Tomorrow, Friday April 16th, the 2010 DMC American Battleground kicks off with the first round of this year's National DJ Battle Qualifier events. The DJ battle, being held in New Orleans at the Hookah Club on Decatur Street and hosted by Truth Universal, will also feature showcase sets by New York's DJ Shiftee, who is the current reigning DMC World Champion, and Mista B of San Francisco's 4OneFunk crew, who was runner up in last year's US DMC finals. In the upcoming weeks following the New Orleans DJ battle, other US DMC regional battles will take place in Denver (May 1st), NYC (May 15th), Long Beach, CA (May 21st), and San Antonio TX (May 28th). Then on August 7th the 2010 DMC US Finals DJ Battle will be held at Santos Party House in New York City.
But of all these US DMC battles, perhaps the most noteworthy is tomorrow's opening event since, by hosting the DMC battle in New Orleans for its second consecutive year, the event organizers are not only helping ignite the local competitive turntablist scene but they are also doing their part in the gradual recovery of a post Katrina New Orleans -- a still devastated city that has a ways to go before returning to its former Big Easy glory.
Christie Z-Pabon, the DMC USA Event Coordinator, credits local New Orleans DJ/promoter Tony Skratchere (part of New Orleans' Soundclash collective) with making the NOLA DMC event happen in the first place. "Tony Skratchere was just determined to bring it there and get the scene kicking. I remember when DJ Spin from Louisiana was the only person from that state battling in the late 90's," she told me, noting that, "Basically the DJs are taking the lead in all the cities and either becoming the promoters or finding promoters for us [at DMC]."
Taking a break from preparing last minute details for tomorrow's event, Tony Skratchere spoke with me earlier this afternoon. "It's NOLA's time to put our stamp on US DJ culture," proudly said the DJ. "I'm from a rural, deep southern Louisiana town. I've just always had a love affair with the city ever since my parents took me to the 1984 World's Fair," he said. "My girlfriend (DJ Beverly Skillz) and I moved here Post-Katrina. When we got to the city martial law was still in effect and there were curfews. It was a decision based on the fact that we felt like we could help the city rebuild. I actually worked construction for a while, and she was working at an architectural firm."
Arriving in New Orleans right after the 2005 hurricane, Skratchere saw beyond the devastation. "What I noticed once I got here was an overwhelming sense of unity, pride, and community," he said. "People were setting aside their petty differences, and began to be interested in building relationships. I was immediately accepted, and the city already had a role for me to fill." That role inevitably involved showcasing the local DJ culture and elevating it to the level it deserved. Clearly one with a passion for hip-hop and DJ culture and a reverence for NOLA, Skratchere made a point of name checking some of the city's talented DJs, "Guys like DJ Jubilee, DJ Jimi, and Mannie Fresh, who are extremely talented OGs, and DJ Blacknmild, Raj Smoove, EF Cuttin, Hektic, Ric Ducci, Damion Yancy, Force Feed Radio, DJ Spin, Proppa Bear, who are pushing the DJ game forward in the now."
"New Orleans has always had a sleeper DJ culture," continued Skratchere. "It's no secret amongst crate diggers that NOLA is one of the best cities for records, yet we aren't particularly known for our DJs. Melissa "Dj Soul Sister" Weber and Edward "Dj Maximillion" Maximillion (aka Ed Max) were my first real friends here. Each have an encyclopedic knowledge of records, and both are amazing multi-genre DJs. Bringing DMC to NOLA had as much to do with them as anything else."
Last year was the first year ever that New Orleans hosted a DMC battle and it was such a success, packing in 400 fans for the battle, that Skratchere and his fellow organizers were determined to repeat things with a DMC NOLA 2010. With the Big Easy's rich musical heritage it seems like the perfect fit, said Skratchere. "It's one of the greatest musical cities in the world. If anywhere in the US would understand and support DMC, New Orleans is that place."
Another entity that highlights NOLA's musical culture is the TV show Treme, the brand new HBO drama series created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer (makers of The Wire), which premiered with its pilot on Sunday night. Everyone around the country I know who saw it thought it was great and has all the makings of another must-see TV series, but I was curious as to what folks in NOLA thought.
"All my friends love Treme. It's an accurate portrayal of post-K NOLA. Although it's a fictional drama, the characters are based on real people and real events. I think its genius to set it in the recent past because of the real human drama we all experienced re-building this great city," said Skratchere, adding however, "My only criticism is they called Mardi Gras "carnival." No one says that. Mardi Gras literally refers to on day "Fat Tuesday," but we refer to the entire three week event as Mardi Gras. "Carnival" is in Brazil. Most everyone I love and respect in the city loved the Treme pilot. We have high hopes for the window to the world that it has created. Conversely, we universally hated K-Ville, but network TV rarely gets it right."
The NOLA DMC takes place tomorrow, Friday April 16th, at the Hookah Club 309 Decatur New Orleans, LA, 504.943.1101. Doors at 8pm. Show at 10:30pm. 18+. $15 in advance, $20 day of. If you RSVP before midnight tonight (Thursday) you can get on a $10 reduced list.
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Tony Skratchere shout outs: Lyrikill, Impulss, Truth Universal, Caligula, Prospek, Elespee, Caliobsrvr, SuperUgly, the Tygah Woods Crew, Randall Rosenberg, Know One, Able Chris, D.O.N. the Worker, KammsTheAce, Na'Tee, and Bomshell Boogie.