Scratch

on February 15, 2002 by Chris Wiegand.
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   Give it up for Doug Pray's “Scratch,” an energizing, intoxicating documentary charting the rise of hip-hop culture in general and the art of scratching (or turntablism) in particular. Taking the Sugar Hill Gang's seminal cut “Rapper's Delight” as its starting point, Pray's film follows the growing importance of the DJ at the tail end of the 20th century, doing well to place the expertise of luminaries like Afrika Bambaataa, Mix Master Mike, DJ Premier and Jazzy Jay within their proper historical context.

   Pray manages to maintain the pace of the film's upbeat opening throughout its full running time, intelligently using his medium to underline the message, as the scratching is married with some particularly schizophrenic editing. Plenty of time is devoted to the tricks of those DJs in the know and it is during the footage of the men at work (and particularly at competition with each other in the famed DJ battles) that the film really comes alive.

   The DJs reflect on their dedication to the art form, from their first mixing experiences through to the hours of rehearsal spent honing their craft on the wheels of steel. For hip-hop lovers, appearances from such a wide number of DJs (the Filipino legend DJ Q-Bert and DJ Shadow, the man behind the music for Marc Singer's “Dark Days,” also appear) will no doubt be a selling point, but the film is far more than a “rapper's delight.” For those more in tune with Classical or Country & Western, “Scratch” is nevertheless a fascinating portrait of an important American art--and one that demystifies the different roles played by the DJ and the MC, as well as accompanying phenomena such as graffiti art and break-dancing. In short, Pray delivers everything you ever wanted to know about scratching but were perhaps afraid to ask.    Starring Afrika Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Mix Master Mike and Q-Bert. Directed by Doug Pray. Produced by Brad Blondheim and Ernest Maza. A Palm release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 88 min.

Tags: Starring Afrika Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Mix Master Mike and Q-Bert. Directed by Doug Pray, Produced by Brad Blondheim, Ernest Maza, Palm, Documentary
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