Exclusive Interview: DJ QBert Clears the Air After Controversial Tweets [VIDEO]


DJ Qbert Clears the Air

By Eric K. Arnold/Trueskool.com exclusive

Legendary turntablist and scratchmaster DJ Q-Bert recently faced an intense online backlash for a series of Tweets which left many of his fans upset and/or disappointed, and others ready to cancel the two-time DMC World Champion. The offensive Tweets in question included a curt response to a suggestion that he support Black Lives Matter: “#allfuckinglivesmatterbitch!” ; a post suggesting George Floyd was a crisis actor, and another which appeared to praise Donald Trump’s acumen in debates -- which also criticized George Soros, Joe Biden and Barack Obama. In another post, he says the media made Trump “look like a racist.” In another Tweet, he appeared to blame the COVID-19 crisis on exposure to 5G radiation, while maintaining a conspiracy theory that “the evil agenda is world depopulation.”

Taken together, these comments led to widespread online speculation that Q Bert had become a Qanon follower and ugly allegations of anti-blackness and racism. Some of the Tweets were deleted, followed by subsequent attempts at damage control and clarifying his views. QBert raised eyebrows when he disavowed any knowledge of a counter-BLM movement, or that the phrase “all lives matter” has become controversial -- to some it’s coded language for anti-blackness and a deflection/denial of the oppression black people face on a daily basis in America and throughout the world. 

When pressed on his position on Floyd, however, QBert apologized, saying “no one should die like that.” In another post, when asked if he supports Trump’s political views, he responded, “don’t get it twisted. I don’t trust any of these politicians. I like some of what (Trump) does and other things I disagree with.”  

On June 3, QBert posted a lengthy screed on Facebook which appeared to elaborate on his idealistic worldview: “we see a beautiful future coming very soon where black people will be treated equally with all races.” He went on to add, “the fact of the matter is, the murder of George Floyd is unacceptable. Blue on black crime must be stopped.” The post was accompanied by a portrait of Floyd.

In another post that same day, he stated, “we always recognize the original man on this planet before all other races were seeded here on earth was black. That is why they have the keys to our culture’s roots...We know every form of life is important, but at this time, it’s a celebration of the black women and men... the true Kings and Queens (whose) power has been suppressed for hundreds or even thousands of years. The evils know this and are trying to divide us... but even though there is black, white, yellow, red, blue... we are all still one race under god. We send the most love now to our black sisters and brothers in this time of awakening to our new beautiful future.” He ended the post with shouts out to hip-hop pioneers Grand Wizzard Theodore, Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flash, and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.”  

These comments, however, didn’t get nearly as much circulation on social media as his earlier posts. Some who read them doubted their sincerity, while others continued to sound off on QBert’s previous statements. Among the hip-hop and DJ community, it seemed like QBert was in danger of becoming the latest casualty of cancel culture -- whether that was justified or not.

It was clear that the real DJ QBert needed to stand up -- or at least clarify where he was coming from, away from the social media echo chamber. 

At the end of last week (June 5), I was asked by DMC USA Branch Manager Christie Z to try to get an interview with Q. I should note that we have been acquainted for decades. I first became aware of QBert in 1992, when, as a member of FM20, he opened up for a memorable hip-hop show at Oakland’s Omni which also featured Body Count, Gangstarr, Organized Konfusion, and Freedom T.R.O.O.P. 187.  That show was the first time I had ever witnessed orchestrated instrumentation on turntables and beat-juggling, not to mention cutting-edge scratching. It was a night I will never forget.

Over the years, I’ve profiled QBert for The Source, covered his Skratchcon event for the Bay Guardian, attended the Bay Area premiere of “Wave Twisters,” and caught numerous solo DJ performances and judging appearances at DMC events. I don’t consider myself a close friend of his, but rather someone who has seen his evolution and development and would be (hopefully) able to put things into their rightful context. 

