In a converted horse stable in Los Angeles, pioneering DJ/producer Cut Chemist is sifting through 15,000 of his 35,000+ records, explaining the method to his madness. "One thing you can look at is what label got the most usage over the years," he says in the latest episode of "Crate Diggers." "If you look at Def Jam, spines are split; dinged corners; those records got a lot of mileage."
In the video above, the Jurassic 5 co-founder and Ozomatli member recalls his first digging trip: a cross-country jaunt accompanying his parents to take his sister to college. "This is the perfect opportunity," says Cut. "I’m 13 years old. I’m going to New York for the first time. All this stuff that I love about hip hop is New York-based and this is my chance to figure it out.”
“That was the beginning of break collecting,” he continues, after discussing his first purchase of compilation series Ultimate Breaks and Beats. “This was the first time I stated obtaining records and hence begins a larger scope of what to start completing. I was kinda the man in ’86.”
The episode also details "The Big Dig," a Brazilian record-shopping trip made by Cut, Madlib, Egon and Beat Junkies' Babu and J. Rocc (the latter a "Crate Diggers" alum). “We turned that country upside down. We changed the whole infrastructure of their economy just based on how many of us there were. It was like they brought in the army. Here comes the American DJs. It may have been the most amount of records I bought in one trip.”
Cut also shows off his ultra-rare test pressing of T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”—the first single released on Def Jam—with Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin's handwritten signature and NYU dorm phone number. Hip hop history right there.
Check out the video above, and listen below for some of the tracks featured in the video, hand-picked by Cut Chemist himself.
Dr. Funkenstein, "Scratchin' to the Funk"
Robbie B & Jazzy J., "Boogie Down"
Jurassic 5, "Unified Rebelution"
DJ AJ feat. Kay Gee & Spicey Dee, "Convention 81"
Boogaloo Combo, "Hot Pants Road"
Dorothy Ashby, "Come Live With Me"
T La Rock, "It's Yours"