More often than not these days, turntablists are recording solo records when they should be scratchin' behind beats and rappers. Once we get the idea that, say, Rob Swift is very, very talented -- can juggle beats, toss off an interesting sample and scratch a wonderful melody (all of which can be proved in the first two minutes of a recording) -- the next 50 minutes are usually ego-boosting redux. Enough already: We're totally impressed.
Most turntablists -- DJs who make music on two turntables and a mixer -- lack subtlety, lack insight, lack the ability to transform their skills into songs. That's pretty much everyone except, of course, the Invisbl Skratch Piklz, the turntablist quintet who defined the movement in the mid- and late '90s. They're the kings because they realize that in addition to awe-inspiring turntable fanciness, to succeed you must build a structure to contain it all.
The big name among the Piklz is one Mix Master Mike, who achieved fame as the scratch king for the Beastie Boys, a role he occupies to this day. On his solo record Anti-Theft Device (Asphodel) and with the Piklz, the Mix Master's dexterous work stands out because of his appreciation of both the bombastics and the subtleties involved in sliding a record underneath a needle. He can make a record burp obnoxiously; even better, he can make it sigh and whimper, no small feat.
Also on the bill is human beatbox Rahzel, a member of the great hip-hop group the Roots. Using only his lungs, throat and mouth, he pushes out beats and scratches that sound like the real thing. You gotta see him to believe it -- and you most definitely should.