Mixtape Monday, Vol 16

DJ Craze – 1998 ITF World Scratch Final

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This week I bring something a little different. As with the Leftfield episode a while ago, it’s a video of a live performance. But in this case it’s even further removed from being a mixtape, instead being a recording of DJ Craze‘s 2 rounds from the 1998 ITF scratch battle against DJ First Rate (then of the Scratch Perverts). This video here only shows Craze’s sections – now, while First Rate is an absolute badman on the cut, I don’t think I’m being unfair to say that this battle was a massacre!

While I don’t claim to be a scratch DJ (rather, I’m a DJ who can scratch quite well), I am a total scratch nerd. I spent those long hours with Dirt Style 12″s, I remember the early internet days of Asisphonics and Thudrumble forums, written-out text explanations of complicated scratch patterns, tricks with sticker-markers on vinyl to learn how to know when to open and close faders, a time before Youtube clips and college courses in DJing. I had many different VHS tapes of battles from through the years, and this stands out as probably my all-time favourite, with only the Dream Team’s (aka Invisbl Skratch Piklz) set from 1992 coming close to surpassing it in my affections as a demonstration of the art and craft of scratch DJing. And believe me when I say I have forced a lot of people to watch this routine in after-parties at my flats over the years…

Craze has a good claim to being the greatest of all time, which really shouldn’t be a shock when you know he won 3 straight DMC world titles (arguably only missing out the year before that winning streak because of a terribly unlucky needle mishap in the USA final that knocked him out of contention). The ITFs were often considered to be a bit more of a “purists” competition, with the battles broken down into technical sections for scratching, juggling, teams etc. In this battle he followed First Rate, with each having 2 x 3 minute sections to demonstrate their scratching prowess.

For me, what always made him stand out, alongside his unquestionable technical skills and prodigiously funky cuts, was his transitions in his routines, getting from this bit to that bit to the next bit. Many scratch sets were just a hodge-podge of as many short routines as the DJ could cram into their allotted time, with little or no thought given to the journey between these landmarks. Craze basically managed to make his 3 or 6 minute sets into tiny mixtapes with their own internal narrative and logic, seamlessly flowing between styles. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Red Bull Thre3style brought him on board to be part of their team, with him performing and judging the inaugural world final in Paris (that I was lucky enough to be competing in /brag).

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These 2 short sets absolutely blitzed this contest, and included 3 of the absolute best disses I’ve ever seen in a battle context – the “you’re going too fast…” bit at the start of the 2nd routine only really makes full sense in the context of the approach First Rate had taken. Watch, and enjoy an absolute master at work.

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