|Daddy Rabbit and his musical partner, tremor, emphasize hardhouse's connection to early hip-hop. Photo by Mark Greenberg|
In 1975, Joseph Sadler earned his rep by spinning records at a park at 169th Street and Boston Road in the Bronx. Although Sadler had trained as an electrician, he would soon join the many in his generation who were displaced by Reaganomics. In the years that followed, however, he elevated the art of scratching to a science and became a successful recording artist with his group Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five.
As a pioneer DJ, his innovations included "punch phrasing" - playing a brief section from a record on one turntable as it continues on the other - and "break spinning" - alternately back-spinning both records to repeat the same sound over and over. Sadler also invented "clock theory" - reading and mixing records by using the rotating logo - and the "beat box," a converted Vox drum machine that allowed him to add additional beats to his mixes.
In Brooklyn during the summer of 1979, a 12-year-old Frankie Bones wired two BSR turntables together with a box called a 1-4 Audio splitter and accidentally mixed two 45s of Chic's "Good Times" by expanding the chorus. He would later go on to sell more than three million copies of his own records, and through his legendary STORM raves of the '90s, earn a reputation as the forefather of rave culture in America.
It was at such a rave in Denver, Colorado that an 18-year-old Tremor (aka Jason) found house music, and ultimately, Frankie Bones. Tremor reminisces, "When I first heard rave music/techno, I was just in heaven. It was all the music that I had listened to growing up, just so much faster, harder, louder and brighter." Tremor would soon return to his hometown of San Antonio, where he cultivated his science fiction-influenced sound, becoming one of the city's most recognizable hardhouse DJs.
For Daddy Rabbit (a.k.a. Levi), the musical journey began in the coastal town of Gulfport, Mississippi. When he was in second grade, his mother bought him a copy of Run-D.M.C's Raising Hell as a Christmas gift, cementing hip-hop, and the late Jam Master Jay, as his overriding musical influences. By age 16, he was spinning house music and attending raves in nearby New Orleans. His skills earned him a residency at a Gulfport club, along the beach, and before long he set his sights on San Antonio, his mother's hometown.
After arriving in SA in 1999, Daddy Rabbit became a fixture within the rave community, ultimately meeting up with Tremor at the Just Don't Stop show at the Wild Club. They soon realized they shared an affinity for Frankie Bones, technology, and house music's hip-hop roots.
Daddy Rabbit breaks it down this way: "A lot of people don't realize how closely connected hip-hop is to hard house or that a lot of the roots of techno and house music come from hip-hop. The initial break beat comes from Run-D.M.C.'s 'Mary Mary.' That song is a break beat and the outline for most break beats since."
"They were both alternatives to mainstream music at the time," Tremor says. "Instead of having your average guitar, bass and drum band, you look for alternative instruments and start scratching on records because that's what you have. You are coming up with something new and something different. Culturally, hip-hop and house come from the same place: DJ culture."
| "A lot of people don't realize how closely connected hip-hop is to hard house or that a lot of the roots of techno and house music come from hip-hop." |
— Daddy Rabbit
In addition to spinning live and producing his own tracks, Tremor has also dabbled in some music quasi-theory that recalls Lee Perry's technical vision and Darryl Dawkins' loquacity. His first invention is something called the "Epicentrick Vibeometer," which is designed to match music to moving images.
His other breakthrough is the Graphic Quakequalizer, a process used for composing entire DJ sets. "It involves graphing your records as far as the way they are composed, how many beats per stanza, and how many bars," Tremor says. "When certain events happen within the record you can actually graph them, which turns into an equation that comes out as math. It literally looks like calculus. When you have a set of records and you have them all graphed out on paper, you can line up a whole set without even playing a record."
For Daddy Rabbit, all of this traces back to Joseph Sadler and the genesis of DJ culture. "We're living in the digital age and this music is just a reflection of the state of the world, where we are socially and technologically," he says. "Technology is forever changing and keeps progressing, and that's the same with this music. It's going to keep changing, keep progressing, because it is technology." •