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Various Artists' Return of the DJ Vol. III

Wednesday, Nov 24 1999
Various Artists
Return of the DJ Vol. III
(Bomb Hip Hop)

The first two volumes of Bomb's Return of the DJ series are now landmark albums, which is a fancy way of saying that they've started to sound dated. When the first volume was released in 1995, Bomb owner David Paul was simply expressing his passion for a bunch of (then) unknown turntablists -- Peanut Butter Wolf, Rob Swift, Cut Chemist, Invisibl Skratch Piklz -- who were still publicly working out their artistry in an art form most didn't consider art. And, as with the early bop musicians, early vilification from critics has been transformed in-to a badge of honor of sorts. Where the first Return of the DJ album (and to an extent the second, released in 1997) presented a genre wanting to prove itself to the world at large, that anxiety is gone now.

Less than a decade after turntablism became a collective ambition, in a time where it seems every Top 40 single, in whatever genre, has some sort of scratch treatment on it, the common thread of the third volume is the proud, almost arrogant, virtuosity it showcases. "The following recording contains content which may be considered mentally challenging to lowbrow, simple-minded walking pieces of meat," cautions the computerized voice on Mr. Dibbs' opening "All Points Bulletin," speaking above a sinister, murky funk. "If you are one of these upright carcasses, please turn off your listening device."

More than previous Bomb compilations, Volume III is about presenting the DJ as a composer, rather than showing off manipulated breakbeats, fader tricks, and reappropriated catch phrases. Furious' "Mood Swing" swings on a bed of Latin beats and electropop, while the frenetic scratches on "Unorthodox Turntabular Angles" from Manifest with Mr. Thing are rooted in soul piano samples -- g-funk returning to its L.A. jazz genesis. More often, however, the results have no obvious basis: DJ Shiro's "Science Friction" is haunting mood music, Eddie Def & Extrad's dense, claustrophobic "Brain Confusion" is all syncopated riffing, and Innernational's "Deedz in Da Mix" takes 10 minutes and seven DJs to goof on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and whatever else they can find to create a mind-bending epic. Sure, the past is honored -- Z-Trip reprises Vol. II's "Rockstar" to mix Smash Mouth, Run-D.M.C., and assorted metal hooks, and DJ Talkback nods to old-school rap on "The Return of Scratching" -- but more than anything else Vol. III maps out the future with, as one jazzbo once put it, giant steps.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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