Wednesday, March 5, 2008

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DJ QBERT


By Lyndon Campbell

So there I was… at the Waiting Room, a stylish chill lounge on the upper end of Long Street Cape Town to see the legendary 4 time DMC champion, and probably the best DJ in the world – DJ QBert. Upon entry I noticed around me various Hip Hop DJ’s, organisers and enthusiasts: Ready D, Dj Hamma, Andre Manuel, DJ Easy, ETC, DJ Azhul, DJ Juice, DJ Wille and Tristan. In fact, most of the room was filled with popular Cape Town and Johannesburg DJ’s, and some new faces, mostly recognisable ones’ within hip hop culture. At the front was a pair of turntables set up with a camera clamped on to a beam well above it projecting an overhead shot onto a plasma screen.

As QBert enters the room, the tension that was already bubbling under builds even further as people’s anxiety to meet this hip hop legend reaches boiling point. One or two people catch a word or two with him before he is directed onto the couch in front of us where he sits opposite Ivan, one of the organisers, and the interview begins.

Ivan explains to us that QBert is currently in the middle of his Europe tour, but took the time out to fly to South Africa and perform here, and so the questions begin.


What’s a day or a week in the life of QBert Like?

Well, I always try to grow as a person and progress with my beats. I move around from moment to moment and now I’m here in this moment. I’m always trying to progress and live out my life or my destiny.

How did you get started with DJing?

I was pretty much a bum when I was younger, and nothing around me really inspired me, but then I started seeing more of Hip Hop culture, you know, crazy stuff like Break Dancing, Rappers Delight (the song) and then some guy showed me how to scratch. I got addicted from that point, tried to learn as much as possible and even to this day I’m still learning from everyone I encounter.

What was it like winning the DMC for the first time?


Well, being the only Asian in the competition didn’t help pressure wise. Most of the guys in Hip Hop at the time were all black, but I just did my stuff and I wanted to do something different that everyone could appreciate. Something that went beyond racial barriers and something original and stick to the hip hop roots.


How did you get started with the Invisibl Scratch Picklz?


Well, I would be jamming with some drum beats and then Mix Master Mike came round and he likes his samples of horns and stuff, so he would put that over the drums, and Apollo would come round with his effects of farts and Chickens so that we can make a weird band.
(Audience laughs)

What was the whole idea behind putting practice DVD’s out?


As DJ’s we wanted to see practice videos of our favourite DJ’s which at the time were Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money among others, and basically we were so nerdy that we wanted to see how things were done, so we basically made these practice videos.

And the crazy outfits and skits? (Relating to previous question)

Yeah, that was all about entertainment, while some of us are nerds and can watch someone DJing all day; we thought that we’d add an extra entertainment element. Like at an event you’d either be like “hey, that guy over there is scratching with his dick… WOW!!!” (audience laughs) other than if there was another guy normally scratching and then be all nerdy like (funny nerdy voice) “hey, this guy over here is DJing and scratching… I’m not gonna watch the guy over there scratching with his dick.” Ha-ha (audience laughs), it was for more entertainment value on the videos, so it’s not just (Funny voice again) nerdy scratching stuff.
(audience laughs again)


What are your thoughts on the booty and bling taking precedent over the 4 elements of hip hop?


Hip Hop started as an underground movement, the underground movement is still there so that’s what I’m lookin’ at.


And what’s your take on the whole ‘west coast – east coast” thing?

Is that still happening? I thought that came to an end after the internet came online, I think there’s more of a North South thing now. The west coast was initially more about electro and gangster rap, I had more of an east coast influence, which is strange because I stayed on the west coast. I was on the wrong coast!

Are the Incredible Scratch Pickelz still a crew?

Not really, I tried to holler at Mix Master Mike on Myspace, but he never replied. You know Mike has this crew called the Beastie Boys and I think he’s just really busy with that.


Tell us about the QFO…

In life, anything is possible, say if if you wanna scratch right now, that is possible, that is the whole concept behind the QFO, to make it possible. Say if I’m sitting in my car watching a beautiful sunset on view on Table Mountain. Then I get this thought that I need to practice for the show (at Assembly in Cape Town), if I had my QFO I could do that and not miss the beautiful scenery. You just plug it into your cigarette lighter in your car and you can practice. It’s making it more mobile and soon we will come out with a smaller version where you can mix your mp3’s and stuff off your mp3 players.


What interests do you have outside DJ-ing?

I play a lot of chess online on yahoo.com


Ivan draws the formal part of the press gathering to the end and ushers Qbert over to the two turntables on their right. Qbert then proceeds to give us a basic lesson in scratch notation (which is quite simple). And he demonstrates in front of us. After showing us a couple of more things, he then proceeds to show us a set of his awe inspiring turntablist work… leaving all of us with our jaws hanging, which then concluded the session.

QBert still hung around to sign some cd’s vinyls and stickers. He took some photos with individuals, had some chats and imparted his knowledge. I then had an opportunity to chat with the man briefly. After our short conversation, it only reinforced the apparent humbleness of this great pioneer and champion of hip hop. A true student of life that leaves you with a sense of you being an equal- not the slightest hint of a famous person attitude. Not bad for a world famous DJ that probably has no equal in execution and skill on the decks…

4 comments:

SIVU NOBO WON'T-GO! said...

dope interview Lyndon - for those of us that aren't intune with the phenomenon that is Qbert, you've given us a great insight on his role in the large scheme of things. Hip-hop saved his life too. MNad nice kid!

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