I reached out to Kendo, the production manager for QBert’s event production and management company Thudrumble, and we agreed an interview was in everyone’s best interests. QBert took a few days to decompress, regain his energy, and get some much-needed sleep, so we ended up scheduling the interview for Monday June 8. In the meantime, I had several lengthy conversations with Kendo. 

He said he had been working with Thudrumble for nine years in an official capacity and affiliated for even longer. He considered Q “family.” The turntablist, he explained, lived in somewhat of a bubble and lacked sophistication about politics and many other things because his main focus was on his craft. This seemed reasonable, as many artists don’t have large social circles outside of performing. It surely takes dedication and lots and lots of practice to stay at the top of an artform for three decades, as Q has done. 

But Kendo also related that Q has often given back to the pioneers of his artform without expressly seeking publicity -- such as the time he took Grand Wizzard Theodore on tour with him. The allegations of racism and anti-blackness just didn’t sit right in the gut. While it’s easy to see how saying “allfuckinglivesmatterbitch!” could be taken as throwing shade on the BLM movement, if QBert actually harbored anti-blackness sentiments, you’d think they would have surfaced prior to now. 

While online critics projected that Q was a “guest” in hip-hop culture -- an artform created by black people, they noted -- the facts tell a somewhat different story. 

For one thing, the Bronx inner cities where hip-hop sprang from was also heavily populated by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans -- for example, the Cold Crush Brothers included Puerto Rican DJ Charlie Chase; Ruby Dee and Prince Whipper Whip of the Fantastic Five were also Puerto Rican, as was The Fearless Four’s Devastating Tito. Legendary b-boys the Rock Steady Crew were mostly Latinos -- Frosty Freeze (RIP) being its most recognizable African American-Belizean member. Hip-hop didn’t just incorporate black music into its canon: Afro-Latin funk, Latin jazz, jazz fusion, straight-up rock & roll, Caribbean music, Italian spaghetti western soundtracks and even German and Japanese electronic music all pollinate breakbeat culture. There’s actually a stronger argument to be made that, while hip-hop originated in black and brown communities, it’s always embraced multiculturalism as central to its aesthetic.

On the West Coast, which doesn’t have a sizable Puerto Rican or Dominican population, Filipinos and Mexicans have often played similar roles, especially those who lived in integrated neighborhoods. As told in Oliver Wang’s “Legions of Boom,” QBert came up out of a Filipino mobile DJ scene which helped to lay the foundations for Bay Area hip-hop in the 80s. 

After winning his DMC titles, he helped to make the Bay Area turntablist movement credible on a global level, forming the Invisibl Skratch Picklz, collaborated with Kool Keith on Dr Octagon’s underground/alternative hip-hop classic, Dr. Octagonecologyst, premiering his animated film “Wave Twisters” at Sundance, appearing in two highly-acclaimed documentaries, “Scratch” and “Hang the DJ,” and being dubbed a “Grandmixer” by Bronx turntable legend DXT. To be blunt, his contributions over the years far outshine a series of controversial Tweets in terms of cultural impact.

However, those Tweets came at a particularly critical tipping point in American history, when ongoing attempts at black liberation and police reform converged with a global pandemic and an outpouring of resilience and resistance to what many viewed as attempts at militarization in response to protests and uprisings which did result in property destruction and violent confrontations with law enforcement, as well as peaceful gatherings -- and apparent momentum for police reform. In light of all this, QBert felt the need to clarify where he was coming from, and speak to the situation at hand. 

The interview was conducted at a Brisbane warehouse used by Thudrumble’s production crew, Mixsterious. Right off the bat, Q spoke to the initial comment which launched a social media firestorm: “Let me clear one thing up. There was this thing, ‘all lives matter’, and I had no clue about that. I just DJ forever. I don’t even watch sports. Of course, this whole George Floyd thing is a big thing. So I came on (Twitter), like, ‘what’s going on’? And someone was like, trying to press my buttons, ‘what’s up?’ I’m like, no, I’m for everyone. I’m trying to help everyone. I said, ‘all fucking lives matter.’ and I didn’t know there was an All Lives Matter thing, that is a counter-culture for the BLM movement.” 

