought hip-hop back to its roots in his collaborations with consummate old-schoolers the Beastie Boys. Shortkut's live release with Cut Chemist of L.A. crew Jurassic 5 was a top recommendation in record stores coast to coast--a feat that D-Styles will no doubt duplicate with his upcoming release. But as Yogafrog says, "We stay kinda quiet about it."

"We try to be humble on our end. We'll never ever say we're famous so we'll never not be famous anymore," Frog says. But it's hard not to recognize what's happening: the Bay Area has become a magnet for East Coast turntablists, primarily because of the community fostered by the Piklz. Vinroc, the most recent winner of the International Turntablist Federation competition, moved here a year ago, and Kuttin' Kandy, one of the few powerhouse female DJs, has made noises about resettling.

The Skratch Piklz engender community with their everyday approachable ways but also cultivate Bay Area scratching with seminars at such unlikely places as the Asian Art Museum and the Art Institute of San Francisco. Hundreds of young admirers and erstwhile DJs cram into the small auditoriums for a few tips, a signed magazine and some head bobbing. In addition, the group produces Turn Table TV, part instructional video and part cable-access romp through the Piklz' alien madness for upstart DJs with no access to a large community.

It seems the Piklz' prime directive is to bring scratching into the mainstream. Says Q-Bert, "The only people that get to see scratching are [on the] coasts--New York, San Francisco, L.A.--the rim of the whole United States. Everything in between is country music. So if there was some country kids who see that scratching and say, 'Wow, check this out!' [maybe] they'll add their talents to it."

To that end, the Piklz also produce the best scratch-based website in existence, www.skratchpiklz.com, which has been a community clubhouse for the last two years. Just a few weeks ago, skratchpiklz.com launched Skratch Radio, a 24-hour RealPlayer broadcast that teases listeners with sounds from obscure Piklz releases and more widely available tracks. The site gets more than 50,000 hits a day, representing a nation of turntablists participating on eight message boards and a chat area.

The Skratch Piklz' website offers insider tips and wisdom that could bestow even an out-of-touch desk jockey with some amount of club finesse: "Before a show, try not to shake [turntablists'] hands because moisture from yours can cool their hands down while they are warming up. Instead, make a fist and offer a gentle pound with theirs."

Of course, the site also reflects the bulk of its visitors--itchy-fingered teens (today's voting poll: "Do you like school?"). The sheer number of rants flying across the message boards led the Piklz' management to christen an official aggression center dubbed "The Chalkboard." The heavyweights, including Q-Bert, keep an eye on the message boards and drop in under pseudonyms but don't want to be too active since it throws off the developing conversation.

With each of the Piklz developing his own talents and projects, it seems like the five members rarely perform in groups of more than two. Individual projects are keeping D-Styles in the recording studio and Q-Bert in video production. Mix Master Mike, darling of the music industry, was last seen partying with Jim Carrey behind the scenes on the Saturday Night Live set and is reportedly kickin' it with Tommy Lee in Malibu.

Always coy about their own success, the Skratch Piklz are quick to acknowledge other DJs for their contributions to the form that they themselves dominate. In several conversations, different members talked up the talent nationally and abroad, and they'll sometimes practice with newer DJs, who often spark new ideas into their repertoire. But don't get any ideas about becoming the sixth Invisibl Skratch Pikl. They may not admit to being stars, but they know where they shine in the hip-hop constellation.

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From the March 1, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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