Modern DJing and turntablism can be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s. It was in the 1970s that the popular 'disco' genre brought DJs mixing dance music in nightclubs (known as discos or discotheques). People were packing clubs such as Studio 54 in New York City to dance and party the night away. However, not everybody could get in and it wasn't unusual to see throngs of people trying to get inside. Young people in New York's inner city wanted to do their own partying. They couldn't get into places like Studio 51 and even if they could, disco didn't really represent their persona. This marked the beginning of what we now call 'hip hop'. Hip Hop was essentially founded by DJs/turntablists such as Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, and Grand Wizard Theodore in The Bronx. These legendary DJs are among the pioneers of hip hop.
Subsequently, the emerging hip hop scene had a special place for the DJ/turntablist. 'The DJ' is one of the 'Four Elements of Hip Hop'. The remaining three elements are the MC, the graffiti artist, and the b-boy/b-girl (also referred to as "breakdancers"). Hip Hop DJs and turntablists have a distinct style when it comes to mixing music. Scratching records while in the mix is something that was born out of this era of DJ (and hip hop) history. Grand Wizard Theodore invented the scratch in 1975. In hip hop's early day's, DJs played music in the parks, community centers, school gymnasiums, and eventually in nightclubs. The DJ would conduct rap battles between MCs. DJs also recorded mixtapes which would be circulated all over New York's boroughs.
The 1980s also saw the beginning of other forms of urban and dance music such as electro-funk, freestyle, Miami bass, and synthpop. 'The DJ' had become the source from which the hottest sounds were introduced (and re-played) to the masses. As the bearer of great music and musical knowledge, some of the functions of a DJ is to play the right records at the right time and to set the tempo. The DJ is the backbone of the music industry. Through the decades, DJs went from playing records to becoming artists and superstars in their own right.