DJ Rob Swift: 10 Scratch Commandments

Robert Aguilar AKA Rob Swift has been DJing since the age of 12. Mentored by his older brother, he would go on to be an important member of the X-Men, and one of the pioneers in turntablism. He’s got an East Coast DMC title under his belt, and has become one of the most respected DJ’s/Turntablists in the world. Who could forget this Biz Markie routine from ’95? From his early solo mixes such as Soulful Fruit to his major label efforts like The Ablist and the much acclaimed The Sound Event, his work with such diverse artists as Bob James, Herbie Hancock, Cannibal Ox, Linkin Park, Fat Joe and more, Rob Swift has forged a successful career for himself outside of the accolades of the X-Men crew. Swift linked up with Mike Patton and Ipecac Recordings to release the album The Architect in 2010, and has not looked back ever since. His DVD Rob Swift Live! The Documented Movement is a live performance in Brooklyn from 2010 in support of that record, and is most definitely a good look. To put it simple, if you’re into DJ Culture, Rob Swift is a legend. When he talks (and he’s a walking encyclopedia of the culture), you should listen. Now Biggie had the 10 Crack Commandments, but Rob Swift has come up with his 10 Scratch Commandments. Aspiring DJ’s take notes (and take a class with him over at Scratch Academy.)

From DJ Rob Swift Dot Com

10 Scratch Commandments

“1. Understand Kool DJ Herc fathered Hip Hop – Kool DJ Herc is the genesis of
all things relating to Hip Hop DJing. The man did not just give birth to a
movement, he fathered a culture that cuts through all age, racial, ethnic,
gender and language barriers. This is an important fact ANYONE calling
themselves a DJ must understand.

2. Acknowledge Grandwizzard Theodore created scratching – Grandwizzard
Theodore is the reason why DJs like myself have made a career off coaxing
sound out of turntables. Albeit by mistake, Theodore was the first to
develop a way of manipulating vinyl to create a sound which would enhance
the music being heard on the opposite turntable. For those that say “I don’t
need to scratch to be a DJ.” I ask, what is a DJ if he can’t scratch?

3. Study the craft – There have been times when I’ll encounter a student at
the Scratch DJ Academy who wants to learn how to DJ but knows nothing about
the craft. Some register for classes because it looks fun. Others sign up
cause they aspire to play at a famous nightclub. Whatever the reason you
decide to become a DJ, take time to learn everything about the art. Knowing
what the new hot songs are or owning a laptop and downloading “make shift”
DJ software doesn’t make you one either. Being a DJ is about controlling an
audience, physically and emotionally. In order to do this effectively, you
must study the DJs who’ve preceded you. Examine what separates one DJ from
another. Make the effort to go see Djs play live. Do what you can to see a
variety of Djs, from Turntablists to Party Rockers in live scenarios. Learn
the art of turntable manipulation inside and out.Then go beyond that.
Research the way crowds react to different musical genres. Explore music
itself. Do these things and I promise you, you’ll connect with people
through song and sound without ever having to turn on a mic.

4. Idolize no one – As important it is to understand and acknowledge the
roll pioneers have had on DJing/Turntablism, you should not idolize them.
When you idolize someone, it means you’re wrapped up in what they are or
aren’t doing. This directly impacts your own personal potential. It took a
DJ I idolized, Dr. Butcher, to tell me not to idolize any DJ. He’d say
“Respect them but know YOU have an energy inside your person that’s ready to
be tapped into. If you spend your time thinking “such and such” is the best,
you’re getting in your own way of growing into the best.”

5. Master one’s self – It’s important for you to know yourself if you want
to be a successful DJ. I began DJing when I was 12. For the following 7
years I imitated what I saw and heard the DJs I looked up to do. I could
scratch like Red Alert, backspin like Chuck Chillout and mix like Marley
Marl but I didn’t have my own identity behind the turntables. Once I learned
an important facet to DJing is the ability to express yourself through
music, I went from being able to scratch like Red Alert to scratching like
Rob Swift. Keep in mind there’s no end point to self mastery.This is an on
going process that has no finish line. I’ve noticed that as I evolve as a
person, so does my approach to mixing, beat juggling, body tricks and

6. Respect the tools of the trade – As a novice, make touching turntables a
part of your daily lifestyle. The key word here is TURNTABLES, not CDJs or
iPads. It’s more impressive to solve a mathematical problem using a pencil
and paper than a calculator, isn’i it? Like wise, operating turntables,
getting a feel for how vinyl responds to your touch, is crucial in your
development as a DJ. Learn on turntables first, the way the forefathers of
DJing intended for us to learn. Then you’re free to graduate to anything

7. Practice – Practice like you’re the worst and you’ll perform like you’re
the best.

8. Be style less – The best DJs are the most well rounded. Take as much
pride in mixing as you do scratching, in scratching as you do beat juggling,
in beat juggling as you do body tricks. Avoid specializing in one style. Let
your style be many styles. Let your style be no style. Do it all in your own
unique way.

9. Honor those DJs who’ve come before you – Be humble. No matter what you
achieve as a DJ, no matter how good you get at it, know that the basics of
what you do are directly connected to those DJs that paved a way before you.

10. Teach – You would not be DJing if you didn’t learn it somewhere. Thus,
pass on what you know when you know it. It’s the only way our ar will continue to evolve.”

DJ Rob Swift: Live! The Documented Movement Clips

Keep Diggin’!

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