May 17, 2014

Technics 1200s (Vibe, May 2004)

"Funny how the Technics 1200s, originally a tech nerd innovation, became the party accessory in hip hop, more than Gucci and gold. Back in the day, B-boys needed suitably fly audio gear to get the party started. The needle must have been called a stylus for a reason. Born in '73 as a "middle-class player system" for couch-blob audiophiles, the steel and rubber magnificence of the SL-1200 wouldn't get in the DJ mix until '79, when Technics slapped on a pitch shifter that could dramatically adjust the speed of the record, and the "turntable" took on an active lifestyle. An unintended zigga zigga of marketing genius, 1200s would become known as 12s, as essential to hip hop as the 12-inch wax itself, and a required status symbol for any jam. As DJ Premier, Gang Starr's legendary producer, explains, obsessive poindexterity and tinkering helped define a DJ's style. "With the 1200, you have to be deep into experimenting, with taking it apart, going inside the motor, and adjusting the brakes." One could spin the record back and release it without losing break-beat speed and train-wrecking the dance floor. "I hacked off the curves of a penny with a heated hacksaw and put it underneath the head shells of my needle," he says. The 1200 became essential in the studio, too. As rap evolved in the mid-80s, turntables were the nexus between sound and sampler. "The 1200s helped make something artistic," says Premier. "It could create the hooks in songs and production. You could experiment like a scientist." The record became not only a crowd motivator, but also a producer's raw material for loops and beats ultimately reimagined into vinyl. And like any piece of fly apparel, the real DJs, from the late Jam Master Jay to Premier, only rocked their own 12s at the gig. "Back then, seeing someone with new 1200s was like having a new Benz," marvels Premier. "If you didn't have 1200s, you wasn't down. Motherf#ckers used to get cornered at parties, robbed for them shits. Not sneakers or fresh leather, but turntables!" -Vibe, 2004. Sharing today, because it's a shame we're losing pieces like this, kids just don't understand what it meant to the culture.