A nine-year-old girl who lives in Dubai is scratching her way to the top as a DJ in world competitions.
ichelle Rasul was already spinning turntables, scratching hip-hop records and making the beats drop four years ago, when she was just learning how to read and write.
Four years later, she is one of the world’s top DJs and competed in this year’s global championship.
At her home in the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, the turntable whiz from Azerbaijan nodded her baseball cap-adorned head to the beat and showed off her skills scratching, cutting and fading.
Her tiny fingers flew across the turntable as she created a sizzling landscape of electric audio effects and recalled how she got her start as a child turntable celebrity – which, in fact, was not all that long ago.
“I looked at my dad while he was practising DJ-ing and I saw him and was like, ‘Wow, is he doing magic or something? He’s a real magician, bro!’” Michelle told the Associated Press, bubbling with enthusiasm.
“When I turned five, on my birthday, I told him, ‘Dad, I want to be a world famous DJ. I’m going to start practising’.”
As though recounting a decades-long career, she grinned and added: “And the rest is history.”
Michelle, the youngest-ever contestant in the DMC World DJ Championship, ranked 14th out of 85 DJ stars from around the world in the Portablist category this year, the global portable scratch competition.
The 2021 competition was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although she did not advance to the next round this time, she is determined to beat her father, Vagif “DJ Shock” Rasulov, a professional who taught her the tricks of the trade and was ninth this year, in next year’s competition.
“I love competing in battles, I just love DJ-ing,” she said.
“It’s my passion.”
Turntabling, which burst on to the music scene from hip-hop artists in the late 1970s, can look like a basic act – taking a record, putting the needle down and sliding it back and forth with one’s fingertips.
But for the wizards, it is an art form, involving spontaneous sound mixing and advanced techniques like quick, rhythmic scratches and “crabs”, rubbing the record under the needle.
From the moment her parents gave her a mini DJ starter kit, they recognised her extraordinary abilities.
Even as a baby, she was fascinated and would punch all the buttons on her father’s equipment.
“She just catches things so fast,” said her mother Sadia Rasulova, a former violinist who also encouraged Michelle’s love of music.
“I realised that she’s a star, that she’s really talented.”
When her peers were listening to nursery rhymes, or as she put it, “Baby Shark stuff or ABC songs”, Michelle said she was hooked on rap legends such as Tupac Shakur, Chuck D, Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson, who remains her favourite.
Her parents started posting footage of her scratching online, and Michelle’s popularity exploded.
Her Instagram account and persona as the self-described “youngest DJ in the world” has racked up 110,000 followers.
Online messages from aspiring DJs aged six to 65 poured in from around the globe, she said.
Michelle’s feed is populated with posts of her breakdancing and scratching furiously alongside her sunglasses-sporting father, spinning hip-hop and techno tunes live for her listeners, strumming the bass in her free time and playing at events such as Dubai’s recent food festival.
Before the pandemic put big gatherings on hold, Michelle performed regularly at weddings, parties and music festivals across the city.
While the rest of the world is focused on her accomplishments as a DJ star, Michelle is busy bouncing through life, attending online school, skateboarding, reading and hanging out with friends and dogs at her neighbourhood park.
But her heart is always in her turntabling.
“I can’t imagine my life without music,” she said.
“Like from the start, from the very beginning, when I was really little.”