Live Review – World Famous Beat Junkies

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 23 August 2012

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the deejay was considered to be the backbone of Hip-Hop culture. From the original 70s Bronx block-parties as rocked by Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, to the technical innovations of Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore, onto the 80s showmanship of Jazzy Jeff and DJ Aladdin, those behind the wheels of steel largely got the credit they deserved.

By the 90s, however, the game had changed dramatically. As corporate interest infiltrated Hip-Hop the microphone took precedence over the turntable as record labels concentrated their efforts on finding the next rap superstar as opposed to the next legendary deejay. Born out of this apparent ignorance of the importance of the ones-and-twos came the decade’s turntablist movement, and with it multi-talented deejay crews such as NY’s X-ecutioners, the UK’s Scratch Perverts, and, of course, the West Coast’s formidable bunch of deck-wreckers, the World Famous Beat Junkies.

Currently celebrating twenty years of competitive dominance, producing, club-rocking and relentless needle-thrashing, crew members Melo-D, J. Rocc, DJ Babu and DJ Rhettmatic touched down at London’s Jazz Cafe for over two hours of quality music, jaw-dropping skills and all-round good times.

With Melo-D and Rhettmatic the first to take their places at each end of the impressive eight-turntable set-up, the night began with a selection of old-school classics from the likes of Slick Rick and the Crash Crew cut and blended effortlessly, as Rhettmatic informed the crowd they were “just warming it up Beat Junkies style” as he fired off various sound effects over Melo’s selection.

The crew’s self-proclaimed Funky President J. Rocc was the next to take to the stage, plugging in his laptop and adjusting headphone levels before jumping seamlessly into the mix, dropping subtle cuts and turntable tricks before being joined by Babu who completed the night’s line-up.

With all four deejays now onstage the party really got started, with the quartet generating a constant wall of sound that crossed numerous musical genres at breakneck speed without ever missing a beat. Displaying a chemistry honed over years of performing together, small nods and simple hand gestures was the only communication required between the crew as they each took turns adding further layers to the sonic tidal wave, alternating between vinyl and Serato technology.

The musical menu was definitely eclectic, with 80s electro from the likes of Newcleus blended into old-school p-funk from Funkadelic and bass-heavy Dilla, before the crowd were given some reggae vibes with a Beat Junkie Sound special of Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” and Sister Nancy’s timeless classic “Bam Bam”.

Following the party segment of their performance, the Beat Junkies then took their collective gloves off to deliver one of the trademark group routines which has seen them win various competitions over the years. With crab scratches, flares and all manner of other complex techniques cutting through the air like sharp blades, the four turntable titans effectively demonstrated why they’re considered to be amongst the world’s elite deejays, both individually and as a group.

After the crew had showcased their unified abilities, each member was given the spotlight to shine on their own, with Babu dropping his classic “Blind Alley” routine and J. Rocc deconstructing the Incredible Bongo Band’s b-boy anthem “Apache” with seemingly effortless skill, his masterful beat-juggle even more impressive considering the deejay had struggled with technical difficulties for most of the night.

Ending the musical spectacle with a freestyle jam session, DJ Babu unexpectedly called the UK’s Mr. Thing onstage to deliver some impromptu cuts, with the talented yet always-humble former Scratch Pervert making his way from the audience to unleash a furiously fast batch of scratches, reminding all in attendance why he’s also considered to be one of the nicest to ever put his hands on two pieces of vinyl.

Two decades deep, the Beat Junkies remain at the top of their game, and this entertaining anniversary performance proved Melo-D, J. Rocc, Babu and Rhettmatic to still be more than worthy of their crowns as undisputed kings of the cuts on two turntables.

Ryan Proctor

World Famous Beat Junkies group routine at the Jazz Cafe.

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