TF Archives

Dj Q-bert - 1.7.2004

Author: Persia Hill
Tuesday, July 6, 2004
QBert is a cult figure in the hip-hop scene due to his ability to use the turntable like a musical instrument, inventing styles and pioneering new systems of scratching. QBert is so skilled at his art that he was asked to stand down from the DMC World Championships and is now a judge just so that someone else could get the chance at winning the comp. There is just no one at present that can match him.

First I should explain the main reason he graced our shores- to showcase the new, totally portable Vestax QFO mixer/turntable hybrid, custom designed by Q-Bert and his partner in amazing technical inventiveness, Thudrumble's Yoga Frog. For these reasons I could not control my excitement about his performance last Thursday as I knew I would witness things I had never seen or heard before.

Most of the crowd were there just to see QBert, and like me, did not arrive until just before his set. That tends to happen on weeknights. The Prince of Wales is one of my least preferred venues- too dark, outdated and crowded for events that require you to actually be able to see the DJ. I arrived about 45 mins prior to Q-Bert's set and saw a bit of one of our finest local scratch DJs, J Red. He focused on a lot of classic hip hop tunes such as the Beastie Boys. The crowds that are drawn to these events really focus on the DJ's performance on the decks. All heads are transfixed on the front.

The crowd went crazy as Yoga Frog got up on the mic and announced QBert's arrival. Hands were in the air- waving from side to side- all the B boys and girls were in da house. The crowd was loving it. The set up was great- huge screens allowed everyone to see QBert in close up we all could witness his movements from side on, up close and from above.

QBert blew me away from the very start. Yoga mentioned QBert would first warm up. I do not know if warm up could be an adequate phrase to describe what he was doing. From the very onset he threw the beats upside down, back to front. The beats throbbed, pulsed, created new rhythms making the songs barely recognizable.

Watching the big screen, I found myself chuckling in awe and disbelief his hands seemed to be on fast forward. Not only was he creating new sounds but he was performing on the vinyl, it was as if his hands were break dancing. Everyone in the crowd had the same stunned look on their face- yes, he really, truly is the master.

QBert also had amazing stage presence- you don't get crowned the world's best DJ just for being a fine scratcher. You have to give the crowd a whole body performance, have a bit of charisma and style that sets you apart from all the other skilled DJs. QBert definitely does not lack anything in this department. His cheeky grin gave everything away, showing just how much he was enjoying his performance. Every now and then he would look into the crowd and give a huge smile which served to make everyone scream and cheer even louder.

He makes you wonder if he really is human or simply some super-scratching creature straight from another dimension here to blow our minds away. His hands seemed mechanical, vibrating at a million miles an hour- but he retained so much dexterity in his movements so that you could believe he was born with a turntable by his side.

The finale to his set saw a first for Melbournians- a versus performance of QBert versus J Red. Of course J Red could never expect to match the master but he did a damn good job of trying to. You could see just the privilege of playing against one of his idols was enough for him.

QBert also showcased his musical influences- threw in a bit of the Grandmaster Flash, who is one of the pioneers of the break beat sounds, he introduced some jazzy numbers and even seemed to create vocals in tracks simply through the beats.

Its hard to describe in a simple review the musical prodigy that is QBert, or how much he has contributed to the hip-hop scene. With the launch of the QFO I am sure we are set to s