Dilettante 24: How to DJ

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Ever laid hands on real vinyl records, on two real turntables, and beat-matched two songs together? Sounds pedantic and geeky but it’s power. Real power in your hands.

The Beastie Boys have always been one of my core favorite bands, and twenty years ago this week I was too dorked out to cover them like anything other than a heavy-breathing teenager. So in preparation for the Beasties concert at the Oakland Coliseum, I wrote about learning to DJ with my friend DJ Rakus because I figured nobody else would have that angle.

Beastie Boys Book, a memoir recently released by the Beasties (buy it from the publisher; snippets available on their blog) that only perpetuates their status as total innovators, took a chance on hiring Mix Master Mike 20 years ago for the Hello Nasty album, and it revolutionized their sound for the third or fourth time.

Mix Master Mike was and is a Bay Area native, and the Bay Area was and is ground zero for turntablism culture. In fact Mix Master Mike co-founded the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the all-time forever planetary champions of everything turntable-worldly. (In my column 20 years ago I say the Piklz bordered on virtuosic, and that was incorrect. They’re far over the border into virtuosic.)

Mix Master Mike

Twenty years after Hello Nasty came out, Bay Area native Mix Master Mike (Mike Schwartz) has deservedly ascended from multi-year competitive DJ champion status with a big discography, to Beasties mixologist, to official DJ for Cypress Hill. He’s also got a movie about his life coming out, and he’s on Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

The Fourth Beastie brought the Bay Area wackiness to the B-Boys sound and made a great band greater. Then the golden age of hip-hop ended when record companies came after samples and their samplers.

Now twenty years later, vinyl sales are increasing, and actual vinyl will always sound better than digital. Cypress Hill’s got Mix Master Mike now, because DJing real records on real turntables — making collage out of sound — always makes a body resonate.


Click through to read “Mix Master of Puppets,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on September 8, 1998.

This is the 24th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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