At this year’s DMC US Finals DJ Battle, it was DJ Precision of New York City who was crowned victor, but not without a fight. Some of the best turntablists in the country were given six minutes a set as they were evaluated on their originality, musicality, and technicality by an expert panel of judges. The amount of complexity and practice that was placed into their sets was undeniable, and as soon as the contest kicked off it became obvious to the audience that this was no joke.
The show took place at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan on August 4th, a large-scale venue that, thankfully, continues to support events that showcase less commercialized aspects of hip hop, like DJing and beatboxing. Cued by the crowd to begin their sets, each turntablist began with a distinct intro. Whether it was a sample from a movie, or a vocal track insulting the competition, each individual tried his best to stand out in the audience’s mind. Like most competitions, a great first impression can really set the contestant apart from the pack, but it can also be a strike against the contestant, making the DJ into a clown as opposed to a trailblazer. There was a little bit of both happening here, but it’s the follow-through that really makes or breaks the sets.
As technical as these DJs can get with their scratching and cutting, at the end of the day, song selection is the x-factor. If contestants can work their skills on some buried gems that the crowd can get into, then they inevitably end up into his hands. If they scratch away at something that doesn’t sound interesting, no matter how good they are at it, it’s almost impossible for the set to not become a bore.
These factors are being taken into account all over the world as DJs from each country, varying from China to Kenya, battle for a spot to represent their nation at the 2012 DMC World DJ Championships. Each winner will soon be on the road to London as they compete for the 2012 DMC World DJ Championships title in late September, but one can’t speculate on the future standings without first taking a look at the past.
The competition has been taking place in 1985, and this year, the finals welcomed its first American winner DJ Cheese, who made an appearance and performed a set in honer of the contest’s 27 year anniversary. He definitely brought in an old school swag with an 80′s hip hop track list along with a ridiculously large gold rope which he rocked around his neck.
With such a rich history, the DMC DJ battle scene has had literally hundreds of contestants compete for a shot at the world title at DMC since it’s launch. Even celebrities like Run DMC, Public Enemy, Janet Jackson, and James Brown have made appearances at one point in time, all paying homage to this foundational element of hip hop.
The circuit may not be as thriving as it once was, but the art of DJing is still alive, despite hip hop growing more commoditized and distant from its roots.
Rather than hip hop DJs, in this era, it is dance music DJs like DeadMau5 and Avicii that have come into the spotlight, with scratching turntablists moving further from the spotlight. This art form may be a victim of dwindling popularity in the main arteries of the industry, but the DMC continues to passionately honor this element of hip hop, and in turn, it helps keep the culture alive.
The DMC World DJ Championships will take place on September 27 and 28 in London, England. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.dmcdjchamps.com.