Back to Basics

Scratching at its best can be very soulful and funky. Why is it then that so many people under use the techniques necessary to create that funk? I’m sure all of you are very familiar with James Brown. Undoubtedly he has influenced generations of musicians. More importantly though, he has influenced many singers. While some may argue, I believe his strongest influence lies in the grunts, howls and screams he would emit throughout his performances.

Let’s take a closer look at his grunting technique. While this is not technically hard to pull off for most singers, it undoubtedly adds a punch and a feeling to the music that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Like any technique, there are countless ways to grunt and thus many possibilities for soulful expression open up should you choose to explore them. Now picture if you will, a James Brown song without the grunts. If you honestly do this, I’m more than willing to bet you noticed part of the life of the song died.

Getting Caught Up in Flashiness Can Consume You

If most of your energy becomes focused on advanced and flashy technique, you’re like James Brown without the grunts. The backbone of your solos immediately diminishes. Obviously, this is something that should be avoided if you want to develop a truly well rounded, soulful way of expressing yourself.

When you focus on the basics of scratching it helps to highlight the more advanced stuff by breaking it up into more easily digested fragments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating against advanced technique. Advanced technique in scratching is a big part of what makes modern day scratching so amazing and enjoyable. However, the reality is most listeners naturally can’t handle a constant slew of rapidly executed advanced technique. Adding quality, basic technique into the mix more often is like sugar to help make the medicine go down.

Adding Punctuation Makes Your Cuts Pop Out

One of many great ways to use basic technique is as a punctuation mark. After a flurry of flare combos it will usually sound nice to end off with a simple two click transform. This could be seen as a period to your sentence. Alternately, you could end off with a faderless technique, such as a tear. That could be more like an exclamation point.

Some of you may be familiar with my article, ‘If You Don’t Breathe You May Choke’ which focuses primarily on silence as a technique to break up your solos. The concept here is similar, but instead of silence, basic technique is substituted to gain a similar effect on your audience. Check out that article for more information here: ‘If You Don’t Breathe You May Choke

Shredding is Not a Bad Thing

As previously stated, I’m not advocating against advanced technique. Scratching at a rapid pace has a killer sound all its own and has an amazing impact on anyone who really loves scratching. If you’re in the midst of a run consisting of some really hardcore flare combos, extending that run before tossing some basics in could really make a huge impact. Likewise, if you were to end the run too early with a basic technique, the wind in your sails would get knocked out. This would make for a wimpy sounding phrase that doesn’t grab the listener nearly as much as you may have intended.

So What Basic Techniques are Worth Focusing On?

The first thing to recognize is that all basic techniques, once highly developed can be considered or lead to advanced technique. This distinction is important, because as scratchers we tend to divide techniques up into basic and advanced categories. While this is helpful it can also be hurtful if you fail to realize that even basic techniques can be highly advanced with the right amount of development.

As stated in the early part of this article, a singer’s grunts can be expressed in a myriad of ways. The same is true with basic technique in scratching. A tear scratch for example has tons of variations to discover and perfect.

All that being said though, here is a list of techniques that I recommend using when implementing the concepts in this article:


Keep in mind this list is actually quite incomplete as there are so many variations of each of these scratches to do. However, for now it’s best that you discover these variations on your own. It is out of the scope of this article to go further in depth. In future articles I will spend more time discussing certain techniques that I believe deserve attention.

Isolation, Then Integration is Key!

Now that you have read this article you may be tempted to jump right in and start combining basic kuts with advanced ones. While I don’t think this is a bad idea, I strongly recommend that you work on your basic scratch technique in isolation. By doing this you give your basics more room to develop into stronger sounding technique with wider variety. The more you work in isolation the more impact you’ll make when integrating it with your advanced techniques.

Some experimentation will be necessary as it’s typical that not all variations you come up with will integrate smoothly into an advanced run. You will have to really listen and pay attention to hear if the basic technique you have chosen truly compliments what you are combining it with. This takes time and is the hallmark of many an outstanding musician.

