Gonna touch on a few points in this post. But we’ll make The Animal Crackers the centerpiece. The above video is their bio. They have some amazing routines on YouTube, including a practice of their 2006 US-winning routine. Search for them.
They’re a collective of Cincinnati-based DJs and MCs, and many of my Hip-Hop experiences in Cincy started with them. The Nati Kid was one of the first legit Hip-Hop heads I met when I got to Cincy for college, and I remember him giving me a cassette of one of their practice routines.
These guys ran the weekly Hip-Hop night every Wednesday at the legendary Top Cat’s, featuring dope MC battles, and many great performances, including Big Daddy Kane, Souls Of Mischief, X-ecutioners, and even the Black Eyed Peas in the pre-Fergie day (Not to digress, but with Kim Hill joining them, that was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to). To see those acts in such a small club made the performances that much more memorable. And the Crackers have worked with many underground legends – Mr. Dibbs, Hi-Tek, Piakhan, Paul Barman, and others. They were also instrumental in the development and growth of Scribble Jam.
In addition, the Crackers took the title of 2006 DMC US team champions. They got screwed in 2005 by having to go first and there being many audio problems. That night I got the privilege to judge the DMC US Supremacy finals, and could have judged the team comp if I didn’t think my friendship with the Crackers would be a problem if they won.
But let me touch on another point. The art of deejaying does not exist like it used to, and doesn’t get the attention it used to. Scratching, battling, beat juggling, etc. has gotten lost as the use of vinyl has declined, and everyone seems to only care about being able to yell “Exclusive!!!” over every song. Mixtapes don’t even have mixes. They’re just compilations now. No actual mixing or blends. I used to love hearing a DJ take the vocals from one track and lay them over the beat from another, and when done well, it blending seamlessly as though it were the original.
While in Cincy, I had the privilege of co-organizing a great annual event, the Battle 4 Midwest Supremacy, and, along with my partners, we were blessed to bring the DMC to Cincinnati twice for a regional competition. It hadn’t been there since 1999, when I was new to Cincy. I saw DJ Abilities win, and Atmosphere perform (plus a bonus freestyle session between Slug and Eyedea), long before they were as big as they are now. And while it was great to see these events live and in person, over the years I unfortunately saw the audience get less and less excited but what they are seeing, and even worse, shrinking in size. The legends – A-Trak, Craze, and the like, don’t exist anymore, because that’s not what the kids that walk in to Sam Ash aspire to anymore.
I remember the movement for “turntablism” – the belief that the turntable is a music instrument. And I miss those days. I still go back to my videos and DVDs of old DMC competitions. And if you haven’t had the chance, google “DMC DJ championship,” and if you can, check out some videos or see it in person. It is truly an art, and is greatly overlooked nowadays.
I’m all for Serato and CDJ’s and technology, but you can’t do the same things with that. I know there are still some great “turntablists” out there – I just wish they garnered more attention.
So to The Animal Crackers, John Doe, DJ Lord, Spare Change, and the many other dope turntablists I’ve had the honor to see and meet, please keep doing your thing and hopefully inspiring a new generation.