Throughout the 1990s, hip-hop developed a plethora of pioneering DJs who eventually stepped behind the turntables and became legendary producers. DJs like Pete Rock, Premier, Marley Marl, Jazzy Jeff, Kid Capri and the late Jam Master Jay are just some of the distinguished names who went from world-class DJs to influential producers without sacrificing one art form for another. In fact, both art forms are closely connected. In many creative situations, elements of DJing can be used for music production, too.
Nobody personifies this better than DJ Scratch, born George Spivey, a legendary DJ and a whiz kid on the turntables. The three-time Grammy nominees acrobatic skills on the 1’s and 2’s led him to win several DJ championship titles. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native is the 2010 Master of the Mix winner and was a three-time “Turntablist of the Year” honoree at the Global Spin Awards. And he’s a New Music Seminar Battle for World Supremacy DJ champion.
Scratch, who was a protege of the late Jam Master Jay, would eventually lend his turntable skills to EPMD and become their official DJ. After his stint with the iconic rap duo, Scratch would become one of the central figures of the 1990s East Coast hip-hop production era. He crafted stellar beats for Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, PMD, Das Efx, among many others.
Scratch is a master at sampling and taking unconventional sounds or vocals from rare vinyl LPs and turning them into musical gold.
“I always approach producing like how I approached DJing. I didn’t want to do what was popular…I always wanted to create something [different on the turntables],” he said in 2017. “If you really take a look at my discography, I didn’t sample stuff that everybody was sampling. In the ’80s, early ’90s, everybody sampled James Brown — everybody. And I was like, ‘we need to do something different.'”
Check out DJ Scratch’s 20 Best Samples and Beats below.
20. PMD – “I Saw It Cummin’“
Original Sample: Ohio Players – “Funky Worm”
Using one of West Coast hip-hop’s foundational samples, “Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players, DJ Scratch adds the twinkling Moog synthesizer to the slow-pounding beat. Along with the vocal samples from Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” and Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline,” the song has a G-Funk feel but is still dripping with East Coast flavor.
Scratch went into his collection of 45s and pulled out this 1975 gem from soul singer Greg Perry. He used the entire song to craft DMX’s solemn song from his 2003 album, Grand Champ. From the flute and piano riffs to Perry’s monologue, to the funky bop, Scratch flipped something old to new again with his unique sampling skills.
Scratch grabbed the crackling snare from Iron Butterfly’s 1968 song “Get Out of My Life, Woman” but the haunting violin groove on the song is from Lalo Schifrin’s 1967 Mission Impossible score, which brilliantly sets the mood for Wu-Tang Clan’s menacing rhymes.
Scratch used the monstrous drum and snare pattern featured at the beginning of Power of Zeus’ 1970 song “The Sorcerer of Isis (The Ritual of the Mole).” It’s a classic breakbeat that’s been used by many legendary DJs, including Pete Rock.
16. Busta Rhymes – “We Could Take It Outside“
Original Sample: Henry Mancini – “The Windmills of Your Mind”
DJ Scratch and Busta Rhymes have created a plethora of classic bangers together. This is one of many featured on this list. In addition to cutting up Run-DMC’s vocals from “Beats to the Rhymes,” Scratch looped Mancini’s tranquil piano to set the mood.
15. Beanie Sigel – “Purple Rain” (Feat. Bun B)
Original Sample: The Dramatics – “In the Rain”
The piano riff and guitar lick from the Dramatics classic soul ballad are placed perfectly on Beanie Sigel’s solemn ode about lean addiction.
DJ Scratch is very precise when it comes to sampling. In this instance, he sampled the dramatic horns from “Boys With Toys,” which effectively gives the song a sense of urgency for the listener to pay attention to Kweli’s impactful lyrics.
13. Will Smith – “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (DJ Scratch Remix)
Original Sample: Stephanie Mills – “Put Your Body in It”
While Scratch is mostly known as a producer, he’s also a great remixer as well. Will Smith’s 1997 song was already a club hit, but Scratch flipped it and turned it into an ‘80s skating rink jam. By slowing down the funky instrumental on Mills’ 1979 song, he turned Will’s track into an ‘80s version of “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll.”
Once again, Scratch used a familiar breakbeat and flipped it on its ear. There’s also a piano sample on here that we cannot place, but it fits perfectly on this head-nodding track.
When it comes to sampling, Scratch is not afraid to use music from rare recordings. For this Flipmode banger, he used the synths stabs from Tangerine Dream’s 1977 song. It’s a small sample but effective.
10. 50 Cent – “I’m a Hustler“
Original Sample: Barry White – “Mellow Mood (Pt. 1)”
Once again, when Scratch uses a sample it’s for a purpose. Much like the title of Barry White’s song, the orchestral sample sets the mood for Fif’s urgent lyrics of getting rich or die trying.
9. LL Cool J – “Ill Bomb”
Original Sample: David Porter – “I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over”
David Porter’s tickling piano groove was most famously sampled on The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic 1994 song “Who Shot Ya.” But Scratch went a different route with Porter’s soulful tune. The ingenious producer took a snippet of the horn riff (heard midway in the song) and Porter’s vocals to create a definitive East Coast banger for Uncle L.
Scratch sampled some classic ‘80s songs for Busta Rhymes’ head-nodding track. He took the computer blips and funky groove from Spicer’s 1982 jam to lay the foundation. And if you listen closely, there are interpolations of Malcolm McLaren’s 1982 songs “Buffalo Gals” and “Zulu’s on a Time Bomb” in there as well. This is a complete ‘80s to ‘90s party jam.
Scratch flipped Oliver Nelson’s jazzy trumpet blasts for Monch’s fiery manifesto on “Intro” from his 1999 album, Internal Affairs.
During his stint with EPMD, DJ Scratch produced some great songs for the iconic rap duo. This is one of them. There are a plethora of samples on here. He sampled King’s guitar riffs, James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and Chuck D vocals from “Timebomb,” among others. Scratch also cut up Trouble Funk’s “Pump Me Up” as well.
5. Sadat X – “Maybe It’s Me” (Featuring Dres)
Original Sample: Unknown
There’s no sample on here, but the beat is fantastic. Scratch most likely used an AKAI MPC2000XL to sequence a piano groove that sounds as if he sampled an old piano riff from a vintage jazz album. It’s quite impressive.
Scratch sampled the tranquil guitars and soulful hahs and woos from the New Birth song, while Swizzy and Nas Escobar deliver their introspective New York street stories.
3. Busta Rhymes – “Gimme Me Some More”
Original Sample: Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho Theme”
Here’s another classic from Scratch and Bussa-Buss. The creative producer looped a snippet of Herrmann’s orchestral violins, which pierces through the chaotic production. And like the title of Herrmann’s song, Busta goes lyrically psycho on the track.
This is, arguably, one of DJ Scratch’s greatest beats in his discography. The catchy piano riff heard throughout is from Soho’s classic b-boy jam “Hot Music (Jazz Mix),” which is a sample from Wynton Marsalis’ 1986 song “Skain’s Domain.”
1. Busta Rhymes – “New York Shit”
Original Sample: The S.S.O. Orchestra – “Faded Lady”
S.S.O. Orchestra’s 1976 soul tune “Faded Lady” has been sampled multiple times in hip-hop – most notably by Diamond D on his 1992 song “I Went for Mine – and Scratch looped the breakbeat brilliantly for Bussa-Buss’ New York anthem “New York Shit.”