Is the culture of DJ’ing being watered down with technology?

As a young youth growing up in the 80’s and 90’s Hip Hop was the culture. Like it or not it played a huge factor in kids and especially in kids of color at the time. So if you followed the culture, you sort of fell into the Hip Hop’s hierarchy. You were either an MC, DJ, B-Boy or Graf artist, you know the four elements of Hip Hop. So I followed the path of the DJ. I grew up learning to beat match, scratch, transitions and motivate the crowd. I practiced every day, then did house parties, cookouts and eventually made my way into a few clubs. It was great but eventually, I went to college, met my wife, and had a family. Now don’t get me wrong, I never fell out of love with the art form but just had to take care of priorities. Fast forward about 20 years and the DJ bug hit me hard, so I started looking into the culture once again. I soon found that the game changed. Most DJ’s now used controllers, laptops, software, and MP3s. So I went out brought me a controller, a laptop, software and I was off and running. It took a bit of adjustment, but I soon found myself enjoying this “new school technology.”

So as I talked among my DJ friends, I started to see two camps or sides with this new technology. On one hand, there were the DJ’s who still continue to rock with turntables and vinyl. They are raw purist who does not deviate from the basic foundation of being a DJ. On the other hand, there is the camp that loves new technology, love innovation and are up on every advantage they can get. I caught flak from the so-called “purist” who couldn’t believe that I even considered a controller. I was applauded by those who brave the new world and use the current tech to rock parties. I was caught in DJ purgatory, born in the old world but loving the new world technology.

That brings us to today the latest controversy in the old school vs. new school DJ. Pioneer has dropped its latest model of the DDJ-SB series. A lot of DJ’s consider DDJ-SB controllers as an intro controller for beginners, but after doing my research, I found the controller to be a quality piece of equipment. Yes, there are higher end controllers with all the bells and whistles, but if you want an experience as close as you can get to old school turntables this was the controller to get. So I purchased one. It was cheap and helped me transition to the new school world of dj’ing. The last version that pioneer released just recently is the DDJ-SB3 and guess what, it has been co-signed and promoted by the one and only DJ Jazzy Jeff! That’s right probably one of the best turntable DJ’s who would ever walk this earth, is promoting a DJ controller. WTF!

Okay, let’s understand why DJ Jazzy Jeff is onboard with the DDJ-SB3. The latest controller has a few new tricks and a new layout, but it’s very similar to the older versions due to the simplicity and ease of use. The main difference is that the controller is now loaded with scratch sample pads done by the one and only DJ Jazzy Jeff. That’s right at the push of a button, you can add in a Jazzy Jeff scratch on cue and on beat. DJ Jazzy Jeff promotes the new scratch pads as a way for new DJ’s to hear the correct way a scratch is supposed to sound and then that DJ can try to emulate that scratch himself. As soon as word got out about this many DJ’s were up in arms!

“How dare he do this”! He is destroying the DJ culture, one controller at a time”! “The art of dj’ing is dying”!

Truth be told, I think this is genius. Yeah, there are going to be some DJ’s who cheat. But ultimately there are going to be more DJ’s inspired to learn how to scratch by DJ Jazzy Jeff. There are going to be people who can’t afford brand new turntables and the latest mixer, so this controller would be perfect.

But I guess the old saying goes, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. You can’t please everybody.