mark v. campbell

Scratch, Look & Listen: Improvisation and Digital DJ Interfaces

Scratch, Look & Listen: Improvisation and Digital DJ Interfaces

mark v. campbell


Since 2004, digital interfaces have become the dominate mode in which professional hip hop djs perform for their audiences. There are a number of benefits and drawbacks to utilizing digital interfaces, such as increased or decreased abilities to improvise. This essay explores the impacts of digital interfaces on the hip hop djs’ abilities to improvise and future trajectories of sonic innovation and creativity.


djs; turntablism; digital vinyl systems; afrosonic innovation, improvisation
Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation is generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (through both its Major Collaborative Research Initiatives and Aid to Scholarly Journals programs) and by the University of Guelph Library.
ISSN: 1712-0624

Featured post

Winter 2016 Talks

Hip Hop for a Different Future (Panel Discussion)

Hart House, U of T Feb 25, 2016

The T-Dot & the 6ix (Pop Up Talk)

Art Gallery of Ontario, March 3, 2016

1st Thursdays Hogtown to the 6ix


Remix 2.1: Beyond Fetishization (Invited Performance Lecture)

RTA School of Media, March 25, 2016

Know the Ledge, Sites of Learning in Hip Hop Studies

Spanning the Gaps Program, March 29, 2016

The DJ, A Historical Overview (Performance Talk)

Robert McClaughin Gallery, Oshawa ON, April 1, 2016





Know the Ledge

Upcoming: Hip Hop for a Different Future (panel discussion)

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Hip Hop culture is a manifestation of the radical imagination of Black and Brown youth coming of age in post-industrial South Bronx in the mid-1970s, an era marked by massive joblessness, defunding of schools and youth spaces and programs, the expansion of the prison industrial complex, and the militarization of urban space (Akom, 2009; Rose, 1994). These youth dreamed of a different future, liberation for their communities and for themselves, and began building toward it innovatively, resourcefully and defiantly. Hip Hop emerged as a site for creativity, play and insurgency, countering alienation and disillusionment by engaging youth with humanizing discourses and cultural practices (Akom, 2009; Williams, 2008). Hip Hop is anti-racist and de-colonial as a cultural movement, art form, educational philosophy and way of being.

This series of events features critical conversations with artists, scholars, educators and activists on Hip Hop, decolonization, liberation, spirituality and preferred futures.

Presented by the Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study & Practice, First Nations House, Hart House and the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office at the University of Toronto.

Sponsored by Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society


February 24, 6 p.m.  Presentation Room, Student Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga
Black liberation: A conversation with Jasiri X. 
Moderator: Professor Beverly Bain, Women and Gender Studies, Department of Historical Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga

February 25, 6:30 p.m.  East Common Room, Hart House
Hip Hop for a different future: Decolonization, spirituality and social transformation
Panelists: Dr. Mark V. Campbell, Hawa Y. Mire and Jasiri X
Moderator: Dr. Kyle T. Mays, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

February 26, 2 p.m.  Music Room, Hart House
Rhyming for Black and Indigenous liberation: A conversation between two emcees
Panelists: Shibastik and Jasiri X
Moderator: Professor Karyn Recollet, Women & Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Upcoming Talks Fall 2015

Archiving Hip Hop Culture | October 1, 2015
University of Regina
Regina, Saskatchewan

Public Education, National Security State, and Insurgent Black Life: Tracing Genealogies and Infrastructures of the Racial State
(Session Chair) | October 8, 2015
American Studies Association Annual Conference
Toronto, ON

Bigger than Hip Hop (DJ Set) | October 9, 2015
Harlem Restaurant
Toronto, ON

Doing the Knowledge | October 16, 2015
The Power of Influence Event
Toronto, ON

Remix the Archive (Performance Lecture) | October 29, 2015
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario

Hip Hop Culture as Social Justice Work | November 5, 2015
York University
Toronto, ON

Researching with Communities (Panelist) | November 26, 2015
United Way x CIFAR
Toronto, ON

Scratch & Mix closing party

Panel: Culture, Identity and Representation. Exploring Arts Spaces as Sites of Social Cohesion

Upcoming Panel Discussion

Sonic Intimacies: On Djing Better Futures


by Mark V. Campbell

Recently I was invited to DJ the afterparty of a symposium at Queen’s University, called Colonial Intimacies: Remapping the Relationships between Black and Indigenous Communities. A boldly conceived and welcomed conversation, the Better Futures Collective developed a symposium to address the “academic, activist, and creative conversations surrounding anti-blackness, indigeneity, settler colonialism and decolonization.”

Rather than simply providing the ‘entertainment’ to get asses moving, I sought to carefully curate a mix that might get the mind moving too. In my Sonic Intimacies mix the intention was to bring together the relational poetics of hip hop music and its related sonic progeny. For many successful DJs, their introduction to the art form lay in hip hop djing, such that mixing, scratching and cutting are well-known techniques by DJs. We can confidently add folks like David Guetta, DJ Atrak and Dr. Jay De Soca Prince to this list…

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Upcoming Talks & Panels

Feb 27, 2015
The Opportunity Equation Report Launch & Panel Discussion, Toronto

Feb 27, 2015
Sonic Intimacies: Curated DJ Set, Kingston ON

March 13, 2015

Scratch, Look and Listen: A DJ Workshop.  Regina, SASK.

March 26, 2015

‘Arts spaces/practices as sites of social cohesion’, Panel Discussion, Scarborough ON

May 29, 2015
The Arts and Education Panel Discussion, North South Griot Summit, Toronto ON

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