First Listen: “The 13th Floor” by Invisibl Skratch Piklz

Invisibl Skratch Piklz

The Invisibl Skratch Piklz is the most prestigious, accomplished, groundbreaking, iconic, legendary and pioneering DJ crew to ever exist. The entire DJ culture and the world of turntablism would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for what the Skratch Piklz accomplished and contributed over the years.

The Bay Area collective of DJ’s Qbert, Shortkut, and D-Styles have amassed World Titles, signature DJ mixers and needles, break/scratch records, documentaries, you name it.

I even remember seeing Shortkut on a Gap commercial. Through all of the accomplishments and accolades, the one thing the world famous crew doesn’t have under their resume surprisingly is a studio album. Until now.

It’s hard to believe that this is the Skratch Piklz’ first studio album after being around for well over two decades, but the timing couldn’t be better. With more and more DJ’s getting famous by pushing buttons and playing pre-recorded mixes, it’s refreshing to have some realness back in the game.

I grew up listening to all of the albums that DJ crews like the X-Ecutioners (R.I.P. Roc Raida) have released over the years, so I was anxious to see how the Piklz would approach their album. Unlike the X-Ecutioners whose tracks are well composed polished songs, the Skratch Piklz took a different approach.

Instead of recording layers and layers of multitrack recorded songs, the Piklz took more of a live instrumentalist approach, which is genius. The purpose of the Piklz recording each song this way was so that they would be able to perform each track live, sounding exactly as it does on the album. Thus proving the fact and philosophy that the turntable is a viable instrument on its own and quite possibly the most futuristic.

So with that approach, on each track you would hear one DJ for example, Shortkut would be controlling the drum patterns, D-Styles on the bassline or melody, while Qbert would be on the scratch similar to how a lead guitarist would ride the track.

The end result is jaw-dropping. Every detail from the samples used, the arrangements, and the technical execution is something not possible for many on earth to achieve.

I am not a great scratcher or turntablist so I have the utmost respect on how difficult it is to achieve this type of sound with all of the intricate scratch techniques and rhythms you hear in each song.

What’s also interesting about this album is the variety of styles shown on “The 13th Floor.” Boom Bap enthusiasts will be excited to hear the crew sampling the voice of the late great J Dilla on “Ultimate.”

Then you have the smooth but funky jazz-influenced track “Kenny G’s Perm.” This track is easily my favorite, partly because I’m biased to anything soul or jazz influenced. As a fan, I nearly fell out of my seat after I heard the way the trumpets were cut and manipulated. So clean and funky.

There’s even a Rock/Scratch song on the album called “Polka Fist Pump.” After seeing this track performed live on the 13th Floor performance video mentioned earlier, you can’t help but marvel at the technical prowess Qbert exhibits when he’s cutting that snare drum.

The Piklz also represent some hometown flavor on the cut “The Freestyle Fanatic.” This track just embodies everything about the Bay Area from the “hyphy” sounding bass sample being cut, to the Too Short vocals being woven throughout the track.

As a Filipino-American, there’s no denying how inspiring it is to see these guys still at the top of their game and still continuing to carry the culture to new heights. This album may not be for everybody, but it is definitely necessary.

I’m sure there are kids all over the world who are now just getting into turntablism and DJ culture. It’s nice to know that they can discover this album and possibly be inspired to contribute carry on the culture in a way it was intended to be. In its purest form.

I hope this inspires the Piklz to create more albums in the future without us having to wait another 20 years. But for now, I’ll appreciate this offering and continue to spread the gospel.