The world famous Beat Junkies are still rocking it
Every Californian obsessed with hip-hop of the age remembers when the three volumes of Beat Junkie mixes dropped in the late '90s. Minds were blown. Heads got knocked. Boomboxes short-circuited. And so on. Each volume mirrors a radio show, influenced by KDAY programming as much as New York Mister Magic broadcasts and Red Alert tapes. "The mixes were done on analog cassette four-tracks," Rhettmatic says. "They have that pop and hiss feel." The radio program format glued together the off-the-cuff style of the underground to a decidedly patchwork narrative structure. Dirty drums carried spontaneous flows while blunted bass pushed intoxicating rhyme schemes. When the lyrics faded away, the beat would kill it.
The Junkies took on the role of hosts as much as curators — placing new artists like Slum Village and Jurassic 5 within the momentum of the tradition. All the while, they stamped the mixes with individuating styles, and reconfigured the tradition through a cipher approach to blending and scratching records, samples, vocals cuts, and loops. "We come from a generation where you have to be original and stand out," Rhettmatic says. What emerged was frenetic and unbounded, both a testament to the creativity of the collage and the groundwork for the instrumental hip-hop, and its mutated progeny, popularized today.
The Junkies have since focused on numerous individual projects — from Rhettmatic's duo record with Michigan-based MC Buff1 to J.Rocc's much-anticipated solo debut on Stones Throw — which make the opportunity to see them collaborate together on six turntables and four mixers this Saturday at Mighty a truly rare one. "A lot of people know us as turntablists, but we are all around DJs," Rhemttmatic says. "For us, DJs had to do everything." You can call DJ love a habit. But I'll leave it to Lord Zen from the Visionaries to close with a verse from "Blessings": You can't get this dope without a prescription/Over-the-counter versions fell prey to addiction.
FREQUENCY: A BEAT JUNKIE TAKEOVER
Rhettmatic, J.Rocc, Babu, and Shortkut with Mr. E
Sat/23, 10 p.m., $10
119 Utah, SF