It's a Long Road to the Middle if All You Want Is Ass
Aristh Delgado is not accustomed to failure. Since the mid-1990s, the Nicaraguan Craze formerly known as DJ has taken home over a dozen turntablist championships of various eminence. To date, he’s the only three-time solo winner of the DMCs, a standard by which most scratch is measured. There is no questioning his accolades. He is one of the best that has ever lived.
In terms of his releases, he’s always kinda done his own thing. He’s produced warped, cinematic, sci-fi beats and collaborated to create blockbuster jungle 12-inches and hybrid epics. Giving something back, he’s also responsible for two of the most successful battle records of all time, Bully Breaks. Naturally, considering his line of work, the bulk of CDs out there with Craze’s name on it are turntablist collages.
Having already seen Diplo and Scratch Perverts mixes, the pill-popping Fabric heads saw fit to invite Craze into their exclusive catalogue. As often happens with this series, the results are artistically disappointing. For starters, Craze is easily talented enough to let the music do the talking, but almost every second of hip-hop and four-four beat on Fabriclive 38 is cloaked in the most predictable “everybody dance now” and “ho, bitch, nigga” vocals. Every wannabe scratch disk jockey pumps that kind of flailing-hand-signal, 45-degree-angle-hat, posturing club fodder, so why someone of Aristh’s calibre is still dabbling in goon after all these years is beyond me.
What’s more, the level of original disco and funky house that constitutes the core of this mix is disturbing. A few years ago, he walked away from junglists raves “‘cause people were starting to think of [him] as just a DnB deejay and that’s not what [he is].” So, instead of rap and jungle, 38 is rap and Armand Van Helden house. That’s like giving up Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles because people thought you were a hippy and switching to McNuggets. Why you would give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks when you’ve got his number of titles is beyond me, but taking up house as an attempt to distance yourself from stagnant 160 BPM deejays is stupid. It’s a lateral move at best, and a step backwards at worst.
The mix has its moments, though, as there is a lot of subgenre exploration to be found here. The two Bangers and Cash tracks give you a taste of E-tarded Baltimore-cum-Miami bass, of which Craze has been a major fan since his boyhood. The side project of Spank Rock and Benny Blanco may be lyrically juvenile, but their programming is ace. “Set It Off” by N.O.R.E. is straight thug rap, used well as an introduction to the set. Following the N.O.R.E., Craze selects two Cool Kids tracks that, while spewing similar materialistic jargon, could be considered minimal ghettotech. Lushus’s pointless “Ho Fo Sho” helps cover the old school electro side of things along with Debbie Deb’s 1983 single “When I Hear Music”. There is practically a mini history of hip-hop in this tracklisting, for whatever that’s worth when placed in context with Earth, Wind, and Fire and the theme to Miami Vice. It’s pretty hard to take seriously.
I simply do not understand what would motivate anyone to toss Van Helden’s throwaway ‘80s Madonna sound-alike “I Want Your Soul” in the middle of a largely “pop that pussy” rap set, let alone a bonafide hall-of-famer. At what point in your thirties do whore anthems lose their appeal? Sure, his scratching is still up to snuff, but for what cause? How is being adored as a jungle DJ worse than being mildly accepted as a ball-slapping hip-house junkie? Fabriclive 38 has more questions than answers. If all you care about in music is your ability to score from it, than this mix is your best friend. People who often read books and wear their hats straight forward or backwards will pro’lly get more out of looking back at Craze’s early work and trying to figure out where it all went wrong.