ArtistWorks Blog

Interview with ThatKidNamedCee: 30 Years of Skratching

ThatKidNamedCee bandcamp

I first came across ThatKidNamedCee on the internet through some mutual DJ friends. He was always posting stuff about skratching which was what initially caught my attention. After I found out more about his background, I discovered he'd been skratching since 1982, before I was even born! Read this interview and you'll see why he's not planning on stopping any time soon.

QSU:  You started skratching in '82, and I read that you won a battle in '89? Tell us more about that!

ThatKidNamedCee

Cee:  Yes. I started in 1982. And until around 1987 or so, all I knew was how to skratch. I couldn't mix and didn't care to learn how to. Records like "Buffalo Gals", "Rockit", and all the records Mixmaster Ice skratched on back then furthered my love for skratching. But after hearing more of the mixshows back then and hearing some really cool mixes, I decided I wanted to learn how to mix. So after a few years of practice, I actually got good at it. Then listening to the radio one day (Majic 102 FM), I heard them announce that they were having a mix contest and the winner would get their mix played on the air. So I entered! The only "big name" guy I remember entering went by the name of "Dr. Pepper" at the time. 

Honestly, some of the other people might have played more "radio style" music or maybe mixed a bit cleaner, but none of them could skratch the way I could. I think that was what put me over the top for the win. Man, I remember listening to my winning mix on the air! It was the first time anything I had ever done was played anywhere. I was hooked on that feeling. I told myself, "this can't be it...I gotta find a way to build upon what I just accomplished.." Little did I know at the time, that mix was going to be my gateway into commercial radio a few years later! But as far as a recording of it, unfortunately I dont have it. I recorded it live off the air when they played it that day on a cassette and had it for years. Eventually the tape gave out and the mix was lost.

QSU:  Compare your style now to how it was back in the '80s… I know you're a strictly one turntable skratcher now, but back in the day did you cut up a lot of doubles? Quick mixing with stickers on the grooves? Did you rock original breaks or mostly hip hop records? How important was the art of "beat juggling" to you back then?

Cee:  I used to kut up doubles back then. I had a few cool juggles too. But let me be 100% truthful and honest with you....I never had a PASSION for juggling/doubling up and such. I did it for a while because back then you had to be "well rounded" to get respect/gigs, so I did it for that. But I never had the passion for it. Just give me a cool instrumental, a sound to skratch and let me at em! haha!

QSU:  Why did you move away from the other elements of DJing (mixing, juggling, etc) to focus on skratching? Was there a specific reason to stop "DJing" in the broad sense of the word?

Cee:  I moved away from the other elements (and DJing in general) because I lost any love I had for it. Like in the previous question, I never had passion for that stuff. I just wanted to skratch/kut. Combine that with music in general losing my attention, and pretty much I decided I needed to just focus on what I love. So I wouldn't lose love for the art completely...

QSU:  In your interview with Sneakers and Ale, you mention a few other Houston DJs. What was the Houston DJ scene like in the 80s? Tell us about some of the Houston DJs back in the day, who inspired you, who taught you, who'd you battle, etc…?

Cee:  Oh man back then there were so many! Rasta Clem, RP Cola, Lester Sir Pace, Terry (King) Tee, Crazy C, DJ Blaster, Jerry Smokin B, DJ Wiz MD, Lonnie Mack (RIP), Peter Parker, DJ Domination, Cozmos... so many dope DJs back in the day! Wiz was on commercial radio at the same time as me on a different station, so we always had a friendly competition thing going on. We actually joined forces later in the 90s with Blaster, Domination & Cozmos and created the "Ntimid8orz crew"...one of the first skratch crews in town. We rocked a few shows and such. Really good and fun times!

