We're always looking for old mixtapes. We don't care if they were made by a big-name dj or not. In fact, it'd be nice to hear what kids were doing in their bedroom studios back in the 90s. We're also interested in dj equipment modifications if you've come up with something tight.

hit us at sheldiack at gmail dot com

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part X

This is the 9th anniversary of the SHELDIACK blog. I don't pay much attention to it these days, but it's still a great outlet (and I'm happy that it's been helpful to a handful of people who don't want to pay like $40 each for some shitty plastic Vestax PDX-2000 replacement feet).  For this year's post, I figured I'd call out two awesome battle-ish videos that I've discovered over the past couple of years.  Coincidentally, they are both from 2004.

The first one is from DJ Vajra.  This whole set is ridiculous.  Everything is so fluid and crisp (the clicking of the fader is an added bonus).  The scratching and the back and forth is spot on.  Plus, I love the setting -- like in a hotel room or something.  Warming up with wristbands on.  As amazing as this set is, Vajra would have to wait until 2011 to win the World DMC Championships.

The second one is a bedroom vid from DJ PRO-ZEIKO.  Again, the setting here is great.  In fact, I've always said that the right plant placement makes me a better scratch DJ.  This video is short, but man, when he gets into the two-handed needle dropping, and especially the crab-esque "cuts" caused by balancing the tonearm and tapping the headshell (starting at about 1:10) -- sick.  I don't know a ton about PRO-ZEIKO.  His more current videos show him geeking out in clubs playing dubstep tracks live sample-by-sample on a Roland SP-555.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part IX

Back in 1997, my friend Ben Wynn (aka DJ Rockwell, aka Deru) and I were working on our first mixtape together in Madison, WI.  I went to his dorm room one day, and he had a couple of new 12"s, including one called the Overcast EP by Atmosphere.  Even though I'd been going to hip hop shows in the Midwest since the early 90s (including up in Minneapolis), I hadn't yet heard of Atmosphere.  This EP blew my mind.  "Independent" hip hop was still relatively new to me in the mid-90s -- I was mostly still listening to golden age shit.  But the stuff I would hear from Atmosphere and the Rhymesayers camp over the next few years really opened my ears up to newer hip hop.

In 1998, Ben and I (and I think my friend Allison) hopped in his tight Honda Civic and drove from Madison over to Milwaukee to catch a Rhymesayers at a bar called Y-Not II.  As it turns out, this was the first Milwaukee appearance by the Rhymesayers (I think the Milwaukee legend Jay-Bee put that show on).  The show was as amazing as the Overcast EP was, and I especially remember both the freestyling by Slug and the scratching by DJ Abilities.  In fact, I remember telling Ben on the way home that I might as well quit scratching, because Abilities was so epic.  Ben basically told me I was an idiot.

So anyways, DJ Abilities is the focus of the 9th installment of Isaac's Favorite Cuts.

I don't know if it's just me, but Abilities has a very unique sound to his cuts.  If I was to hear him cutting and didn't know who the DJ was, I feel pretty confident I'd know it's him.  He's not the most technical DJ (especially given how far battle DJ standards have evolved since he was in that "scene" in the late 90s/early 2000s), but he is accurate and his hands are lightning quick. Also, in the handful of conversations I've had with him, he was ALWAYS talking about scratching -- pretty much nothing else.  So he's thoughtful about how he cuts, and what he cuts.  But no matter what he was cutting for -- whether it was for a battle, a mixtape, an Eyedea (RIP) & Abilities or El-P record -- there were always a couple of signature scratches/styles that let you know it was him.

Let's check out some snippets.

The first is from Milwaukee hip-hop group the Rusty Pelicans and their song "All I Have".  Abilities provided the cuts (and the song featured Slug from Atmosphere).  I think this was released in 2000, and I remember the intro of the song caught my ear with crisp cuts in an interesting pattern:

To be honest, I still don't really understand if he's just transforming here, or if that's a chirp or something.  That's one thing about Abilities, the few scratches that are staples in his arsenal are a bit mysterious to me, and I've always thought they were awesome.

The next sample is from the song "Star Destroyer" off of the "E&A" album.  A whole mishmash of cuts in this one, but I really love how it hops over the beat and has a groove to it.  Up and down, and quite a few slow pull-backs.  I feel like this short snippet shows a lot of Abilities's cutting styles as of 2004:

This super short snippet is just a chirp, but Abilities regularly used this scratch (with it's varied speed) as a transition from cut to cut.  Even though every DJ uses the chirp, this particular use of it always makes me think it's Abilities cutting.

