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“Prince came to my club” – the birth of the L.A. beat scene, as told by Kutmah

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  • published
    3 Apr 2013
  • words by
    Laurent Fintoni
  • tags
    Kutrmah
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The story of any one local music scene is always fraught with details and intricacies that are often lost to anyone who wasn’t there once that scene explodes beyond its limited geographical reach.

In the past decade, the Internet has helped to make such local scenes into global phenomena quicker and in ways previously unimagined – a process that has hastened the loss of details and history while providing a platform for anyone who seeks to give accurate historical accounts of what happened, and how.

Los Angeles’ reputation as a creative hub for underground, forward thinking music is on a par with London, yet the history of the city’s club scene is still perhaps one of its best-kept secrets (and I’m not talking rock here). After spending only two weeks there doing research recently, I came away with a sense that the history of hip hop and dance clubs in the city is a deep and intricate one, rarely discussed in detail beyond its most famous exponents.

 

“Los Angeles’ reputation as a creative hub for underground, forward thinking music is on a par with London, yet the history of the city’s club scene is still perhaps one of its best-kept secrets.”

 

Take the so-called ‘beat scene’ of the late 2000s and its most famous club, Low End Theory. LET is a globally known name, arguably on a par today in terms of cachet and myth with the DMZ dances in London that helped cement dubstep’s global foundations just a few years before LET blew up. Looking at what came before LET provides an understanding of how the party, and the scene that grew around it, were the logical evolution of a bubbling underground hip hop and alternative scene that sought the new and exciting with the same fervour as their European counterparts.

Kutmah is a DJ and artist raised in Los Angeles who in the late 90s and early 00s became an intrinsic part of that scene’s evolution and growth, both as a DJ and the driving force behind the Sketchbook nights, LA’s first beat party as we understand them today. Having relocated to London in 2010 following troubles with his legal status, he’s now found a new lease of life after the scene he helped bring out blew onto the global stage while he stayed stranded behind in a city he couldn’t leave. I recently sat down with him for a lengthy conversation about his origins, the early days of the L.A. scene, and the clubs, places and people that helped define his artistic aesthetic, vision and work.

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