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DJ Chicken Skratch
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Dec 10, 2008
Born and raised in the Bay Area, DJ Chicken Skratch embodies the fundamentals of respect and originality in the hip hop scene. Drawing influences from early 90s hip hop and pioneering San Francisco DJs like Q-Bert and Apollo, this DJ mixes the old with the new to create sounds and beats to get your feet moviní on the dance floor. Spinning everything from hip hop, 80s, reggae/dancehall, neo-soul, funk, electro-clash, and everything in-between, you wonít have to request this DJ to play your song. But most importantly, this man demonstrates what being a DJ is ultimately about: if you do it for the love of the music, your true talent will shine through.
SF Station (SFS): How did you get into DJing/the whole DJ scene?
Chicken Skratch (CS): It started by listening to certain DJs, especially KMEL DJs like Prince Ice and Joe Quixx in the early 90s. I would always listen to The Wake Up Show in 91. But I had no idea what DJing was about back then. I was also listening to a lot of Run DMC, and Jazzy Jeff, whose sounds you can still hear in many DJ sets today. Those guys are amazing and just hearing what they did sounded so different and unique to me. Being a minority, rock is not so much our type of music, and hip hop was definitely geared more towards minorities. Itís like we can identify with it directly. It made you cool, just trying to figure it out. I also had a lot of friends in the hip hop DJ scene, and started hanging out with pioneering San Francisco DJs like Q-Bert.
SFS: What appealed to you about hip hop music itself?
CS: For me, it was more about the scratching, but the whole hip hop vibe itself, like breakdancing just appealed to me. I got into DJing at age 14, and bought my first turntable. From there, my friends and I just figured things out, with help and guidance from older DJs like Scotty Fox and DJ Ajax on 92.7. I was in high school when I started hanging out with these guys. And they way they would teach it would just open doors for my generation. To be a successful DJ, you have to be really passionate about it and the one person who really wants to learn.
SFS: Why the name DJ Chicken Skratch, and how does it represent you?
CS: I came upon it by chance, on the way to Distortion2Static, a hip hop show at Santa Clara State. Before then, I was just known as DJ Phil, and we were just chatting in the car and somehow talking about animals. Suddenly, someone said chicken, and then scratch just came shortly after. But it just clicked and made sense. Itís a playful name, and it went along with my image. Itís not too serious, and somewhat playful, yet people can understand where Iím coming from.
SFS: What are your thoughts old school beats and vibes? Do you they think are important and adequately represented in music today?
CS: I hold lots of respect for the old school. If you donít know your history, you get lost in it. With hip hop, you can always create something fresh, but if you are really going to be true to the art and you do it long enough, you go back to your history and discover why things have been done and gained. I learned this from other DJs. For example, when you look at trends, you see why certain artists prevail and succeed. Like Soulja Boyís whole image is based off his creativity and originality, whereas Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest sampled a whole bunch of historic beats, like that psychedelic stuff. They would incorporate jazz, and because of this it made the music game that much harder. I mean, after you're done sampling James Brown, you have to delve even deeper into history. Production and DJs go hand in hand. Iím not a producer but itís good to understand where the music is coming from. I donít feel like the old school is represented enough, though.
SFS: I find a lot of hip hop, soul, and funk DJs stress the idea of keeping old school mixed with new school.
CS: I agree with that. I also feel that why do we worry about marketing over music? So many things get lost in transition that way. I mean we are all posers to a certain degree, but when you stay true to your art, people will respect you.
SFS: Where did you get influenced to have this mindset?
CS: The wake-up show on KMEL was really important to me, whereas today we donít have a good morning wake-up show, like an outlet. When youíre a part of Clear Channel, you gotta do what they want to do; you have to thrive as a business. Hip hop has turned into pop today.
SFS: How so? Is that a good or bad thing?
CS: Thereís the good and the bad, I mean hip hop isnít what is used to be, itís sad but the truth. But itís a trend that has happened in the past. Jazz, blues, punk, all have somewhat turned into pop.
SFS: How is DJing as a side gig working out for you? Ever thought of becoming full-time?
CS: Iím really content where Iím at right now. If I wanted to delve deeper, I would be a full-time DJ, but ultimately I would like other things in life; I want to have a house and family. Iím at a point in the scene where I can support and be respected by the old and new. Iím happy to be present in the scene, do parties, and I know my place, Iím not asking for too much. Iím lucky to DJ at least once a week. Looking at my old career, when I was co-producing a local hip hop TV show, I thought that was going to be my full time gig. While that didnít succeed, I got to meet a lot of celebrities like Snoop Dogg, NAS, and work as part of the industry. But what was important was that I had a lot of local DJs.
SFS: Any wise words to pass on to younger generations?
CS: Carry on tradition, work hard, and respect others no matter what. Be positive, remember that you canít buy respect and have to earn it.
For more info check out:
3rd & 4th "Seduxtion" Saturdays at The Cellar(w/ DJ Scotty Fox)
"Flashback Fridays" at The Cellar (w/ DJ Scotty Fox & Derrick D)
by Christina Li on Dec 10, 2008