Scratcher soothes those who're itchin' to dance

March 5, 2004

Vinyl ain't dead.

The 33-rpm record, in fact, is the instrument of choice for hip-hop DJs everywhere. Remember trying to put the needle down on Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" without it sliding across the surface, accompanied by that teeth-gnashing skeeeeerrrratch?

That sound is hip now. Has been for years. DJs call it "scratching," and it's part of our painstakingly scientific, excruciatingly complicated and exhaustive search for the top local purveyor of plastic.

Songs count, too.

The Brothers of Beat, a collective of DJs who began at KWVA-FM, got a listen at downtown's Lucky Noodle restaurant: Jeff Ray, Steve Sawada and Gene Chism get props as laid-back, dedicated veterans.

DJs live to "keep the beat" - that is, blend the song fading out on one turntable into the song coming up on the other, by manipulating a mixer.

Sawada, for example, moved seamlessly from Frankie Knuckles' "The Whistle Song" to a jazzy Stan Getz number through the samba rhythm both tracks shared.

But the Brothers weren't scratchin' and the dinner crowd wasn't dancin', so we looked elsewhere for someone to get the party started.

Our answer came on Fat Tuesday at the Wetlands bar, where DJs were coming out of the woodwork: DJ Billy, DJ Wicked and DJ Gen Erik - "generic," get it? - to name a few.

DJ Wicked (29-year-old Kirk Kirkpatrick) stole the show: He bumped and scratched his way through the Beatnuts, Prince, Michael Jackson and Salt-n-Pepa, furiously working both turntables and enough knobs, buttons and switches to make a pilot blanch.

Alas, we disqualified him for living in Portland.

Enter DJ Tekneek, also known as 31-year-old Kenny Morris of Eugene.

Tekneek knows style - he wears an oversized hoops jersey and matching ball cap - and he has an unbeatable rep for rhythm.

"He's like a human metronome," a friend said.

On this night, Tekneek's hands moved ever so lightly across the controls, scratching vinyl and flipping switches as if everything was piping hot to the touch.

He worked the crowd into a body-grinding frenzy with Public Enemy, J-Kwon and Beyonce, then sent them over the top with Sean Paul's "Get Busy."

Tekneek's a DJ-for-hire (www.hardwoodentertainment.net), so he'll also spin anything from Madonna to Metallica.

Judging what we heard, he could probably even play the two together.

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