But back to the 80's.... really back then I was rockin with Blaster. We did LOTS of parties together. Practiced together. Made mixtapes together. Honestly, at the parties, he did most of the mixing, party rockin and such. I would just kut up a few records throughout the night. We had a good balance because he was the best party rocker, and if anyone wanted to test skillwise, they would have to deal with me!

thatkidnamedcee - promo skratch ep

QSU: Tell us more about DJ Blaster, he seems like a real big influence on you.

Cee:  Blaster is in my opinion the best party rocker I've seen. He just kills it. I met him in 1985 and we've been best of friends ever since. He was the one who introduced me to most of the "classic breaks" that are sampled and skratched in Hip Hop records and whatnot. He also worked in commercial radio starting in 1991, and helped me get a job there a year later, since the station knew of me from winning that battle a few years before.

QSU:  Damian “D-Latroi” (RIP), who was he and what did he teach you? What were the first things you learned?

Cee:  My brother for life Damian (RIP) was the person who helped me step my skratch game up from pretty ok to really good! I really think if he were still alive today, you might be interviewing HIM instead of me! Somehow he always stayed a step ahead of me on the kuts! We used to just skratch all day man! After school, skratch! All summer break, skratch! He had all these new patterns and stuff, and I would just try to emulate what he was doing. He helped me get my chirps on point, and get my transforming down. He brought a real insight into skratching that I had never seen before ...and this was in the 80s!!! I learned SO much from him. He also was a talented emcee and recorded a record in 1992 that Blaster produced. I was his DJ. Miss him much...

QSU:  How did you get into DJing on the radio? 

Cee: My radio DJ career started with Majic 102 in late 1991-early 92. Blaster helped me get on. Basically the station was more R&B during the day, and rap/hiphop at night. So Blaster, myself, DJ Agg, & RP Cola were the mix DJs and did all the mixes for the station. Now before all this, back in the mid 80s, myself and Blaster worked in a record shop. So we already had all the dope records. Commercial radio added to that, as we got free promo records because we were mixshow DJs. That's part of the reason I have such an extensive collection of vinyl now. Records my dad gave me, all the Hip Hop I got from the record store days plus the stuff I got from commercial radio. I still need more storage for all of that wax, haha!

But as far as being on the air, in the beginning, we were free to kut up and pretty much play what we wanted. That was around 1992-1995. Then in mid '95, the station got bought out. New management. Things got SUPER strict. Playlists were implimented. "Don't skratch too much", "Just play the hits" type shit. So as you can guess, my time there ended in '95.

As far as recording the mixes, I never did it. The cool thing is that some of my friends did record them. All on cassette though! haha! One day I'll have to get with em, convert em to mp3 and upload them somewhere for you all.

QSU:  Any wild "on air" stories from your time on the radio, turntable mishaps, funny moments, etc?

Cee:  The one that I always remember was my LIVE edit of Biggie's "Dreams of F**kin an R&B b****".... I took the "fresshh" sample and skratched out all the curses! I spent that whole morning listening and remembering the lyrics. Then I did it live on the air that night! Didn't miss any words!! That was a big risk. One slip up, and I probably would have been fired on the spot! LOL!

skratchlife

QSU: What is "SkratchLife"? How did that come all about with DocJeezy and DJ Needlz?

Cee:  All three of us you mentioned were seeing how it seemed that the US wasn't skratching much anymore in the mid 2000's. Europe (specifically France) had taken the game over. So SkratchLife was our response to that. To be like, "hey, we still rep over here in the US!!". I started doing the hashtag #skratchlife on Twitter and DocJeezy and Needlz followed suit. Pretty soon we saw that shit all over Twitter and the net, from people we hadn't even met. Eventually we all connected via the net and just started hashtagging that shit on anything we posted skratch wise. Pretty soon it was everywhere. But the core members if you will are myself, DocJeezy, Needlz, Psykhomantus, DJ Dexxx, and Rob Swift is extended family. But it's for ANYONE who reps the skratch art!

QSU: Your recent projects include the "Skratch4Life compilation tablist CD", and I know you're working on an EP with DJ Swordkilla from Italy. Who else have you worked with? What other recordings have you done, where are they available, etc?