He went on to say, “I really meant to say, I love everyone... Of course, every life matters. And, of course, we have to fix the thing with black people. They are the first original man on the planet.” 

He also shared concerns that racial animosity is being used as “psychological warfare”: “There’s a bigger picture. They could be using this (racial conflict) to start a new World War. New World Order.” 

In response to allegations of anti-blackness, he said, “First of all, my best friend, MC UB, he’s black. They can believe what they want. My homies are black. I got all kinds of nationalities that are homies.”

He’s gone so far as to try to spread his unity message among Filipinos, he added. “I even go to Filipino conventions and I tell Filipinos, it’s cool that you’re proud to be Filipino, but let’s work for the whole planet. “

These remarks may not assuage anyone who expected him to take a militant political stance, or soundly denounce the Trump administration. But they are at least consistent with someone who claims to be a humanist, who doesn’t follow politics, and who is more than a bit of an idealist. 

Over the course of the discussion, Q forthrightly addresses the allegations and concerns about him, and did so honestly. Meaning, not in obviously-coached soundbites and talking points, but more so off the top of his head and from the bottom of his heart. He clarifies where he stands on racial unity and multiculturalism, his feelings about Trump, and what he would say to Floyd’s family. But he also speaks on Filipinos having African ancestry, and how he maintains a battle DJ mentality -- even though no one in their right mind would battle him today. In doing so, a picture emerged of an eccentric yet focused character who shuns political affiliation in favor of a simpler dichotomy: good/evil. 

“I’m more on a spiritual side,” he said, adding that he believes in karma, and that promoting love is preferable to spreading hate.

The same level of dedication and focus he’s applied to scratching over the years has allowed him to develop a personal philosophy of elevating one’s inner vibration to the highest level. The eccentricity came out a bit when he talked about aliens, however the example he cited, of the Dogon tribe in Mali, actually lends credence to theories of extraterrestrial involvement or interaction with humanity, as the Dogon have advanced knowledge of cosmology, including awareness of Sirius-B, a white dwarf star in the Sirius system, which can’t be seen with the naked eye or anything less than a state-of-the art telescope. 

Q also noted that he has free music available for download on his website, and that his personal approach is all about staying humble and giving back as much as he can to the culture -- becoming a better teacher by remaining an eternal student. While not every question may have been answered perfectly, unwarranted speculation should at the very least cease.

What has he learned from all this? “In touchy situations, people can get swayed to be hateful.”

Whether his words will suffice to explain what may very well have been a mental crisis brought on by social isolation and COVID-related stress -- the interview marked the first time he’s been reunited with his support team in five months -- remains to be seen. But one thing is clear:  DJ QBert showed up, answered whatever questions were thrown at him the best he could, and gave some thoughtful and insightful answers. No matter if he regains his lost followers or not, ultimately, the experience may result in him growing as a person, not just a turntable icon.  

Shout-out to Christie Z, Kendo, Mixsterious, and the Thudrumble crew and to the True Skool squad -- Korise Jubert and Ren Salgado -- for making this happen.

Additional Read: DJ Q-Bert Disappoints Fans After Pro-Trump Tweets

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QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” That is what DJ Bert follows and this fake ass interview conducted by folks from your True Skool squad please BS , you Q a Trump supporter plain and simple you should be on FOX News gonna delete this account and once this shelter in place over in SF and bars seeking DJ's you on the fuck you list

Don't shoot the messenger

maradona10 said:

QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” That is what DJ Bert follows and this fake ass interview conducted by folks from your True Skool squad please BS , you Q a Trump supporter plain and simple you should be on FOX News gonna delete this account and once this shelter in place over in SF and bars seeking DJ's you on the fuck you list

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