Thursday, August 6, 2009

DMC US Finals Weekend (THE BATTLE)

So I climb up onto the stage, with my baggage in tow, at Santos Party House. I grab my clipboard with the judging sheet. I exhale, knowing I'd finally really gotten here, with time to spare.


A couple of people came up to greet me one was Dj Revel (aka Max Pounder), the other was Dj Steel. Steel introduced me to the rest of the Brick Bandits including SOLO, who I also knew from Geo's board. All this was completely surreal. After my miserable morning, then frantic traveling, I couldn't believe I was finally here. I'm really doing this. I'm a judge goddammit!!!

Growing up as a battle dj, my greatest ambition was to win a regional and make it to the US Finals. Well, I never thought it would come to fruition with me making it to New York as a judge. Basically the long and short of it all, is that this is one of the biggest honors of my life. There's not much more that could match this outside of my own championship.

As I step on stage, I immediately recognized Marcus Pinn and Donnie Dee. I battled in Austin the year that Donnie Dee won. I remember how shook up he was that he won. It was pretty touching. I felt like I'd already had met Marcus Pinn. I mean he was one of the reasons I started posting on Geo's Board. We were friends on myspace & facebook. I subscribe to his blog. I'd followed him through a kidney transplant, and the horror of the Manhattan based architecture firm of which he's employed. Marcus is one of the people that I most admire.

To my left was Dj Slyce, the 1997/2008 DMC US Champion. He finished 2nd in the world in 2008, and he's another person whom I only know from Geo's board that I greatly admire. WOW!! I saw "Baby Fatfingaz", but where was Fatfingaz?? Where were the rest of the judges? Dj Precision tapped me on my shoulder to shake my hand. This is getting more major by the minute. I looked straight ahead to the turntable setup in the center, there was Lord Finesse. Yes, people THAT Lord Finesse. Then I saw OC coming up on stage to holler at Finesse, "dude it's OC for crissakes!!!" Then there was Kool Dj Red Alert... The man, the voice, the legend had me buggin' out from just his voice. I would look down, to jot something down and I would just be like... "Maaan, Red Alert!!! WTH??!!"

I heard someone yelling at me from the wings, it sounded like some girls. It was! Marilyn from Mix Revolution who I talk to on twitter all the time and Sally Mclintock or Sally DMC. I jumped up from my seat to give them a hug. I couldn't believe all of this.

As Lord Finesse warmed up the crowd with the classic tunes, Kool Dj Red Alert warmed the crowd up on the mic. He kept making cracks about Poo Poo juice in his drink. I'm guessing that was some kind of inside joke about brown liquor. I was starting to get anxious about the battle.

The order was:

1. Lodus (L.A.) - Angry Ex's
2. Mista B (S.F.) - 4OneFunk
3. Concept (Fl) - Fader Ballistix
4. Fascinate (NH)
5. Q-Base (TX)
6. Ty Handswell - (Bmore)
7. Ohm One (NM)
8. Steel (NJ) - Brick Bandits
9. Shiftee (NY) - Lo Lives
10. Shmeeze (LA)
11. As One (DMV) - Rockvillians

The time was upon us. When Lodus led off on the right setup, we all noticed that the sound was pretty terrible. I hoped the sound guy, who looked like a cross between Rick Rubin and a bicycle messenger, would fix it... He didn't.

Next up Mista B on the left setup! Mista B came through and straight up rocked it from the beginning with some serious Cali Funk. I had been watching Mista B youtube videos all week, and I was particularly looking forward to seeing him rock it. He delivered in a major way. His sound was so clear an unique. I felt sorry for whatever dj had to follow that...

Concept was up next. I already knew Concept from the New Orleans heat. He chilled at my house before the battle and practiced his routine along with Steel, and Rugged. I knew what to expect, but no one else did. Concept was playing on the right setup (the setup with the percieved sound problems). Once he got up to perform, he immediately noticed the sound problems. He tried get the sound guy to tech it before he performed. They tried, but to avail... The only thing the sound guy managed to do was to eliminate the hum on one of the turntables. Once Concept started I could immediately see the disdain on his face. He had a look on his face that said, "FUCK!!! THIS SOUNDS TERRIBLE!!!!" At one point he stopped his routine altogether looked at us and was like, "The sound sucks on this setup!" He threw his hands up and looked at the sound guy like... "Dude are you going to fix this?? I mean it IS your job." He reluctantly finished, but he was NOT happy.

