The origins of turntablism proper can be traced back to legends like Grandmaster Flash. When the DJs of mid-seventies were mostly content to simply play one record into another, Flash helped develop and define many of the techniques modern scratch DJs now take for granted.
Listen to the epic The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (just over seven minutes of madness - all live and laid down after a handful of takes). He’s cutting up two copies of a beat, scratching in melodies, layering up spoken word passages and changing up the selection within the blink of an eye.
For months at a time he would lock himself in his home laboratory dreaming up new theories about the science of mixing. Other pioneers like Kool Herc may have isolated the ‘get down’ parts of instrumental Funk records and doubled them haphazardly with two copies to extend the break, but Flash’s lightning fast techniques made that simple trick seem positively antiquated in comparison.
Peep Flash getting busy in the kitchen in this classic clip from the seminal Wild Style…