The final sample here is from El-P's song "Dead Disnee" off of the Fantastic Damage album.  You can hear use of the transitional chirp (explained briefly in the sample above), as well as another one of the cuts that he regularly uses (the ultra fast one in this clip).  I honestly have no idea what this scratch is.  Some scratch nerds out there would laugh at my old ass for not knowing it, but I don't feel like I ever hear anyone else do it.

Anyways, another long-ass post.  At least it's only one per year.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part VIII

Okay, so this isn't actually a review of any of my favorite scratching, but it's always had me a little perplexed, so I thought I'd throw it out there. In the Pete Rock & CL Smooth song "The Creator", Pete Rock steps to the fore with mic in hand. It's a respectable outing. I had completely forgotten about how strange the video is (P.R. busting some really, um, funky dance moves in his pirate costume -- complete with Seinfeld "puffy" shirt). But just as strange is how Pete Rock apparently hands off the scratching duties to C.L. Smooth at the end of the second chorus:

What?! Not that it's mindblowing by today's standards, but for someone who was never known as a deejay (at least I didn't know he was), it's a pretty killer little 1991 cut section (especially the ending accelerating stutter thing). And to top it off, Pete Rock is spliced in doing some extra retarded dancing (again, in the pirate costume). I can't find my cassette to check the liner notes -- does anyone know if this is for real?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part VII

It's hard to believe, but today is the 5th anniversary of this blog. To celebrate, let's look at another cutmaster: DJ Premier. This one should have been up here long ago, but we post something about once every six months or so (we're lazy), and it just hasn't happened. Not like anyone's reading anyways, so no harm. But seriously, what better person to honor on a milestone day?
I can't think of a hip hop producer with a better ear for loops and matching the appropriate drums with those loops. Really proper stuff. And it's not like Premier is using tons of layers of loops, trying to get all unnecessarily complicated; rather, he finds the tight shit and flips it in his own way (i.e. the right way).
But growing up, I took all of this for granted. It sounded so natural that I wasn't even paying attention to it. Instead, I was blown away by his scratching. Premier was getting his on almost every song. And, in the same vein that the loops and drums were seamless, the cuts and samples fit. And they were funky as hell. Never the most complicated, but always creative and well-executed (and again, funky). Plus, when it was time to cut on the chorus, he wasn't reaching for Generic Battle Record to flex, he was either snatching another Gang Starr Foundation record, or dude went digging again. Whatever fit the song, he was finding it.
Let's face it, we could put 100 examples up here. Instead, here are a couple of highlights:
Take a Rest: The little scribbles in here are awesome on their own. Then he ties them together back-to-back. In my circle of friends, we used to call this technique of doing back-to-back scribbles "the scratch" and there was a point in time that this was the ultimate scratch for me.

2 Deep: Relatively basic, rhythmic cuts of James Brown's voice is a recipe for gold in Premier's hands. He just rocks with it nice and easy through the fade out of the track. An additional bonus here is the fader/switch crackle. I love that shit.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Simple, but incredible sample selection. Any time you can slip Kool Keith in there, I'll be cheering. And his ending with the series of "haha-haha-haha-haha-haha see ya later" is killer.

As I Read My S-A: I love how he includes a backspin in the intro to this segment and keeps it moving. Usually, a backspin sounds sort of like a weird cop-out to me, but he uses it really nicely -- it fits. He also does some slow pull-back stuff that my friend Rob Zimmerman and I used to imitate and laugh about. If you listen closely, there's a little record rumble in there too (obviously not intentional, but it still makes me nostalgic).

DWYCK: Every hip hop kid knows this jam. It's a party rocker, and it includes (among other things): Greg Nice's patented echoed delivery and a video showing GURU (RIP) rapping from some sort of rickshaw and Premo sitting down on the pier cutting away on a single turntable. His cuts are sweet on this track. Lots of slow pull-backs on here. In the summer between high school and college, I went to Rob's house and he had two copies of the DWYCK 12". He threw the instrumental on one side, and replicated all of Premier's cuts (verbatim) on the other table. I'll never forget it.

Okay, enough already. Hopefully I'll be more succinct in the 10 year anniversary post.


Friday, October 08, 2010

Claude Young - As You Like It!

