What would you get if you tossed a couple of cups each of hip-hop and alternative rock into an industrial-grade blender, folded in a heaping tablespoon of turntable skills, lightly sprinkled in some smart-ass commentary, and hit purée?
You can nearly smell the answer every Saturday night at 10 p.m. on 91X during "Skratch N' Sniff Radio" with DJ Mike Czech and co-host Malcolm.
No song is off limits for mixing and remixing as Czech's turntable skills slice and dice like Julia Child with a new set of Ginsu knives. Outkast lyrics ride galloping drums and guitars supplied by the Clash. Eminem screeches over Beck's sweet guitar riffs. Sublime gets jiggy over Jay Z. Nine Inch Nails gets scratched, juggled and remixed.
It's totally rad, dude. It's crazy hype, yo. It's utterly confusing.
"I've always loved alternative rock," explains Czech, who's well-known as one of San Diego's top hip-hop DJs. "I've always bought the music and gone to the shows, even while I'm working as a hip-hop DJ. I've always wondered why the two crowds can't mix."
San Diego might not seem like a place that's writing hip-hop history-or even footnotes to the annotated bibliography-but what Skratch N' Sniff is doing warrants a looksee from the historians. While there are other rock-rap mix shows out there (Mix Master Mike's "Spin Cycle" on L.A.'s KROQ, for example), Skratch N' Sniff is the first nationally syndicated alt-rock-rap show.
Hip-hop on the airwaves has come a long way since 1985, when LL Cool J first proclaimed, "I can't live without my radio." Back then, the only major stations playing hip-hop were in New York, as pioneers like Mr. Magic and Kool DJ Red Alert battled for air supremacy within the city.
As hip-hop gained popularity on the West Coast, hip-hop radio took a major leap forward in the late-'80s, when L.A. station KDAY-AM emerged as the first rap-only station. It was also the only station that presented hip-hop the way it was meant to be heard-mixed live by the station's own turntablists.
As hip-hop commercialized and came to dominate radio in the '90s, backlash-driven "underground" shows emerged in opposition to the rampant jigginess. Among them was the Oakland-based "Wake Up Show," which presented hip-hop for true heads and gained renown as the first nationally syndicated hip-hop radio show.
Skratch N' Sniff isn't far behind those pioneers. The show's gained listeners on alt-rock stations in nearly a dozen markets nationwide, including cultural hot spots like Atlanta, Santa Cruz and Madison, Wisc. As they gain a national alt-rock audience, Czech and Malcolm are opening previously closed ears to one of the cornerstones of hip-hop culture-aggressive DJ mixes cutting and pasting the most powerful parts of songs.
Czech bought his first set of turntables from the legendary San Diego DJ Greyboy in the early '90s, and he's been cutting it up ever since. Despite his success on the radio, he still prefers spinning for live audiences.
"In a club, you get immediate feedback. Getting the crowd going is a total rush. It's almost a high," he says.
He's also quick to dispel the misconception that just because something is fun to do, it must be easy.
"Everybody wants to think this shit is easy, but it's not. Just because we're having fun, doesn't mean it's easy."
Can you smell it?
Listeners can catch Skratch N' Sniff on 91X (91.1 FM) Saturday nights at 10 pm, or at snsradio.com. Mike Czech spins alternate Thursdays at Moondoggie's in Pacific Beach, Saturdays at On Broadway downtown or Sundays at Bar Dynamite.
The Cypher gives you MC Battles, an open circle and rotating DJs, including Willow, Virus and Ketchup at Hot Monkey Love Café, Aug. 6. 619-333-0127
House of Rep has open mic and open tables every Wednesday night at Recognize. 619-284-2747.
For more local events, check Access Hip-Hop's web site, AccessHipHop.com, and the newly redesigned SDHipHop.com.