5 Artists You Should Know — Vol 6.

Hueman –¬†Allison Torneros, known as Hueman, is an Oakland-based¬†graffiti artist and painter.¬†Her best-known works include a Nike-commissioned portrait of Kobe Bryant,¬†a mural for P Diddy’s Revolt TV office¬†and “Ritual”, a 9-day, free-styled, floor-to-ceiling mural installation in a 5,000¬†sq¬†foot warehouse space.¬†In 2013, Hueman was one of the first artists commissioned to paint a mural after Los Angeles lifted its street art ban.¬†Her biggest canvas to date has been a 90-foot wall at San Francisco’s Ian Ross Gallery.¬†In May 2014, Hueman was named one of LA Weekly’s People of the Year and was featured on a limited-edition cover of the issue.

In 2015, she and Daniela Rocha, founder of Rocha Art, curated¬†Wander and Wayfare,¬†which featured murals painted around San Francisco by eight female street artists, as well as a gallery art show.¬†The event “will be an annual exhibition and mural festival that plans to brighten the future of the San Francisco art scene.” In July, she also participated in the second annual series of Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans, organized by PangeaSeed in Cozumel, Mexico.¬†Hueman’s latest solo exhibition Just One Moment runs September 19, 2015 through October 10, 2015 at Mirus Gallery in San Francisco.

Hueman’s signature style includes bright colors and elements of abstract portraiture. Her work has been described as a product of “free association.” “Drawing first abstractly and without a definite idea, she will return to the work several times and refine images she sees in the primary, elemental composition.”

The name “Hueman” comes from the feelings she had after starting to paint murals for the first time. In a profile in Juxtapoz, she states,”I began painting murals after a dark period in my life when I felt like there was nothing left to lose, and when I painted big for the first time, it was like a light switch turned on. Once I got out of my studio and onto the street, I was using my entire body to paint, I was talking to people, I was collaborating, I was in the sun. I felt alive again. I literally felt human. That’s where the name Hueman comes from.”

Since street art is a medium notoriously dominated by men, Hueman is especially notable as a female breakthrough artist. Hueman graduated from the University of California Los Angeles in 2008 with a degree in Design & Media Arts. She is Filipino American.


Kamasi Washington
–¬†is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, production editor and band leader. Washington is mainly known for his tenor¬†playing.¬†Washington was born in Los Angeles, California, United States, to musical parents and educators, and was raised in Inglewood, California. He is a graduate of the Academy of Music of Alexander Hamilton High School (Los Angeles) in the Beverlywood neighborhood.¬†Washington next enrolled in UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology. There, he began playing with numerous faculty members such as Kenny Burrell, Billy Higgins and band leader and trumpeter Gerald Wilson and released the Young Jazz Giants album in 2004.¬†He has since played along with a musically diverse group of musicians including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock,Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Snoop Dogg, George Duke, Chaka Khan, Flying Lotus, Francisco Aguabella, the Pan Afrikaan Peoples Orchestra and Raphael Saadiq. Washington played saxophone on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly¬†and released a solo album, The Epic in 2015.

–¬†Sydney Bennett, known by her stage name as Syd tha Kyd or more recently Syd[2] (born April 23, 1992) is a singer, producer and DJ from Crenshaw, Los Angeles, California.[3] She is one of the main producers in Odd Future and a singer, producer and mixer in the neo soul group The Internet with Matt Martians. She is the main producer for Odd Future rapper Mike G and the older sister of Odd Future member Travis “Taco” Bennett.

Growing up in a musical family influenced Bennett’s interest in music. Her mother aspired to be a DJ and her uncle is a¬†reggae producer out of Jamaica.¬†As she explained, “I began wishing I could take credit for some of my favorite songs. That was when I started to make my own ‚Äď I only began singing on my own songs when I really started writing.”¬†When Bennett was 14, she built a small music studio in her home and worked on sound engineering before getting into production.

