Looking back on a groundbreaking mix of global sounds.
When I interviewed DJ Rupture, AKA Jace Clayton, in 2016, I asked him to describe what was going on when Gold Teeth Thief came out 18 years ago. "In a way, the answer is very little," he said. "At the time, if you wanted to hear house music, you'd go to the house club. If you wanted to hear reggae, you'd go to the reggae club. Hip-hop, hip-hop club. Everything was segregated."
It was 2001, and Clayton was living in Madrid, having just left his hometown of Boston. As he tells it, electronic music was in a lull. The madcap maximalism of jungle (his first love) had crystallized into the comparatively well-behaved homogeneity of drum & bass. The experience of clubbing in general felt flat. Almost everywhere you went, it was the same tempo and the same vibe from open to close. Thus the name DJ Rupture: he wanted to upend the logic of the linear narrative that dominated DJ culture. His first mix CD—recorded on three turntables and released online at a time when that was almost unheard of—embodied this ethic, and it ushered in a paradigm shift.
I was 16 when my uncle gave me the CD-R of Gold Teeth Thief. At the time, I didn't have an exact idea of what a DJ did, and the mix left me with more questions than answers. Within the four-minute span of the first track, labeled "Get Ur Freak On" by Missy Elliott, there are actually three tracks: first is Missy Elliott, followed by the instrumental from Nas's "Oochie Wally," then a white-label dancehall track that also uses the "Oochie Wally" instrumental, but with a different vocalist.
This was before Girl Talk's similarly wide-ranging Night Ripper came out, before the mash-up format was ubiquitous on file-sharing sites, and no matter how many times I listened, I couldn't wrap my head around what was going on. I didn't know you could combine the instrumental from one song and the acapella from another, and I especially didn't know you could do it live. Even without a grasp on his method, I could feel that he was breaking down walls and building links.
This was probably the first time many people heard half-time to double-time mixing, and Clayton gets a lot of mileage out of this trick on Gold Teeth Thief. Not only does it make for exciting combinations, but it introduces extreme music (like 180-BPM breakcore) in a way that makes it more approachable, by layering it with something familiar, like rap. That's exactly what he does on track two, when the breaks and brutalized kick drums of DJ Scud's "Badman Time" begin to rise behind Bling Dawg's ragga vocals. Clayton blends it with a jungle remix of Barrington Levy, which plays for only a minute before he interrupts the record, spins it back and then switches the turntable from 45 to 33 RPM to let it rip at a slowed-down clip. With techniques like these, he called the established model into question. Is it really essential to maintain a continuous, uninterrupted flow? Or should we permit stops and starts, pauses and wild spikes in energy?
There's a Jeff Mills-style flex in the way Clayton uses his extra turntable. Occasionally he layers a third track for rhythmic or textural color, then yanks it out. Like Mills, he's the type of DJ who's always doing something with his hands (or at least he was at the time), whether that's pitch-shifting, cutting faders up and down, riding the record or manipulating it audibly to add a layer of abstract sound. But where Jeff Mills is generally precise, Clayton plays fast and loose. If you read his book, Uproot, or his blog, or the magazine articles he's written, you'll note that one of his favorite descriptors is "slippery," which connotes that something is hard to pin down—in flux or on the move, like many of the globalized genres he plays. Clayton's blends are also slippery. Rather than locking into a grid, his records drift into sync, and you can often hear singers or synths warbling as he pushes and pulls them into place. There's an intimacy that comes with hearing him making corrective moves.
Towards the end of the hour-long mix, he teases about 30 seconds of a severely damaged breakbeat cut called "Duppy," by his electro-acoustic group Nettle. It's a signal that we're moving out of party mode, from Memphis rapper Project Pat's track "Chickenhead" into the more reflective passage that ends the mix. It makes the transition from Dirty South crunk to the crackling abstractions of the musique concrète composer Ilhan Mimaroglu feel natural, as if it was fading into static or being garbled by a compression algorithm.
In 2019, the collision of so-called high-brow and low-brow reference points is so commonplace that it's banal. The last few years have seen a surge in hybrid club music that pairs abstract sound design and party rhythms. But let us remember back to 2001: this was a time before "poptimism" and post-irony, when self-proclaimed underground heads railed against the corrosive influence of commercial music. On Gold Teeth Thief, everything was up for grabs, and somehow it all made sense. Way before the rest of us caught on, DJ Rupture was trying to tell us our genre distinctions were meaningless.
Sat / 11 May 2019
01. Missy Elliott - Get Ur Freak On
02. Bravehearts - Oochie Wallie Instrumental
03. Ricky Dog - Risen To The Top
04. DJ Scud - Badman Time
05. Barrington Levy - Here I Come - Jungle
06. Nettle - Duende
07. dead prez - Cop Shot
08. Monie Muss Crew - Thugz Riddim
09. Spragga Benz - Certain Bwoy
10. Bounty Killer - Corrupt System
11. Kid606 - Get Yr Kicks On Route 606
12. Larbi Lamtougi - Salhine Assalihate
13. Luciano Berio - Visage
14. Snares Man! - Breakbeat Malaria (History Of The Future)
15. Tommy Zwedberg - Hanging
16. Venetian Snares - Boarded Up Swan Entrance
17. Nettle - Duende (DJ Scud's In Chains Remix)
18. Shabba Ranks - Peanie Peanie
19. Nettle - Duende (DJ Scud's In Chains Remix)
20. Quincy - Bruce Lee MC
21. DJ /rupture - Descarriada
22. Dahlena - Dabka
23. Djivan Gasparyan - Dle Yaman
24. Nettle - Untitled (White Label)
25. Non Phixion - Four W's Instrumental
26. Wu-Tang Clan - Reunited (Funkstörung's Mix)
27. Cannibal Ox - Vein
28. Sub Dub - Dawa Zango
29. DJ /rupture - Rumbo Babylon
30. DJ /rupture - Tawsim Distorsionada
31. Missing Links - No Lodge
32. DJ /rupture - Untitled
33. John Wall - Track 1
34. Moosaka With Splice - Airbrushing
35. Rude Ass Tinker - U Can't Touch This
36. Unknown Artist - Untitled
37. Welmo Romero & Splice - Si A Plomo Vives (Rupture's Remix)
38. Project Pat - Chickenhead
39. Nettle - Duppy
40. Ilhan Mimaroglu - Agony
41. Nettle - Ensamlaje
42. Oval - Shop In Store
43. Miriam Makeba - Djiguinira
44. Muslimgauze - The Taliban
45. Paul Simon - Homeless