Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip Hop DJ

June 13, 2012

ImageThe story of hip-hop – from its birth in New York City to its current status as global cultural phenomenon – is inherently compelling. Within a decade, from the late ’70s to the late ’80s, hip-hop rose from total obscurity to become a vital force in American popular music.

Like rock-and-roll before it, hip-hop grew up fast, and its rapid dissemination depended on technological innovations of the day. Significantly, the DJ was a central figure in both musical revolutions. Radio disc jockeys in the 1950s pumped rock-and-roll into the ears of any kid with a transistor and antenna. With hip-hop, the DJ assumed a more central role. Instead of just playing music on turntables, the early pioneers of hip-hop re-purposed the technology, turning playback equipment into a new kind of musical instrument.

“Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip Hop DJ” is a fascinating exploration of this still-evolving musical form, sometimes referred to as turntablism. Authored by musicologist and amateur DJ Mark Katz, chairman of UNC’s Music Department, “Groove Music” is a kind of mash-up itself. As an academic textbook that’s also intended for a general audience, the book successfully crossfades between rigorous scholarship and accessible storytelling.

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