If you know Claude Young, you know you should check out this mixtape. I wouldn't say it's as good as Dexit, but it's still pretty great. Thanks to Sheldon for shipping it out to me to post.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Unknown Souljah - Fat Mix #3

I'm not sure if the state university in my home town attracted them or what, but there were always some interesting characters around. I didn't know him well, but Jeremy Kadinger seemed like one of those characters (though I believe he was a local). He was a few years older than me and my group of friends and our paths never really crossed in high school. But when I started going to school at Stout (the aforementioned state university), he opened a record store. I can't even remember what it was called. But it was at his store that I discovered that he was a deejay. And, to my surprise, he was a hip hop deejay.

Ack and I went in there a couple of times, and I have a couple of memories. I remember Jeremy having turntables in the store and flipping doubles of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" (at least, that's how I remember it -- could have been another song, I guess). I remember (for a fact) having Jeremy order me double copies of The Fab Five's "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" 12 inch when it came out. And Ack somehow got this tape (not sure if it was at the store, or somewhere else). Anyways, Jeremy went by the name "Unknown Souljah" at some point, and he had a series of mixtapes called "Fat Mix". Fat Mix #3 won't blow your mind any more than the title will, but it does have some quality 90s cuts on it. Plus, it just takes me back to that time. It's interesting to think that there were multiple kids in my small town doing this in the middle of Wisconsin in the early/mid 90s.

I recently looked Jeremy up on Google, and it looks like he still lives in that part of the state, but now he's a Christian DJ and plays music on a religious radio station. Oh well.

Thanks to Ack for delivering this one.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ben, Dan and Fred One

This poster is hanging in my bedroom/studio. My friend Ben gave it to me a long time ago. If I remember correctly, his older brother Dan gave it to him. Dan graduated from our small town Wis high school the year we became freshmen. He moved to Chicago, and was ultimately a big influence on our group of friends (and indirectly some kids younger than us, like my brother Dusty). Dan met a dude named Fred One (aka Fred Ones), and they occasionally made hip hop mixtapes for Ben. These tapes taught us a lot (how else would we have learned about Ultramagnetic? Probably not from the Oakwood Mall Sam Goody). I wish I had some audio to post, but I don't think I have a copy of any of these tapes. The one I remember most was called "2:00 am Mix"if my memory serves me right. Classic stuff, damn I wish I had a copy. Anyways, whenever I look at this poster, I think of high school and classic rap jams. Thanks Dan, Fred and Ben.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part VI

I think I first heard DJ Revolution's work in 1999 back in Madison, Wis. A friend of mine had put together a mixtape and it had a song called "The Freshest" by Red Foo & Dre Kroon on it. The cuts on that mix of that song were by Revolution (although I didn't know who he was at the time) and blew my mind (for example, I hadn't really heard his now-famous terror chirps). Here's a clip from that song:

Over the years, he's turned into one of my favorite mixtape djs. To be honest, I don't even really care so much about what songs he's playing -- I'm usually just waiting for the chorus or the mix when he lays on the cuts and phrase collages (like no other!) nice and thick. Here's a little example:

DJ Revolution is ridiculous.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Who is building a turntable?

UPDATE: An adventurous chap down in Texas was the lucky recipient of the turntable parts listed below. Hopefully he'll be able to do something with all of it and report back!

What's that? You're building a frankenstein turntable? You need some innards? Snap! I have some. I just tore apart a Numark TT200, and would like to give someone the guts. I bought it used from some dude online because I needed the tonearm, but the rest has just been sitting here. I also stole the feet for my Vestax PDX-2000 foot mod, so I can't give you those. Anyways, here are some pics of what I have to offer:

A platter (shit, this thing costs flipping $50 through Numark, how about I sell it to you for free?)

The power transformer, power switch, back panel (with RCA inputs) and some other board (they don't even sell these gems on the Numark website -- well, the power transformer they do). Does zero dollars sound reasonable?

Here are the pitch slider and the bpm button modules. I even have the microscopic screws that hold them in place.

You're going to need start/stop/reverse buttons -- I got you.

Here is the control assembly board. Somehow it doesn't match the replacement found on the Numark site for this turntable, but this is what was in mine. Yeah, I cut one of the ground wires in the middle -- just fix that shit.

Finally, you probably want some spinning thing to put the platter on. Here's the motor assembly ($125 on Numark's website). Again, I'm not sure how well any of this stuff works, so I'll give it to you for free.

