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Mash It Up

Z-Trip turns the tables and elevates the art of the DJ.

Before Z-Trip was living in Los Angeles as a signed artist, he had a home in basement clubs and bars, playing alongside other casualties of the genre wars in Tempe, Arizona. Calling themselves the Bombshelter DJs, Z-Trip and his mates Emile and Radar were part of a defiant collective of hip-hop DJs who mixed together whatever the fuck they felt like. Like Z-Trip, Radar went on to garner national attention. When he was 21, PBS filmed Radar performing "Concerto for Turntable," on which he led a symphony orchestra through a union of symphonic sound and scratching, guided only by his own "sheet music." Classically trained on piano and drums, he developed a scratch notation system for hip-hop DJs -- with the help of jazz pianist Raul Yanez -- the main objective of which was to prove that the turntable is a legitimate instrument.

Artists like Z-Trip and Radar have made a good case for the validity of the turntable. In fact, it's the only instrument really suited to the creative compositions and bold musical challenges Z-Trip tackles. However, his biggest obstacles to the top don't appear to be within his art form but outside it.

"The music in my life with Hollywood Records has become about lawyers and paperwork, and not about what it should be about, which is music -- so I'm a little frustrated with that," he says. "[But] you can achieve perfection. You've just got to work."

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