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Music: For the Record

World-renowned local DJ, Mr. Dibbs, backspins and shares how he got turned on to the culture

By Mildred C. Fallen · July 20th, 2005 · Music
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A Cincinnati Hip Hop legend influencing scores of local artists, Mr. Dibbs has made an art out of DJ-ing, though he doesn't consider himself a
Eric Chapman

A Cincinnati Hip Hop legend influencing scores of local artists, Mr. Dibbs has made an art out of DJ-ing, though he doesn't consider himself a "turntablist."



Although Jamaica's Rock Steady DJs introduced the notion of playing one record against another to New York listeners in the 60s, it wasn't until the early '80s that those techniques began to receive exposure throughout the U.S. For example, in 1983, DJ Grandmixer (then D.ST) DXT's sharp cuts brought Herbie Hancock's hit, "Rockit," to new heights and introduced the futuristic, experimental sides of Hip Hop and Jazz to the Pop audience.

Present day, Cincinnati's accomplished turntable composer, DJ Mr. Dibbs of Atmosphere and 1200 Hobos reflects on how he discovered the art form and explores the differences between DJ-ing and a more recent distinction, turntabilism.

"I don't really see myself as a turntablist; I guess you would say I'm more of a composer," he says." "To me, if you're a turntablist, then that's saying turntables are all you use -- you know, like violinists only play violins."

Best known for seamlessly mixing and cutting up just about any sound until your ears think it's a drum, Dibbs already has an astounding discography of battle records, mix tapes and CDs as long as your arm. Significantly known as a co-founder of local Hip Hop institutions Scribble Jam and 3rd Finger Record Pool, and for delivering high-energy stage shows from L.A. to Japan, Dibbs says he learned how DJs compose sounds from an unlikely source -- an early '80s news and variety show called PM Magazine.

"They would have a random B-boy thing, and they actually had (Grandmaster) Flash on there, and I was like, what the hell was that?" Dibbs says. "Watching him scratch, I didn't know it was a person, I thought it was a machine doing it."

Fascinated, Dibbs recalls taping DXT's England performance with Herbie Hancock and the Rock It Band and methodically watching close-ups of his hand movements.

"DXT has a weird style, he does that sideways hand on the turntable using his middle finger or his ring finger," Dibbs says. This influenced Dibbs' own method of scratching. Watching him, he made a mental connection between what he observed and what he heard on DXT's 12-inch records, "Crazy Cuts" and "Megamixx 2 -- Why Is It Fresh?," and concluded that he was "playing the turntable."

Inspired, Dibbs kept up with DJ evolution and exposed himself to other pioneering jocks like Mixmaster Quick of Rhyme Syndicate, Jeff "The Wizard" Mills from Detroit and Dr. Dre, then known as a member of The World Class Wreckin' Cru and as a K-DAY 1580 AM mix-show DJ.

"I kind of got my whole theory about what a mixtape or what DJ music would sound like based on those people," Dibbs explains. "The Wizard, who was out of his mind, he was the first using movie samples. He had a radio show in Detroit and he would do 90 minutes worth of, 'Here's the theme from the Wizard of Oz ... here's Karate Kid,' you know, just like anything, and he'd make it all work. And Dr. Dre, his Roadium Swap Meet tapes back in the day would filter all the way out here, believe it or not, and he'd play 'More Bounce (To the Ounce),' then he'd play something like Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir.' I can remember riding my dirt bike through a blizzard to get one."

Locally, though, it was WIZF FM's first mix show host, Uncle Icy D, who advised Dibbs to look for drums on a record and that the best place to find them are along the breaks, when most of the other instruments drop out.

"Icy D said, 'What you need is more breaks,' and we were like, 'What the hell's a break?" Dibbs recalls. Although he and his friends had a sampler and a collection of records they copped from their parents, they didn't realize they were sitting on a source of valued drum samples. Taking Icy D's advice, they bought copies of Ultimate Beats and Breaks, early battle records that represented a gamut of original songs that rappers sampled, anywhere from Kenny Rogers to James Brown. "Those early battle and break records were made up of groups from every type of genre, so I realized at that point that everybody has drums, so I never zeroed in on one type of music," he says.

Essentially, this is how Mr. Dibbs' cross-pollinated style developed -- with some of this and a little of that. By the mid-'90s, Dibbs had a reputation around Cincinnati as "that one white dude with skills," and his late-night mix show ("B-Boys Underground") on WAIF FM with G Fresh, DJ Skip and 1200 Hobos added to his notoriety. When the first 1200 Hobos mix tape made Rap Pages' "Mixtape of the Month," it was the jump-off that encouraged him to manufacture his mixes into battle records.

In between album releases, Dibbs tours constantly (including stints with the successful Minneapolis group Atmosphere), a grueling process that doesn't care if you're sick or hurt.

"Last year, I broke my right hand in Florida, that's the hand I scratch with, but I played everyday anyway," he says. "It looked like a bear-claw, it was that swollen, but I would scratch anyway. And when I would do the solo parts, I would vomit. Like that's how bad it hurt."