So that's it. Post a comment if you want to claim this stuff. I would just ask that you pay shipping.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 06, 2009

Old Spots

I found some old business cards in a box. Let's revisit some old spots.

I used to like to buy records at Beat Parlor when we went to Chicago.

Hot Jams was entertaining too. I haven't been there in a long time, but in my mind, all they sell is hip house records.

Another Chicago classic.

Whenever I was in the Twin Cities, I always liked to hit up Wide Angle. I drove by there a year or so ago, and it looked like it'd been turned into someone's apartment. Wide Angle was long gone. I once bought a radio promo double LP of Ol' Dirty's first album here. It's the edited version, and it's almost better than the dirty version because of the amazing sound effects Rza (?) used for the radio edits.

I bought my first Tech 1200 here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part V

Another one of those memorable transformer cut choruses complete with nasty-sounding transformer switch/crusty crossfader moments. This time courtesy of Roc Raida.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wooden Flight Case for a Stanton SK-2F

I was back in Wisconsin and Minnesota visiting family and friends (even got to see Acktacular!) during most of the month of January. One project that I worked on with my dad was building a flight case for my Stanton SK-2F DJ mixer. We built it out of unfinished pine to match the turntable flight cases he and I built a few years back. Here are some pictures:

No more toting this bad boy around in the original box I bought it in. That shit was pretty destroyed.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fixing Broken Vestax PDX-2000 Feet (Part II, sort of)

In our last post, we showed you a way to use cheaper (and superior) Numark feet to replace your (inevitably) broken Vestax PDX-2000 foot or feet. Hopefully that's helped a few folks out.

Now we're going to show you a (rudimentary) way to possibly salvage those old Vestax feet (maybe we should have done this one first to save you a few bucks -- sorry). You'll need a gas
stovetop/torch/serious lighter/flamethrower, a sweet pair of pliers and the parts listed below. Okay, enough talk, here we go.

*Disclaimer: take your PDX-2000 apart at your own risk. It's simple, but I'm not a certified Vestax repair herb, so be careful. Always make sure your turntable is unplugged before opening it up.

First off, you probably hear some rattling around inside of your table if you have a broken foot (or feet). That's probably just the broken end of the plastic bolt or nut that Vestax used. Yeah -- bullshit. Take off the bottom plate of your turntable. It's easy -- no pictures needed.

Take a look around and assess the situation. Are all of the feet broken, or just a couple? Count it out. Next, take a look at the feet to see where they are broken. Hopefully, the foot itself (i.e. black plastic and roundish black rubber blob insert are still intact. Most likely, the white plastic bolt snapped off. If you're lucky, it snapped at, or above the black rubber blob; like where the arrow is pointing below (ignore the metal bolt sticking out in the picture -- we're not there yet):

For this fix to work, you really need to have some white plastic inside of that black rubber blob. If you don't have any, you can stop reading this post and go to the Numark foot fix (however, you'll need to replace all four feet in order for your turntable to sit level).

Okay, assuming you have some white plastic showing, it's time to get some supplies. For each of the broken feet you have, you'll need the following: + one 1/4"-20 x 2" hanger bolt (it can be a little less than 2" long if you can find it) -- the "20" represents the number of threads per inch. As you can see in the picture, a hanger bolt has two threaded ends. One end is a wood screw, and the other will accept a nut (machine thread) -- this is key ($.31).
+ one 1/4" inner diameter and 1 1/4" outer diameter rubber neoprene washer ($.47) +one 1/4" inner diameter, 5/8" outer diameter, 3/8" height nylon spacer ($.45) +one 1/4" split lock washer ($.16)
+one 1/4" metal nut (to screw onto the metal bolt end of the hanger bolt above) ($.10)
I got all of these goods at the local hardware store. Next, rush home in excitement -- you're about to fix this shit. Bust down your door and crank on one of your stovetop burners (or torch) to high. Grab the first broken foot and set it next to the stove. Take that sweet pair of pliers and use them to firmly grab the machine thread end of the hanger bolt and hold the wood screw end over the hot flame for a while. The hotter, the better.
Once it's good and hot, screw the wood screw end directly into the center of the white plastic of the broken foot. Note: try to do this relatively quickly as the bolt won't stay hot enough to melt the plastic for long. Also, the black rubber blob is only attached to the rest of the black plastic foot with some kind of adhesive. If you turn the bolt too hard when it isn't hot enough, it will tear the black rubber blob from the plastic foot (at which point it's pretty tricky to undo your work and start over). Obviously, you don't want the screw to come out the bottom of the foot, but I haven't had that happen yet.
With a 2" long screw, I try to get the entire wood screw end buried inside of the white plastic. When you're finished, it should look something like this:
Okay, if yours looks like this (and nothing broke), then the hard part is over. From here, it's just a matter of assembly. Take the base of the turntable, and put the newly "assembled" foot up through the bottom. Place the rubber/neoprene washer over the top, then the nylon spacer on top of that, then the speed lock washer on top of the spacer and finally the metal nut on the end of the hanger bolt. Tighten with a wrench, and it should look like this:
Here's another view:
Do the same for the other busted feet, and then reattach the base of the turntable. Plug it in and cut it up. I haven't toured with this turntable (in fact, it hasn't even left my apartment), but it seems pretty sturdy. I don't really know what's inside of the black rubber blob (it's some sort of rubbery filler that's similar to those old disgusting sticky things that you could throw against the wall and they'd stick or "crawl" down the wall).

