Scratch is a 2001 documentary about hip-hop, DJing and turntablism, which you can and should watch on YouTube.
Like skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys or drag doc Paris is Burning, the film champions an often demonised but highly influential American sub-culture. Just as skateboarding came from appropriating urban spaces, hip-hop is about manipulating existing music to make something new. This makes it a radically postmodern form of art, and the documentary celebrates the genre as a natural and innovative progression of music.
Doug Pray directs with flare and edits with a choppy restlessness to match the music. There are contributions from every prominent DJ to grace the decks, including DJ Qbert, Afrika Bambaataa and Mix Master Mike. They speak with passion and humour, while showcasing their skill at the turntable, with displays of rhythm, syncopation and improvisation usually associated with jazz.
Pray includes invigorating clips, sounds and breaks: early scratching by Grand Mixer DXT with Herbie Hancock; trip-hop pioneer DJ Shadow digging through towers of dusty vinyl in a record store basement; Cut Chemist impersonating his parents: “Don’t touch the record, you’ll ruin it!” This film doesn’t just scratch the surface; it explores the history, sociology and philosophy of hip-hop. Exciting and edumacational, Scratch is one groovy documentary.