MR. DIBBS performs at the Van's Warped Tour's Code of The Cutz Stage on Friday at Riverbend. Scribble Jam (
A Cincinnati Hip Hop legend influencing scores of local artists, Mr. Dibbs has made an art out of DJ-ing, though he doesn't consider himself a
Eric Chapman

A Cincinnati Hip Hop legend influencing scores of local artists, Mr. Dibbs has made an art out of DJ-ing, though he doesn't consider himself a "turntablist."



Although Jamaica's Rock Steady DJs introduced the notion of playing one record against another to New York listeners in the 60s, it wasn't until the early '80s that those techniques began to receive exposure throughout the U.S. For example, in 1983, DJ Grandmixer (then D.ST) DXT's sharp cuts brought Herbie Hancock's hit, "Rockit," to new heights and introduced the futuristic, experimental sides of Hip Hop and Jazz to the Pop audience.

Present day, Cincinnati's accomplished turntable composer, DJ Mr. Dibbs of Atmosphere and 1200 Hobos reflects on how he discovered the art form and explores the differences between DJ-ing and a more recent distinction, turntabilism.

"I don't really see myself as a turntablist; I guess you would say I'm more of a composer," he says." "To me, if you're a turntablist, then that's saying turntables are all you use -- you know, like violinists only play violins."

Best known for seamlessly mixing and cutting up just about any sound until your ears think it's a drum, Dibbs already has an astounding discography of battle records, mix tapes and CDs as long as your arm. Significantly known as a co-founder of local Hip Hop institutions Scribble Jam and 3rd Finger Record Pool, and for delivering high-energy stage shows from L.A. to Japan, Dibbs says he learned how DJs compose sounds from an unlikely source -- an early '80s news and variety show called PM Magazine.

"They would have a random B-boy thing, and they actually had (Grandmaster) Flash on there, and I was like, what the hell was that?" Dibbs says. "Watching him scratch, I didn't know it was a person, I thought it was a machine doing it."

Fascinated, Dibbs recalls taping DXT's England performance with Herbie Hancock and the Rock It Band and methodically watching close-ups of his hand movements.

"DXT has a weird style, he does that sideways hand on the turntable using his middle finger or his ring finger," Dibbs says. This influenced Dibbs' own method of scratching. Watching him, he made a mental connection between what he observed and what he heard on DXT's 12-inch records, "Crazy Cuts" and "Megamixx 2 -- Why Is It Fresh?," and concluded that he was "playing the turntable."

Inspired, Dibbs kept up with DJ evolution and exposed himself to other pioneering jocks like Mixmaster Quick of Rhyme Syndicate, Jeff "The Wizard" Mills from Detroit and Dr. Dre, then known as a member of The World Class Wreckin' Cru and as a K-DAY 1580 AM mix-show DJ.

"I kind of got my whole theory about what a mixtape or what DJ music would sound like based on those people," Dibbs explains. "The Wizard, who was out of his mind, he was the first using movie samples. He had a radio show in Detroit and he would do 90 minutes worth of, 'Here's the theme from the Wizard of Oz ... here's Karate Kid,' you know, just like anything, and he'd make it all work. And Dr. Dre, his Roadium Swap Meet tapes back in the day would filter all the way out here, believe it or not, and he'd play 'More Bounce (To the Ounce),' then he'd play something like Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir.' I can remember riding my dirt bike through a blizzard to get one."

Locally, though, it was WIZF FM's first mix show host, Uncle Icy D, who advised Dibbs to look for drums on a record and that the best place to find them are along the breaks, when most of the other instruments drop out.

"Icy D said, 'What you need is more breaks,' and we were like, 'What the hell's a break?" Dibbs recalls. Although he and his friends had a sampler and a collection of records they copped from their parents, they didn't realize they were sitting on a source of valued drum samples. Taking Icy D's advice, they bought copies of Ultimate Beats and Breaks, early battle records that represented a gamut of original songs that rappers sampled, anywhere from Kenny Rogers to James Brown. "Those early battle and break records were made up of groups from every type of genre, so I realized at that point that everybody has drums, so I never zeroed in on one type of music," he says.

Essentially, this is how Mr. Dibbs' cross-pollinated style developed -- with some of this and a little of that. By the mid-'90s, Dibbs had a reputation around Cincinnati as "that one white dude with skills," and his late-night mix show ("B-Boys Underground") on WAIF FM with G Fresh, DJ Skip and 1200 Hobos added to his notoriety. When the first 1200 Hobos mix tape made Rap Pages' "Mixtape of the Month," it was the jump-off that encouraged him to manufacture his mixes into battle records.

In between album releases, Dibbs tours constantly (including stints with the successful Minneapolis group Atmosphere), a grueling process that doesn't care if you're sick or hurt.

"Last year, I broke my right hand in Florida, that's the hand I scratch with, but I played everyday anyway," he says. "It looked like a bear-claw, it was that swollen, but I would scratch anyway. And when I would do the solo parts, I would vomit. Like that's how bad it hurt."



MR. DIBBS performs at the Van's Warped Tour's Code of The Cutz Stage on Friday at Riverbend. Scribble Jam (scribblejam.net) is Aug. 11-14 at Annie's and various local venues.
 
 
 
 

 

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