Today and tomorrow (Oct 6th & 7th) one of the most important events in hip-hop and DJ culture takes place in London: the 2011 DMC World DJ Championships at the 02 Arena's Indig02 in which the top hip-hop battle DJs from 21 countries (reppin' the USA is DJ Vajra - full DJ battle details above) battle it out in this Turntablist World Cup in three major battle categories: DMC World Final, DMC Battle for World Supremacy, and DMC World Team. Additionally this two day scratch DJ event will present a bunch of great showcases including ones by last year's DMC World Champ DJ Ligone from France, the 2003 Supremacy Champ DJ Tigerstyle, three time DMC World Supremacy Champ DJ Switch (who'll perform the piece: Concerto for Turntables), plus an anticipated triple threat set from the revered X-ecutioners' Total Eclipse, DJ Precision, & Rob Swift.
This year's DMC battle comes at a time when turntablism or skratch music seems to be on a comeback in popularity on a global level. It's always been popular but after its honeymoon with the mainstream in the late nineties it seemed somewhat dormant (in actuality it had just gone underground). But lately there's been a noticeable increased interest in DJ battles like the DMC and turntablist events like Ireland's annual Community Skratch Games of the past few years or the recent Thud Rumble presentedFader Fest in San Francisco with the reunited Invisibl Skratch Piklz as trio (QBert, D-Styles, Shortkut) and showcases from the likes of US DMC representative DJ Vajra. There seems to be a flurry of new turntablist releases lately too including ones from DJ ALF, Teeko, DJ Needlz, ThatKidNamedCee, Jimmy the Hideous Penguin, and DJ Quest who is about to release this month his latest turntablist album Cosmic Parasite (a collaborative effort with the two former bandmates from his original DJ crew Bullet Proof Scratch Hamster (BPSH) - DJ Cue and Eddie Def).
Longtime San Francisco DJ Quest, whose legendary BPSH crew have the distinction of releasing the first DJ battle record (Hamster Breaks), is among those who has opinions on the DMC in 2011, its role in skratch music, and its evolvement alongside technology's advances. Quest is among those who have strong opinions on the DMC now allowing the use of DVS like Serato (who along with Rane are the DMC's main sponsors). Quest calls it, "A bit of a mess now that you have the DMC allowing people to use Serato in the same category as DJs who are not using it." He compares it to the use of steroids in baseball. "If you look at baseball; if you are using steroids you're not able to compete at all. But If there was a baseball league that was all steroids, then let them do go for it. Let them use steroids, and see how far they can go," proposed Quest. "But you also have a division for the original non-steroid baseball players. You need to separate the two. It's like in 1992 when they, the DMC, first allowed teams to compete against one individual. It wasn't fair for all." As far as the DMC branching out to have video DJ battles Quest approves. "I like the concept of been able to enter with a video. That's a step forward," he said.
Two time (1997 & 2008) USA DMC DJ champ DJ Slyce is another person with opinions on the ever-evolving DMC battleground and its rules. "Sally [McLintock - the World DMC DJ Championships Events Manager] made sure Serato was allowed and was able to keep things fair for all the DJ's involved. I wouldnt want her job though: it's so complicated trying to make the rules for Serato, DVS equipment, online battles. Trying to catch up to what DJ's want to use in their sets are crazy," said DJ Slyce, adding. "Although I do get a lil brokenhearted when DJ's will stop actually doing the zigga zigga with their hands and just push buttons. The last thing I want to see get obsolete is the 1200. Real problem is that the creativeness can expand exponentially depending on its exposure, and trying to catch up to that is rough for everyone involved. DMC has to allow more equipment. Other DJ's have to learn it!"
DJ Slyce also has theories on such things as the role of beat juggling in the DMC, from an international perspective. "I think that US Battle DJ's don't want to juggle in the World/Euro style using electro music. From the US Battle DJ's that Ive seen and run into in the last few years, they want to stay hip-hop, and dont want to try music that deviates too far away from that," said DJ Slyce. "The Europeans never had a problem trying crazy shit. The problem with hip-hop now is that there isn't much new hip-hop that's good juggle material. So those that are sticking with it are having a hard time finding good new material. Of course "good material" is subjective, especially coming from me, a relatively old guy that generally doesn't use too much hip hop in his sets to begin with."
DJ Slyce contends that, "Most US DJ's never wanted to use custom records like the Europeans because they thought it was cheating. Guys really got hung up on the idea of using only the original records, and switching records as a part of the skill, which seemed silly to me. But DJ'ing is like anything else where people want to stick to what they know for the rest of their days. They don't care if they fall behind the environment. When I was 16 in 1989, DJ's were just starting to beat juggle. A lot of DJ's then didn't want to learn beat juggling. They just wanted to keep ping-ponging records with body tricks. Now that Serato is in play and DJ's are taking advantage of it, the game will get more interesting. Problem is [that] the producers will prevail here and DJ's that don't want to learn how to use editing programs will be the ones to fall behind. What's crazy is DJ Shiftee won the World Showcase battle and didn't use that Euro Lejad sound. He was completely different! But then the next year, the next champ went right back to Lejad. They really like that sound over there," said Slyce quickly adding that, "I actually like the sound, but it is kinda wearing out its welcome."
On the question of why DMC World champ contestants mostly scratch and don't juggle as much, DJ Slyce contends that, "It's just a follow the leader sort of deal. When Netik won the Worlds it was mostly cuts, using electro music, and everyone followed suit. Most of the battle DJ's just want to practice scratching for the most part anyway. And that is reflected in their routines. Practicing scratches is pretty easy. You do a flare over and over, faster and faster, until you get it to the speed you want. Then you move onto the next flare or whatever. And then you learn to combine them. Theres some pretty dope scratch combos, but everyone can do it. For some reason, cats just fall short outside the US. I'm hoping juggles dont get totally phased out in the World stage. The US DJ's concentrate more on juggles which to me is a good thing to hold on to. But to many DJ's abroad, it is probably a thing of the past like body tricks.
Thank goodness DJ's started mixing cuts into their juggles which revived juggling pretty good. I was actually motivated to start making juggles to compete again after seeing DJ Unkut's Gorilla Porn routine for the online DMC battle. Juggling is like producing music, not everyone can do it. And those that can do it, only 10% of them make really good juggle routines. I dont even know if I'm in that 10% anymore. Guess it depends on who you ask. Depends? I'm old? Get it? Ugh."
DJ Slyce is among several folks interviewed, that include DMC USA Event Coordinator Christie Z Pabon, for the follow up skratch/turntablist Amoeblog, to be published tomorrow, Friday. The DMC World Championships happen today Thursday Oct. 6: 5.30pm – 11.30pm and tomorrow Friday: Oct. 7: 7pm – 11.30pm at the 02 Arena's Indig02, Peninsula Square, Greenwich, London England SE10 0AX. Nearest tube/subway stop is North Greenwich - Zone 2 (Jubilee Line) 2 Day Ticket £25, 1 Day Ticket £15. More info here.