The nine-year-old Dubai DJ on track to be a global star

Young musical marvel Michelle Rasul is making a big impression on the world stage

Michelle Rasul had just learned to read and write but was already spinning turntables, scratching hip-hop records and making the beats drop.

Four years later, aged 9, she’s one of the world’s top DJs.

At home in Dubai, the turntable whiz from Azerbaijan nodded her baseball cap-adorned head to the beat and showcased her scratching, cutting and fading skills.

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 wasn’t all that long ago.

I love competing in battles, I just love DJ-ing. It’s my passion

Michelle Rasul

“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 contestant in the DMC World DJ Championships this year, ranked 14th out of 85 DJ stars from around the world in the “Portablist” category, the global portable scratch competition, which was held online due to Covid-19

Although she didn’t advance to the next round, she’s determined to beat her father – Vagif “DJ Shock” Rasulov, a professional disc jockey, made it to 9th place – next year.

“I love competing in battles, I just love DJ-ing,” she said. “It’s my passion.”

Turntabling, which burst onto 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 it is an art form, involving spontaneous sound mixing and advanced techniques like quick, rhythmic scratches and “crabs,” rubbing the record under the needle.

When not competing against the world's best DJs, Michelle enjoys life like any other girl her age. AP    
When not competing against the world's best DJs, Michelle enjoys life like any other girl her age. AP    

From the moment her parents gave her a mini DJ starter kit, they recognized her extraordinary abilities. Even as a baby, she was fascinated and would punch the buttons on her father’s equipment.

“She just catches things so fast,” said her mother Sadia Rasulova, a former violinist who encouraged Michelle’s love of music. “I realized 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 like Tupac Shakur, Chuck D, the Notorious B.I.G and Jay-Z, along with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who remains her favorite.

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 6 to 65 poured in from across 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, strumming the bass in her free time and playing at events such as the Dubai Food Festival.

Before the pandemic put big gatherings on hold, Michelle performed 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 as a third-grader, attending school online, skateboarding, reading and hanging out with friends and dogs at her neighborhood 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.”

Updated: May 11, 2021 03:57 PM

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