Scratch and Play
By Jack Feuer
Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM
We pick up the beat at the beginning of the century, when UCLA undergrads Brandon Perdue '03, Brian Aung '00 and Brian Wong '03 became friends over their love of DJ'ing, the joyful, turntable mixing-and-scratching art form that powers hip-hop and, increasingly, other musical genres as well.
Perdue, a.k.a. DJ Hapa, teamed up with the two Brians, who had recently launched an online record-selling business. The enterprise caught on and led to related entrepreneurial ventures such as overnight Internet sensation djcity.com and international DJ record distribution.
"I was going to class and, in between, calling Europe to get in that last order," recalls Hapa, "and South Africa to make sure the order shipped, Asia later on at night. We had records everywhere. At some point, we said we need an actual facility to run the business, rather than a two-bedroom apartment. So we turned this warehouse space off the 405 on Cotner Avenue into a storefront. We thought of it as a space where fellow DJs could come by and pick up records and also a community center for DJs. And we could sell records online all day."
And they were still going to class.
Eight months later, the music was starting to soar, but the entrepreneurs realized they weren't doing anything for the community, which was a big part of their establishing mission. So they decided to start a DJ school — which was when, as Hapa remembers, "Reality sank in. Where do you even start?"
Hapa knew that Jam Master Jay [of acclaimed rap group Run DMC] had started a DJ school in New York, so he and his partners called them. "We spent 20 minutes on the phone talking about our respective missions," he remembers, "and they lined up perfectly."
Hapa and friends signed a licensing deal with the New York school, which was named Scratch DJ Academy. And so was born Scratch LA, whose first semester in January 2005 drew 65 students. Today, a semester will draw up to 140 students, in addition to 100-plus active private-lesson memberships.
The Scratch LA website offers a convenient layout of course offerings, content, and schedules.
"It's a DJ school and students learn skills, but one of the biggest things is that they really become part of a new community of DJs and like-minded individuals," says Hapa. "And for a lot of them, they find almost a second home and a new group of friends."
Among the students is Katie Guerrero '08, a.k.a. DJ Del Rey and daughter of UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero '74. Del Rey is also a member of the Scratch LA Street Team, which promotes the school, shares great music and supports good causes at community events around the city.
"I grew up around my dad, who is also a big music fan, listening to everything from James Brown to the Average White Band to the Beatles," she says. "It's always been a part of who I am."
The young DJ-in-the-making signed up at Scratch and was "completely overwhelmed during my first class. Bars, beats, turntables, scratching … what? But I saw how passionate DJ Hapa and my instructors were about their love of music and DJ'ing, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it."
In July, Hapa sold his licensing agreement back to Scratch and now all of the school's outposts are under one roof — and Hapa is handling the entire brand across the country.