One possible improvement: you could probably wear some type of breathing apparatus if you don't like the smell of burning rubber.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

New Feet for a Busted Vestax PDX-2000

I recently bought two broken Vestax PDX-2000s thinking that I could frankenstein together one working turntable. This was a success. Earlier this year when I did the same thing with some Numark turntables, I found myself left with a bunch of spare parts.

The PDX-2000 (at least the original) has issues with its feet. Not only did Vestax use a plastic "bolt" (which breaks for many of its users), but they go ahead and add insult to injury by charging ~$30 per foot for new ones. Not upgraded, diesel ones, just new crappy ones that can break again. So I needed to find an alternate. Looking through the turntable parts I had sitting around, I noticed how simple and sturdy the Numark feet are. Also, you can get them online for about $6 each. So, I wanted to find a simple way to use the Numark feet (these were from the cheap TT-200, but are also found on the TT-500 and TTX). In digging through the local hardware store, I found a simple solution that costs all of $3.00 total -- the plain steel flat-type speed nut. See pictures below.

*Disclaimer: take your PDX-2000 apart at your own risk. It's simple, but I'm not a certified Vestax repair fella, so be careful. Definitely make sure your turntable is unplugged before opening it up.

First, remove the base of the turntable. I'm not going to show any pictures because it's just a matter of removing a bunch of screws.

About $.30 - .40 each at your local hardware store. Get 8 of them.

Screw one of the speed nuts all the way onto the foot (bowed upwards).

Now take that foot and place the bolt through one of the four foot holes in the base of the turntable. Screw on a second speed nut (bowed downwards) until it gets snug. Don't overtighten it, because a) it's not necessary, and b) since the bolt on the Numark feet is so short, there's almost no clearance between the "bubble" in the base of the PDX-2000 and the surface it rests on (mine has between 1/8" and 1/4").

Here's a picture of both speed nuts clamping down on each other with the base plate in between.

You can kind of get a feel for the clearance between the "bubble" in the base of the PDX and the surface it rests on in the picture above -- not very much.

Then, re-attach the base to the top portion of the turntable and you're set to go. Mine only gets used in the studio, so I don't need a super robust solution, but you could add Loctite to the speed nuts if you wanted them to stay in place more permanently.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Isaac's Favorite Cuts - Part IV

Who could put together a list of all-time favorite
hip hop djs and not include DJ Scratch? Not
me, that's for sure. To be sure, EPMD was hot
before he was part of the group, but after Scratch
joined was when shit really got good.

I guess everyone has their own favorite EPMD
record, but Business As Usual is definitely mine.
I think this record came out in 1990, and Scratch
wasn't playing! Check him out on "Rampage":

Later, he ends the record with "Funky Piano." I
always found myself fast-forwarding to get
to this song (which he also produced);
his transforming just killed me:

I like how you can hear the sound of the phono/
line switch (or maybe it's a crusty old fader?)
in this very last segment:

I have no idea why I was watching it, but I also
caught Scratch in this cheesy hip hop movie
from the mid 90s called "Fly By Night." The
movie is awful (hilarious), but there is a scene
where Scratch is doing his famous "Friday
the 13th - I'ma Play Jason" routine. Classic.