August 27th, 2009
Title: As the Technics Spin
Artist: Rob Swift
Format: DVD, NTSC (90 min.)
Catalog No.: 504
Release Date: March 2009
As the Technics Spin is a dynamic ride into the intricate inner workings of the mind of Rob Swift. Chronicling Swift’s personal experience with this particular element of hip hop (turntablism), the documentary moves in cuts and scratches reminiscent of a DJ’s performance routine. Swift, as narrator, takes us through his own introduction and induction into hip hop, all the way to his present world-renowned status. Even as a hip hop head myself, I was delightfully enlightened to learn many new things that go on in the mind of a DJ of which I had previously been unaware.
Swift speaks profoundly on the artistry and craftsmanship involved in the composition of different routines, which are meticulously orchestrated and rehearsed for hours on end. During the performance, Swift takes us into the DJ’s mind as he cuts and scratches. Does the audience like it? Do they understand it? Do they hear what I hear? Many times the DJ is clueless about how his performance is being received until his set is over. Whether performing an individual rendition or in the midst of a battle competition, all the weight rests on the shoulders of the DJ. The amount of concentration and precision involved is unimaginable.
Swift also offers insight into various career progressions that are available to the aspiring DJ, and speaks about the opportunities he was able to take advantage of. The musical influences and life experiences of his early childhood and teenage years are the driving force behind his incredible ascension into hip hop history. At one point he states that if it wasn’t for hip hop and the turntables, he’s certain he would have been a pianist. The viewer is blessed with inside information on special DJ spins and techniques when Swift gives a small “how to” instructional, demonstrating his skill. Through the live performance footage spliced throughout the film, viewers can also witness the passion from within Swift and the routines that made him famous. That same passion is easily, instantly recognizable when you hear him speak on any level about DJing. After competing with some of the best DJs hip hop has to offer, performing with orchestras abroad, and standing alongside big names such as Herbie Hancock, Rob Swift has definitely made his stake in the game.
Also be sure to check out the bonus features, including televised performances and interviews plus exclusive tour footage of the X-ecutioners and Ill Insanity, and Ill Insanity’s “5 Fingers of Death” music video. Without a shadow of a doubt, I’m certain that any, every, and all DJs will love this documentary, but I want to also recommend the DVD to all hip hop heads, particularly the B-Boy, the Graff writer, and the Emcee. If you’re a musician of any genre who can appreciate the complexities of sounds, I recommend you take a look. If you have no clue what the big idea is about a guy making scratching noises on a record player, then this film is DEFINITELY for you!
Reviewed by Moorishio De la Cruz
Editor’s note: As the Technics Spin is a sequel to Swift’s 2007 DVD release As the Tables Turn. Swift is also featured in Scratch, the award winning documentary about crate diggers and turntablists by Doug Pray.
Authors: Phil White and Luke Crisell
Format: Book (314 p.)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: April 16, 2009
“This book needs to be in your vinyl collection. It’s what every DJ needs to be in the game and every music fan needs to understand the game.” –Snoop Dogg
Those interested in the topics of DJing, DJ culture and turntablism might wish to check out this new title, co-written by Luke Crissell (a former DJ) and Phil White, who are both affiliated with NYLON, with assistance from Rob Principe, founder of the Scratch DJ Academy (with locations in New York, Miami, and L.A.). Divided into three sections, the book addresses the history of hip hop DJs and house music, the life and influences DJs, and how to be a DJ. Individual chapters touch on such topics as equipment, the art of the mixtape, and techniques for mixing and scratching. The Appendix includes various Top 10 lists (“Most requested,” “Funk samples,” Club tracks,” etc.) and is followed by a brief glossary of DJ and scratching terminology. Extremely useful as a basic guide for the novice, as well as for those seeking a broader understanding of the culture and art form.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Review Genre(s): Rap and Hip-Hop