09 September 2007

We Rock the Party

dir. Doug Pray, 2002

Forced upon me by a friend while I was rummaging through his DVD collection, Scratch proved to be one of the more invigorating, flat-out-fucking-awesome music documentaries I've seen in some time. Granted, I'm still only fresh into my 100 documentaries gauntlet, but so far this one has stuck with me.

There are plenty of amazing sights and sounds to behold here as amateur and experienced DJs run head-to-head in a a constant progression of who can top who. A few of the more worthwhile scenes come when DJs team up, four at a time to exchange beats and work as a cohesive unit to create a collage of scratches that can, at best, make your jaw drop.

I suppose what distinguished this doc from some of the others I've watched is the ferocity and dedication that many of these players dedicate to their craft--most noticeably exemplified in the hunt for LPs that DJs undertake. A memorable scene is when DJ Shadow is squatting alone in a basement where literally thousands of LPs are stacked 500 high. The store owners, an elderly couple that look perplexed by the filmmaker's presence, note that Shadow comes goes down into their basement at least once a week and spends days searching for the most unique vinyl he can.

DJs Cut Chemist and Mix Master Mike offer the most insight into their craft (watch for Mix Master Mike's portable car-shaped needle stylus near the end of the film--holy shit) and are generally given the most screen time. And unfortunately, there is an utter lack of female DJs, save for one who is incredible, yet is only shown for a brief few minutes. The film also sets itself up from the beginning as a sort-of tribute to the greats who came before: Afrika Bambaattaa, Jazzy Jay, Grand Mixer DXT. Incredible examples of the original notion of scratching, but the moderns have outlasted them in many ways and this is extremely apparent, regardless of the homage the film sets out to present.

At just 90 minutes, Scratch is the perfect length. There is never a moment of lag time or a moment that feels out of place--even when Pray cuts to shots of Herbie Hancock at the Grammy's performing "Rockit." Man, what the hell were we thinking in the '80s?

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