After some deliberation, we decided that the first two routines on the "bad setup" would have to be re-run. That also meant that the battle would go on with just one set of turntables which would seriously impede the flow of the battle, but Red Alert is a pro and so is Lord Finesse. The crowd wouldn't even notice.

So up next was Fascinate from New Hampshire. He came through with a heavy metal styled routine, complete with a Pantera juggle so y'all know I was feeling it. He kinda lost me with the second half of the routine, but the first half was fresh. I wish he would've continued with metal for the entire routine.

INTERMISSION... During this intermission Lord Finesse rocked the crowd while Rick Rubin's illegitimate son worked on the right setup. No dice... Continue with Plan B.

Lodus' Re-run... FRESH, FRESH, FRESH!!! For a cat who placed 3rd in his region, he certainly looked like a top finisher. Every one of the judges was impressed with him, and we were all glad that the sound issue was cleared up and we could go on with the battle.

Concept's Re-run... Like I said I already knew what was up. I caught some of the judges asking "He came in second???" like they couldn't believe he didn't win. I've got a feeling that Concept will enter Supremacy next year, and do really well. He's got the right look for it, and his cuts are definitely at that level.

Q-Base was up next. He was the second place finisher in San Antonio. He was solid, but not on the level yet of being able to compete for a top slot. It was evident to everyone. I hope he'll be back though. You can only get better from year to year.

Ty Handswell was up. I know Ty from the Geo's board, myspace, and Facebook. I knew pretty much what to expect from him also... Combo juggles. For everyone not in the know, a combo juggle is a beat juggle using two different records as opposed to using two copies of one record. Well, Ty came off... He had a good crowd friendly routine, and he got the most crowd response since Mista B, although Mista B still trumped everyone thus far.

Dj OHM One was next on deck. SOLID. That's as simple as I can put it. He was good in all aspects, his intro, cutting, juggling and transitions were all where they needed to be. For his first US Finals, I think he made a great showing. I look forward to seeing him next year. I think he is really one to watch out for in the future.

STEEL : I'll be brief about Steel, because he is the homie and I don't want it to seem like I'm biased. He did the same routine from New Orleans, and he executed. This time he wore shoes. His juggles were the freshest of the entire competition in my opinion.


This was the go to the bathroom, get a drink, smoke-break, judges break. In this time Shiftee was practicing his routine. Also I must add that Shiftee was wearing a DMC Champions jacket, a 1999 Thailand Champion's jacket. Now Shiftee was probably 13-14 in 1999, so we all just shook our collective heads and laughed. It turns out Shiftee collects champions jackets. He has three more at home. This guy is crazy. Well Red Alert actually calls him out for wearing the jacket and makes a joke to the crowd. I'm wondering why no one has called him out for wearing a bomber jacket in the middle of the summer in New York City... Oh well, the jacket serves it's purpose for sure.

So, next up is Shiftee... He came in to the building to WIN. He did not disappoint. From the very beginning of the routine, he had the crowd eating out of his hand. At one point, he stopped his routine to solicit applause from the crowd. Everyone went nuts. Shiftee had it all together. He used all of the mixer, his entire routine was completely stacked with bangers... There's not much more to say besides SHIFTEE KILLED IT!!!!

Next up... Shmeeze!! Shmeeze brought the Dubstep out to the finals. Super dopeness!!! He along with Mista B had the most distinct sounding routines. His cutting was on some next level isht. He's a strong competitor and I expect him place for sure.

FINALLY, AS ONE!!!! I had been looking forward to this for a good while since I found out in my previous interview that he had a custom set made up that he didn't get to showcase in the Fairfax regional. As One also rocked it. The highlight of his routine was an Inspector Gadget piece that was soooooo funky and completely indicitive of the DMV turntable style. I was impressed.

Now next were showcases by first I-Dee, then Precision. For the sake of brevity, I'll just say that either one of these cats would give any dj in the world problems in a battle. I-Dee has some of the best stage presence and presentation of any deejay I've ever seen. Precision (whom Red Alert kept calling Precise... SMDH) has the best juggle patterns in the US, possibly the world. He is an X-Ecutioner...


AND THAT'S A WRAP... Coming up next... My adventures in New York with Matt and Alex!!

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