Cee:  I've been on all 3 volumes of the "Skratch4Life" compilation. Big up Nobodi Tha Vinylist. [check out our blog on the Skratch Connection series for links] Also I was on the Tablist.net "Fresh" skratch compilation. Shout to Honna for that! I also did my own skratch album CD "The Promo-Skratch EP" in 2010. I've been on many skratch podcasts done by DJ T-Kut from Spain. Supaphonik from France made a skratchtape for QSU and I was invited to skratch on it [check out our blog on that here].

ThatKidNamedCee and Rob Swift

I did a skratch single in 2008 on Domination Recordings with Kamstick from France called "Shaolins are Back". I did the skratching on DJ MIL's (of Spain) remix of Public Enemy "Bring the Noise". I've done skratches for Hip Hop artists Vick Da Kreed, Linus Stubbs & Rock Bottom, Example and a few others. I've collaborated on skratch singles with DJ Ntone of Russia, DJ Nexus of Italy, DJ 3DO of Chile, DJ E-Na from Japan, PanaKronic from Canada, KingTragic from Ohio, Needlz of course, and so many other skratchers! Also I've skratched for producers like Spores, DocJeezy, MLP, Famelik, DJ ALKS, and more. One of the next projects soon will be with Rob Swift. I'm looking forward to that one!

I also released a limited press skratch record in the mid 2000's (may re release soon), and I have a new one coming up soon. Most of my stuff is on my soundcloud page for now. The releases that I did on vinyl are all sold out for now, but I'm in the process of re releasing all of it in the future.

QSU: How / when did you link up with skratchers outside the US?

Cee:  Via internet circa 2005. I met DJ Diams from France and he put me on to the Beat4Battle online skratch movement out of France. From there, I met skratchers from all over Europe, Japan, Singapore, Canada, etc online. A great side benefit other than building with excellent skratchers worldwide, is that I have a basic understanding of many different languages now.

QSU:  What are some things you've noticed over the 30 years you've been skratching? Where do you see this all going? 30 years ago, did you ever imagine where it would be 30 years later? How does reality compare?

Cee:  What I will say about this is two-fold. Firstly, I LOVE where skratching is nowadays skillwise. I hear and see some incredible stuff out there. I couldn't have imagined back in the '80s that it would have gotten this advanced! And that I would be a part of it! Skratching is its own art now in my opinion - apart from traditional DJing or even apart from turntablism. There are many out there who strictly skratch or make skratch music, who don't juggle or DJ. I love how we have created our own artform. I definitely could not have seen this coming back in the '80s.

Secondly, and not so good, is the fact that I feel skratching does not have the audience that I feel it should. I think many in the mainstream nowadays don't understand our art. I have heard people say that while they respect skratching as a skill, it's too complex for them. Or it's just noise. So what I am trying to do is create music with skratching that all people can get with. Something that will please the skratch "nerds" if you will, and please the regular listener who isn't so familiar with our art. That way skratching will have an audience and more skratchers can begin to get paid (or paid better) for their skills. I wish skratching had a big yearly convention like EDM music does. Where famous and up and coming skratchers could showcase, be seen, build our audience, and further our art/careers...

QSU: What are you thoughts on equipment changes over the years? What turntables, mixer, needles did you start with? What do you think about dicers / controllers in skratch routines?

Cee:  I started with a Realistic mixer (that had no cross fader, just upfaders) and a beat up garbage turntable! hahaha! Humble beginnings I guess. I had to tape a nickel on the headshell to skratch fast so it wouldn't skip! Eventually I got 1200s and the Realistic mixer with the crossfader. Which I modded out to make smoother. Then Gemini Scratchmaster, that Technics mixer, then my 1st Vestax 05, which I still have. Later I got my Vestax 06, innofaders, and Vestax PDX turntables to replace the 1200s. I have no problem with dicers at all.

