Mixers fear his skills, MCs love his style. When DJ Robert Smith clamps the crossfader between his thumb and forefinger, his record case turns into cuts and scratches. For over 20 years, the Berliner, whose real name is Ric Strakow, has been behind the decks. He won DMC Germany and toured with Kontra K. In the German hip-hop scene, he is considered a craftsman. Some even attest him resistance to change, because he still carries around boom bap records instead of letting autotune howl out of laptops.
Yet the man merely breathes the culture that fell into his hands as an 18-year-old dude. Strakow found another world via a tape. One that, for him, still consists of beats and pulses in 16s. When he met MC Maxwell Smart at a party in the early 2000s, Strakow put himself on a stage for the first time. Since then, the two have been touring basement clubs and underground parties as Smart&Smith – old school, with turntables and mic, of course! By the way: Smart also owes his stage name to the DJ: After many drinks and little sleep, he once looked like Robert Smith, the singer of The Cure. Since then, his hair has been shorter, but the name still stuck like a sample from Mobb Deep.
As if it were a Card Trick
If you click through DJ Robert Smith’s feature list on Discogs, you’ll dive into the German hip-hop underground. No grilllz glitter there, but lines that are more than Gucci, Prada or Peng-Peng. For rappers like AzudemSK and Morlockk Dilemma he lets the turntables warm up. For Pyro One, the needle rips across the platter; on tracks by Schlakks, beats pump Smith’s DNA. There are good reasons for that: After all, no laws of nature exist on DJ Robert Smith’s turntables. Sometimes records move across the turntable so fast that the viewer feels like he’s watching a card trick – the speed leads to the illusion that you need slow motion or three kilos of weed to understand it.