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Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

Turntablism as an Art Form

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DJ Madhatter (aka Jordan Lee) is part of the WAMI award-winning hip-hop group Rusty Ps. If he’s not scratching tunes at joints like Jackalope Lounj, The Jazz Estate or Stonefly Brewery, he’s teaching turntablism at the prestigious Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in two-week workshops. As if that weren’t enough, his Tuesday-evening radio show on WMSE 91.7 FM continues to get better and better.

How’s your work with the Rusty Ps?

It’s good. I’ve been in the Ps for six-plus years now. They’ve been together for over 12. And I’m really fortunate to be DJing with them. I was always a huge fan of their music, years before I was a member of the group. I turned over my first mix tape to them when they were opening up for Run-D.M.C at The Rave. From there, it was a mutual relationship that we all just found worked out.

Why should people get into turntables?

DJing is an art form that is accessible to everyone because of the fact that you are presenting music. So if you are a music lover, and you don’t necessarily have a lot of musical talent, DJing with turntables will allow you to be a musical performer in no time. You automatically become the remixer, the producer, the creator. The hats that a DJ can wear are many. You literally can just get an iPod and select the right songs for the right time, and you’re a DJ. I mean, it’s that easy! I would say, maybe not turntables, but DJing as an art form is a really great way for people to create entertainment and musical joy for others without needing to master an instrument.

Which musicians do you adore?

Hmm. Let’s see. What musicians are in my iPod? Right now, I would say that classic R&B and soul music is very important to me. I grew up on it—The Temptations, anything from Motown: Al Green, Marvin Gaye. All that stuff is a huge part of my musical foundation. The older I got, the more I got into jazz: Mingus, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk. Currently, I’m excited about Lupe Fiasco, The Cool Kids, Common and Mos Def. I also listen to a lot of rock. I just got the My Morning Jacket CD. The new David Byrne. Locally, Haz Solo, Kings Go Forth, De La Buena, Decibully.

What’s your take on Milwaukee’s hip-hop scene?

It’s getting better than it’s ever been. It’s very segregated, though, as is our city. Segregated in a white, black, brown way, but more so by the corners of the city. The South Side doesn’t know the North Side. The North Side doesn’t know the East Side. And in Milwaukee, rappers from one area will not play with those from another. And I find when I meet people in different pockets, they are very well aware of those divisions. “Oh, he’s a North Side rapper. Oh, he’s an East Side rapper.” I’ll say this as a blanket example, and I don’t want to say that this happens all the time, but a guy who’s rapping about his rims and getting his hustle on is more likely to be considered a North Side rapper. A guy who’s rapping about graffiti and skateboarding is more likely to be labeled as an East Side rapper. Now do they necessarily live in those places? No. How is cultural development in this city going to move forward if we can’t even appreciate each other when we’re living as neighbors?

DJ Madhatter | Photo by John Knappe Photography