Two Supa Brotha Scientists take the art of turntablism to San Antonio's public libraries
The last time DJ Jester tried teaching the basics of turntablism, he got schooled by one of his disciples. It was about four years ago and Jester, aka the Filipino Fist, was a member of a local crew known as the Underdog Turntablists. The group was conducting a DJ class at Borders for a group of "suburban kids" who just happened to be at the bookstore with their parents.
But one 15-year-old kid was a ringer. He had made a point of attending the class, and when the Underdog Turntablists invited audience members to do some scratching, he made his way
|(L to R) DJ Klassen and DJ Jester. Photo by Mark Greenberg
"He wasn't old enough to get into any of our shows, so this was the only show he could get into," Jester recalls. "I wanted to quit after I saw him. I thought, 'Where the hell has this guy been? Who's this kid doing this shit?'"
Fast forward to June, 2003: Jester and the kid, Chris Klassen, are now collaborators in the Supa Brotha Scientists. This summer they will team up to bring turntablism to the public libraries of San Antonio, with their free, one-hour Scratch Skool classes.
Jester, 26, says he had never considered reviving Scratch Skool until reps from the public library approached him about teaching turntablism. He quickly enlisted Klassen as a teaching partner.
"He contacted me because I already had experience in teaching it," says 20-year-old Klassen. "I worked for the YMCA a couple of months back for a project called HYPE (Helping Youth Prevail in Education). It was an after-school program, and we taught digital design, DJing, breakdancing, and fashion classes."
For all their beat-juggling, vinyl-scratching mastery, Klassen and Jester find turntablism to be a tricky set of skills to teach. Jester says they will emphasize the most rudimentary aspects of the craft, beginning with matching beats, and devoting some time to scratching and beat juggling.
"A lot of people are familiar with it, but they never had the hands-on experience," Klassen adds. "We start from the basics: show them the equipment, maybe show 'em some videos of what DJs are doing, and some hands-on experience, but for the most part it's basically like teaching a baby to walk. It's fun, but it's definitely a challenge."
Like many of their peers, Jester and Klassen are largely self-taught manipulators of the wheels of steel, although both DJs acknowledge some early impetus from family members.
Jester, who grew up 50 miles south of Houston, knew little about hip-hop music as a child. The spawn of "traditionally strict Filipino parents," his earliest musical epiphanies came from '80s family outings to see the likes of Sting, Missing Persons, and Thompson Twins.
"My earliest memories of a turntable came from my cousins who live in Canada," Jester says. "One of them had a turntable and a mixer when I was in eighth grade. He had 2 Live Crew and cheesy acid-house - I don't even don't know what that is anymore. But it was my introduction to hip-hop culture, 'cause he was a painter and he DJed and they'd have these parties and people would come and hang out and dance."
He says his greatest education came from his fellow Underdog Turntablists. "At the time, I was about 22 or 23, and those guys were a lot older than me - like 28 or 30. They'd been doing it for a while and kind of introduced me to the whole thing.
"I hooked up with those guys and it was around the same time that the `Invisibl` Skratch Piklz were blowing up. Every
| DJ JESTER AND DJ KLASSEN: SCRATCH SKOOL
Saturday, June 7
Cody Branch Library
11441 Vance Jackson
Klassen started out emulating his older brother, a house-music DJ, but like Jester, he was inspired by the acrobatic showmanship of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, or at least one of their members: DJ Qbert. "My brother got me some videos and it had QBert on there and I was amazed by what he was doing. I tried to copy what he was up to and couldn't do it, but I just kept practicing and practicing."
While the duo's library classes are likely to inspire at least a few locals to apply the rudiments of scratching to some serious DJ woodshedding, Jester concedes that he has ulterior motives for taking on the teaching assignment. "I'm actually trying to learn from Klassen," Jester says with a laugh. "That's why I'm doing it. I want to know why this guy is so bad-ass." •