For the first half of her high school years, Syd attended Palisades Charter High School.¬†Bennett felt left out and had few friends at Palisades and moved to the Hamilton Music Academy, which she considered a more open-minded school. ¬†Syd began making music while she was still living with her parents.¬†Syd’s stage name was given to her by her big brother, Ty, as a kid. After growing out of it, she reclaimed the name when she joined Odd Future.¬†Most of the group’s original songs were recorded in Syd’s house, also known as “The Trap”.

Thundercat ¬†Stephen Bruner, ¬†better known by his stage name Thundercat, is an American multi-genre bass player, producer and singer from Los Angeles, California. He has released three solo albums, and is most noted for his work with producer Flying Lotus, and crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies. Recently, he appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly. ¬†Born into a family of musicians, Bruner began playing the bass at an early age: by 15 he had a minor hit in¬†Germany as a member of the boy band No Curfew. A year later he joined his brother Ronald Jr. as a member of the Los Angeles metal band Suicidal Tendencies, replacing former bass player Josh Paul.

Along with his band duties Bruner is also a session musician, acclaimed for his work on Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah (2008) and Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma (2010). He released his first solo album in 2011, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which featured production from Flying Lotus, and was influenced by 1970s fusion artists such as Stanley Clarke and George Duke. The next two years saw a return to the recording studio with fellowBrainfeeder artist Flying Lotus, with contributions to the Lotus’s Until the Quiet Comes (2012) and You’re Dead! (2014), and the release of Thundercat’s second album Apocalypse (2013).

Bruner has been described as being a major contributor to and “at the creative epicenter” of Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly.

Flying Lotus – ¬†Steven Ellison, known by his stage name Flying Lotus or sometimes FlyLo, is an experimental multi-genre music producer, electronic musician, DJ and rapper from Los Angeles, California.¬†Flying Lotus has released five studio albums‚Äć‚ÄĒ‚ÄĆ1983 (2006), Los Angeles (2008), Cosmogramma (2010), Until the Quiet Comes (2012) and You’re Dead! (2014)‚Äć‚ÄĒ‚ÄĆto increasing critical acclaim.¬†He has produced much of the bumper music on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block.¬†He also contributed remixes for fellow Plug Research artists including Mia Doi Todd.

In 2012, Ellison began rapping under the persona Captain Murphy, based on the Sealab 2021 character of the same name. Ellison kept this fact a secret for several months, finally revealing his identity several weeks after the release of his first rap mixtape, Duality.

On November 15, 2012, Captain Murphy started a website and posted a 34-minute video titled “Duality” that featured his music as well as archived cult footage and lilfuchs-produced animation. The video album was to be named Du‚ąÜlity. He then began hinting at a deluxe version with separated tracks, bonus tracks and instrumentals. On November 28, Murphy released the deluxe version for download, along with the launch of a merch line. The mixtape was released with separate artwork for each track, created by lilfuchs.

On the night of the deluxe version release, Murphy played his first show at the Low End Theory in Los Angeles, California. He performed his set in a cloak to conceal his identity, but towards the end of the show, he revealed himself to be Flying Lotus.

Recently, Captain Murphy has released singles including “Between Villains” with collaborations from other musicians.¬†Flying Lotus has been planning to release a rap album as Captain Murphy but its release has been delayed. So far multiple tracks have been recorded with stars including Kendrick Lamar.

*Most materials cited from public domain sites /


If you guys don’t know already, I’m in a new group called “Dirty Disco Squares” which consists of the legendary Dj Prince Paul (De La Soul/Gravediggaz/Handsome Boy Modeling School), Mr. Len (Company Flow/Jean Grae/High Water Music) & myself. We’ve been putting out some mixes earlier this year and we just made a new one called “Dance To This (If You Wanna)”. If you’re expecting some Hardcore Hip Hop & crazy skits….you’ll be disappointed. But if you want to hear some good music & get your groove on listening while cleaning the house, you will enjoy this. Our tagline is “Rhett, Len, & Paul Plays It All!”….and pretty much, we do….haaa! And if you’re interested in the history of the Dirty Disco Squares, peep the video after mix. Enjoy!


Dance To This (If You Wanna) by Dirtydiscosq on Mixcloud