"Strictly Butter"

by Ethan Machado

Music, Our Town, 5/12/97

"You're playing somebody else's music, but when you add your own mix you create something entirely new..."

DJ Wicked loves butter beats. The ones that melt in your ears, not in your mouth. Since his early days at Benson Polytech, DJ Wicked, a.k.a. 22-year-old Kirk Kirkpatrick, has been on the down low searching for butter. Thousands of records later, Wicked now spreads his beats across the Portland hip-hop scene as a DJ for both Cool Nutz and Emerge MCs.

"I first started listening to a lot of Too Short and DJ Jazzy Jeff," says Wicked as he begins scratching on his two Technics turntables and his Gemini mix-master, flipping the script back and forth between Del the Funky Homosapien's "The Wrong Place" and some ill "Bionic Burger Breaks." He moves seamlessly from record to record, knowing the exact spot on the vinyl where he'll get his next phat beat.

"DJs spend countless hours just listening to their records, marking spots on the records so they don't have to spend time finding the beat when they pull out a different record," says Wicked as he digs in the crates for some raw gangster beats courtesy of Sir Jinx. In the next two hours, Wicked displays a seemingly infinite array of hip-hop beats, offering up everything from the Fugees to Funkdoobiest. West, East, Midwest, the man's got it all. If you want to know how much he loves hip-hop, look in his dresser drawers. No clothes, just stacks of old hip-hop cassettes ranging from the mainstream Young MC to the underground masters Organized Konfusion. He used to have even more vinyl, but earlier this year somebody made a house call and stole most of Wicked's favorites (many were hard-to-find instrumental versions) and all of his equipment. Luckily, he had homeowners insurance.

"You can always get more turntables," shrugs Wicked, his expression turning sullen under a tilted Kangol hat, "but the vinyl can't be replaced. They gave me ten dollars for each album, but I'll never get those albums back."

Wicked makes DJing look and sound easy. "Just match the high hat beat up to the other record and start scratching," he says. It's not as easy as it sounds. Hip-hop DJs, often called turntablists these days, consider their equipment akin to a musicians instruments. "You're playing somebody else's music, but when you add your own mix you create something entirely new. The combinations are endless," he says.

It takes years of collecting, years of listening and years of practicing to compete with the country's top DJs. "Guys like DJ Q-Bert and Mix Master Mike are so good they aren't even allowed in JD competitions anymore. These guys practice at least six hours a day," says Wicked.

Wicked works at Office Depot during the day and then comes home and starts scratching. He usually practices about an hour a day, "...but there are days I'm so into it, I'll get home at five and the next thing I know it's 11:30."

Lately, Wicked's listening to a lot of Freestyle Fellowship, a California-based hip-hop collective that boasts bohemian bomb tracks and lyrics that flow like yo-yo's. Wicked spent a year in the country's newest hotbed for DJ talent, San Francisco, before coming back home to start DJing in Portland. He currently lives at home with his mom. Unlike most members of older generations, she loves the fact that Wicked plays and listens to hip-hop. "Kids are finding their own sound these days. They're not simply imitating all the hippie music," she says. Does she or the neighbors ever tire of hip-hop's incessant bass-heavy thump?

"The house is pretty much soundproof," she says with a smile.

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