Perhaps you'll soon stumble across the Oakland Faders as they tool about town in their new Thunder Cloud Metallic-tinted Toyota Scion xB ($15,054 standard). Observe DJ Spair weaving recklessly through traffic on his EM 7-Spoke Alloy Wheels ($665) as he admires the dashboard's Simulated Carbon Fiber Molded Dash Applique ($259) and sips a Cherry Coke lodged in the Illuminated Cup-Holder ($299). Meanwhile, DJ Platurn mans the decks in the back, selecting old-school hip-hop classics (from the Cargo Logic Tote by Nifty Products, $40) that blast merrily from the Bazooka Tube Subwoofer ($429).
Ah, the spoils of victory. The Oakland Faders have triumphed in the annual Scion Free Up Your Mix contest, submitting a thirty-minute original DJ set that bested hundreds of national contenders and wowed a judging panel of big-shots including Jazzy Jeff, Madlib, Premier, and Peanut Butter Wolf. Thus the jocks of hapless, vanquished foes now hang from their newly pimped ride's Yakima Rack ($276).
Actually, we lied. The Faders didn't win a car. What? Bullshit! we cry.
"I've seen DJs roll around in those things, and I think what they do, if you're willin', they'll hook you up on some sort of artist payment plan," Platurn offers. "It's funny; a lot of people figure, 'It's a fuckin' car company, break us off.' But those are $20,000 cars." (Maybe a little less if you can resist the siren call of pricey extras like the Cold Air Induction System by AEM, $355, installation not included.)
Instead, the dudes will settle for $2,500 (total), some high-end equipment, the entire Stones Throw catalogue, a few all-expenses-paid national tour dates, and the commission to craft another mix CD -- ideally loaded with Bay Area artists -- of which Toyota will then whip up a half-million copies and distribute nationally to prospective Scion owners and prospective Oakland Faders fans, who are ideally one and the same.
Ah, the spoils of synergy.
Platurn (aka Iceland native Luke Thordarson) and Spair (Oakland lifer Parker Hellman) have toiled for a decade as East Bay turntable maestros, combining immortal scratching techniques with populist party-rocking instincts. Mantra: "The vibe is old school, the skills are true school."
Old school, of course, is an oft-abused phrase that hardly works as a chronological device anymore. "Old school could be '95," Spair notes; "Old school is '95," Platurn concurs. Now it's more of an "Each one teach one" hip-hop ethos: Give the neophyte youngsters the KMEL hits they know they want, but sneak in the classic cuts and history lessons they don't know they need. "You want to entertain, but educate at the same time," Platurn explains. "But if you're doing too much of either, you lose too much."
Thus, the triumphant half-hour Scion mix vacillates from Marley Marl to Run DMC to A Tribe Called Quest to Cypress Hill to RJD2 to, if only for a fleeting instant, John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane," all expertly blended and scratched and orchestrated. (All-live, all-vinyl -- the Faders politely disparage the recent surge of MP3-harvesting, iPod-jockeying bedroom DJs.) But though it begins by declaring "Oakland Faders! The baddest motherfuckers in the game!" and includes Method Man's suggestion that you carbon-copy his nutsack, the new victory-lap Scion promo mix Spair and Platurn are crafting -- they hope it will include cuts from Balance, a few Quannum folks, and other Bay Area luminaries -- must be all-samples-cleared and profanity-free.
Ah, the tyranny of advertising.
The Toyota Scion -- a candy-colored and lunchbox-size sporty-lookin' thing -- has rather loudly declared itself the Car of the Hip-Hop Generation via urban-flavored ad campaigns and numerous showcases and Free Up Your Mix-style contests. "They have a designated DJ car, dude, with like a thing that actually pulls out from the back you can place your turntables on," Platurn notes (no word on how much that'll run you).
Of course, this is an awfully dangerous culture to co-opt from a cred standpoint, and backlash has already flared up in the person of "Scion Hip-Hop," a pejorative coined by snarky bloggers to describe weak-stomached fans who only acknowledge the more conscious and pop-oriented Black Eyed Peas/Living Legends/Jurassic 5 side of hip-hop, and refuse to acknowledge the culture's undeniable gangsta element.
That's one way to put it.
"The point is that Scionists are fucking stupid and like wack-ass shit," opines the SF blog BeerandRap.com. "Scionists hate on 'thug' shit that they think is 'ignorant,' but really it's just because Scionists are a bunch of motherfucking pussies. Scionists bother me more than hipsters because while hipsters might be soft as fuck and just lame as shit, Scionists actually think they are keeping hip-hop alive. What a bunch of motherfucking bullshit. Fuck you and your brand-new Hiero T-shirt. Bunch of softhands promoting nonthreatening weak shit. You are the reason that rap stopped saying 'Fuck the Police' and fools started rapping about motherfucking headwraps. Dicks like you are the reason that Floetry fucking exists and I fucking hate you."
Reached via e-mail, Beer & Rap proprietor Sergio Ornelas is a bit more reflective: "Hip-hop should pimp Scion, don't let Scion pimp hip-hop," he writes. "I don't like that Toyota is trying to front like they actually gave a shit about this culture."
"I don't think Scion is going to taint the Oakland Faders," Sergio adds. "Sure they will gain a lot from this, but unlike some other DJs, I don't think they will owe their careers to Scion."
True. Toyota's tenuous marketing notwithstanding, if it'll lavish cash, equipment, and most importantly, publicity on talent as deserving as the Oakland Faders ... knock yourselves out, guys. Platurn has had a lot of feedback since his crew's big win, and his favorite compliment is, "You guys totally deserve it." Thursday night at SF's DNA Lounge, Spair and Platurn celebrated onstage with friends such as Faders extended-crew member Joe Quixx, dropping everything from Run DMC to Amerie, and jamming with a live drummer. A few technique-minded dudes stood stock-still and gawked at Platurn's manic scratches, while a gaggle of nearby females simply gyrated joyously to "Pass the Courvoisier." The Faders may not merit complimentary customized Scions yet, but whatever their ride is, they're in the driver's seat.
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