Now as far as iPad, controllers and that type of thing, if you are using it to enhance your skratch routine or set, it's ok. But to ONLY use that, or to rely on that as a crutch for lack of skill, that's garbage! All this "I dont need turntables to skratch, I use an iPad, etc." type junk is WEAK to me.... True skratchers will ALWAYS use the turntable & mixer as the main focus of that they do. Period.

thatkidnamedcee - rooftop skratch

QSU: How has the language of skratch evolved over the years, meaning the way we describe the specific skratches?

Cee:  The language of skratch has really evolved alot throughout the years. We have several notation systems now to actually notate skratches. We have an entire vernacular of skratch terms we use. I see it as a good thing. We now have a solid written way to pass this audio art to future generations! Now, I know there is an ongoing debate about skratch notation [read more about that here]. Some see it as too complex. Some feel the opposite and see it as a great thing.

Funny thing is I've always had my own little bootleg way of writing skratches or combos down to remember them. (If I showed you it would make no sense to you, as I created it just for me to understand) But the main beef I have heard about it is that its too close to traditional music theory, which some people don't get because they don't read traditional music.

My good friend Alex has a whole system of skratching/traditional music notation that he does. I see that as a good thing, especially if you are a trained musician already. For those that don't read music, maybe one of the other systems is more fitting. Or maybe people are like me and developed their own personal way to notate skratches. Either way, either system, I see it as a good thing.

QSU:  Where can people go to get your music?

Cee:  All my free downloads are on my soundcloud page (www.soundcloud.com/thatkidnamedcee) ... all my tracks/albums/EPs/vinyl/etc that is for sale can either be purchased directly from me via social media (Twitter, FB, email, etc..) or at any gig I perform at. I will also have tracks available on iTunes, Bandcamp, etc very soon!

QSU:  What are you currently working on?

Cee:  Finishing up the EP with SwordKilla, a track for DJ Nexus of Italy, and a project for Needlz. After that, I will work on a track with Rob Swift, and working with my man Leighton on a new skratch vinyl to come hopefully before the end of the year. Several solo singles in between all of that...

QSU: Hamster or regular?

Cee:  100 % hamster, both hands.

QSU: Favorite skratch artists?

Cee:  Rob Swift, Toadstyle, D-Styles, Kid Koala, Supaphonik, Ntone, Needlz, DJ Gruff, R-Ash, Mr. Viktor, Birdy Nam Nam, C2C, etc...

QSU: Favorite sounds to skratch?

Cee:  Of course i love the "ahhh" hahaha. But aside from that, nothing really in particular. ANYTHING can become something dope to skratch with. Words, instrument noises, weird sounds on dollar bin records, etc...

ThatKidNamedCee DJ Needlz

QSU: Favorite break record?

Cee:  "Enter the Scratch Game" by Scratch Science

QSU:  What do you use to record?

Cee:  Sony Acid program

QSU:  Advice to new newbie skratchers out there, anything you would want to emphasize to beginners?

Cee:  Learn to crawl before you walk. That way when you learn to walk, you walk right! haha. Meaning, get your basics down FIRST. That way it will be easier to learn the more advanced kuts and you will be better/cleaner at doing them. Plus, spread those kuts out. Breathing space. Flow is most important. Develop your OWN style. Copycats are boring, original is where its at! Honestly, I'd rather hear a lesser skilled but clean original skratcher than a high skilled clone!

 

QSU:  Anything else you want to say to all the DJs out there?

Cee:  Thank you to all who have shown me love! Whether you DJ, skratch, mix, battle, or are a listener/fan. I truly am humbled that you all have taken time out of your lives to listen to what I do. That you have spent your hard earned money to buy my skratch art, or take a free DL, or to come to a show. I will never forget that. I will never be too big for YOU. I've come a long way, yet this is still just phase one. Skratch is my chosen artistic life expression! I hope ALL of you will continue the journey with me!

QSU: Thanks Cee!!!

###

Related Skratch Interviews:

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