A Top Ten Record List from a World Famous Beat Junkie
by David Ma
“Up until I was eight or nine, I was bouncing around a lot, all the time as a kid. I was born in Maryland and lived in Jacksonville then moved all over the U.S.,” explains Chris Oroc, widely known as DJ Babu.
After constant relocation (due to his father’s naval service), Chris landed in Oxnard, California, in the early ’80s where his teenage years paralleled hip-hop’s booming rise. Now in his late thirties, the seasoned DJ has toured globally as part of the World Famous Beat Junkies and as one-third of Dilated Peoples, manning the tables as well as production.
Through eloquent routines, multiple ITF titles and Vestax championships followed. Other calculated efforts, like his famed juggle of “Blind Alley” by the Emotions, bolstered his rep in the ’90s. And Super Duck Breaks, an early DJ tool record he produced as the Turntablist, is amongst the most used—and beloved—in the field. Below are DJ Babu’s top ten records, a list that tells the story of his maturation as a kid in Oxnard to a world-class, international DJ.
Malcolm McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team D’ya Like Scratchin’ (Island Records) 1983
This has to be the first—if not, the second—record I ever purchased. I actually bought this way before I was a DJ, when my family still had a record player in the house. This brings back fond memories of moving to Oxnard, California, in the early ’80s and being introduced to hip-hop. At the time, I was definitely trying to pop and b-boy, and “Buffalo Gals” was my shit! Just looking and listening to this record fascinated me; it was the first time I had seen a Technics 1200 on a sleeve. And, of course, who can ever forget the ill boom box on the cover?! This record was just hip-hop from head to toe.
Herbie Hancock Future Shock (Columbia) 1983
I don’t know if I bought this or D’ya Like Scratchin’ first, but this record was a huge influence on me. The work Grandmaster D.S.T. (now D.X.T.) did on “Rockit” will forever be in my brain. I still remember hearing this for the first time and wilin’ out! I had heard scratching before, but this record was a huge hit. You have to remember that in 1983 hip-hop was still hard to find, so to hear D.S.T. killin’ cuts over a Top 40 record was crazy! I’ll never forget the pattern. If you see Herbie Hancock and the Rockit Band perform “Rockit” on Saturday Night Live, you’ll see the first time a DJ was treated like a musician. Actually, you’ll see D.S.T. take over the whole show. To me, he was one of the first—if not the first—turntablists ever.
The Dean of Perth with Bakery and Jazz Ensemble Rock Mass for Love (Astor) 1971
Here’s an illy I caught down under in Australia. You’d be surprised how funky and musical cats are from other parts of the world, but these Australian cats basically set up shop in a cathedral in front of six thousand people. They did their own musical interpretation of Catholic mass and recorded it. Whatever it is, all I know is that these cats were ill and many a loop I have dissected from this record. Do not front on Aussie records!
Hiriomi Iwasaki Fantasy (Victor) 1976
This is a record I caught back in the day before Shibuya, Tokyo, was ran through. I mean, it’s still ill over there, but not like it was twelve years ago when it seemed like every ill record died and went to Tokyo. When I first went over there, I bought everything but Japanese records. Later, I realized I was sleepin’! This record is a perfect example; it’s a real soulful, popish-sounding LP, surprisingly funky, tons of dramatic intros and changes. Crazy. Please believe I made like ten beats off this record.
Franck Pourcel Aquarius (Atco) 1969
This record is what I call a “producer’s bang for your buck” LP—mad loops, sounds, and grooves. Lots of open loops with sparse percussion! I made at least ten beats from this record, a couple you might recognize, and it’s just a great record to revisit for sounds and samples. Franck’s an ill motherfucker!
Klaus Wunderlich Sound 2000 (Telefunken) 1973
I really love Moog and keyboard records because I feel like early keyboardists were the first bedroom musicians and producers—it’s something I relate to. On this LP, this cat Klaus is credited with playing the Moog, organ, and drums, so I imagine him with a gigantic module Moog with all these cables, buttons, knobs, and keys, just buggin’ out, diabolical-scientist style. But as far as the sound of this record, it’s really prophetic that he titled it Sound 2000, ’cause that’s what it sounds like.
The Bar-Kays Coldblooded (Volt) 1974
This is one filthy record right here. I love the sound and the way the record was mixed. As compared to previous LPs, this one definitely had a funky kind of rock-tinged sound. Reminds me a lot of early P-Funk, and “Smiling, Styling, Profiling” has to be one of the illest breaks ever; fans of Soundbombing 2 might recognize it!
Earth & Fire Gate to Infinity (Polydor) 1977
Great Dutch progressive rock record—I’m fortunate enough to travel, so when I’m out and about, I really try to make it a point to go digging. Being in other places while on the road really helped me to thicken up my collection and build my sound. This record is a perfect example of a crate digger’s heaven. This record is loop mania! I probably would have never found this in L.A., but I found this all the way in Holland. Nowadays, I could probably just find it on eBay. Wack! [laughs]
James Brown In the Jungle Groove (Polydor) 1986
This is actually a compilation LP, but at the time this was released, I was still pretty ripe on beats and breaks. But when I heard the song “Funky Drummer,” the realization of understanding that cats sampled this song to create a new track was mind blowing! All of a sudden, I understood why I kept hearing hip-hop jams that had this drum break I loved. From then on, I listened to music completely different—I guess it was my introduction to crate digging and finding samples and breaks. But what can I say about this LP that hasn’t been said? From listening, to sampling, to DJing, this LP has it all. The Godfather is the funkiest man in history.
The Continental IV Dream World (Jay Walking Records) 1972
I can’t say enough about how much I love soul records. No matter how much ill shit I find in other genres, I always seem to find myself back in the soul section. This record is a great example of why I keep coming back. The Continental IV were probably not the most original cats, but this record is ill. Super-tight production with a classic late ’60s, early ’70s soul vibe—a lot of dramatic intros and breakdowns, ill wah-wah guitar, and beautiful melodies and harmonies. Dope shit.