USA DMC Champ DJ Traps @ DMC World DJ Championship Finals 2016 In London with Bay Area DJ Primed To Take New World Title

Posted by Billyjam, September 23, 2016 03:13pm | Post a Comment

Skilled Bay Area competitive turntable artist DJ Traps, who won last month's 2016 USA DMC Finals at the New Parish in Oakland (scroll down for full review), is now consequently over in London, England for tomorrow's big 2016 DMC World DJ Championship Finals. There he will represent the USA in the prestigious global DJ competition against the national champions from seventeen different countries including Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Brazil, Canada, and the hosting UK. Despite some stiff competition, Traps is considered a favorite. He possesses all the necessary qualities for winning the new DMC World title.

Another California DJ representing the USA, will be LA's Etronik who won the 2016 DMC US Supremacy Champion title. Also in from Cali will be the Invisibl Skratch Piklz' D-Styles, Shortkut, and Qbert. The Bay Area DJ trio will be doing a headlining performance of their new LP The 13th Floor,  like they did at Amoeba Berkeley recently. The Sept 24th day long (2pm - 11pm) event takes place at The Forum on Highgate Road in  Kentish Town where it will be hosted by Inja and Billy Biznizz. Among the day's many performers will be Killa Kela & The Spitkingdom Soundsystem, and ever creative UK DJ Woody who'll be previewing tracks off his upcoming album The Point Of Contact. Woody will also join DJ Fong Fong in teaching a DJ Workshop. Other hip-hop workshops will include a PopMaster Fabel curated one on popping and locking by the visiting Rocksteady Crew legend. More DMC World DJ Championship Finals info here and / or see flyers below.

DJ Traps' long trek this week over to London is something that he has visualized for a while, and patiently waited his turn for. Hardworking and humble, DJ Traps possesses both the stamina and mental strength required of a DMC World champion. Past World champions include such greats as Cash Money, Craze, A-Trak, Roc Raida, Shiftee, Vajra (Chris Karns), and Qbert as part of the Rocksteady DJs with Apollo and Mix Master Mike, and as the Dream Team duo with Mix Master Mike in '93 and '94. Before that in 1991 DJ Qbert had won the USA DMC Finals and traveled to London where he was beaten by DJ David from Germany (unfairly most agreed). In fact this weekend DJ Traps will be the first DJ from the Bay Area since Qbert all those years ago to rep the USA in the six minute solo category of the global DJ battle.

DJ Traps' slow but steady rise to this level dates back many years. From a young age, the Northern California DJ born Travis Carter has been committed, focused, and passionately dedicated to his beloved art form. As a battle DJ Traps has systematically defeated each obstacle that's crossed his path up to this point in time. He's entered many battles, including ones he didn't place in like the DMC Miami Regional battle back in 2012. What others might look at as setbacks, DJ Traps views merely as challenges and lessons to be learned.

DJ Traps routine for Beat Junkies filmed earlier this year as part of the "Watch The Sound" series.
Video courtesy of Rommel RomeDigs Reyes

Years of endless hours of practicing have helped Traps hone an arsenal of pitch-perfect DJ battle skills to draw from in the battle setting. To compliment these he has a natural sense of rhythm and musicality. And he commands the necessary level of self-confidence required of a battle DJ to have advanced this far. More importantly Traps possesses a zen like philosophy toward competition: he focuses just on doing the best job he can, and is fully accepting of whatever flow the universe might take. Win or lose, he learns and grows. This was proven by his gracious behavior at the recent, contentious 2016 USA DMC Finals on August 28th in which initially it was erroneously announced that he was a runner up, and not the rightful winner of the national DJ battle.

Due to a final miscalculation of all the ballot points added up of all the entries, right as the New Parish show was coming to a hurried 9pm sharp ending to make way for the next show, somehow the total points tallied were wrong. Inadvertently the top three were added out of sequence. That miscalculation, which was caught and rectified by early the next morning, resulted in it been announced onstage at the end of the battle that DJ Traps placed third in the battle he had actually won. Most impressive was how maturely he behaved, and how he took it all in his laid back stride. No doubt in his mind this was another one of those life lessons. Back in 2013, when he entered his first US DMC Finals after winning that year's San Francisco Regional DMC, he placed fourth in that US Finals  in NYC.  In the three years since he never faltered toward working at getting back into the battle and toward his goal of winning. This he has done even though his young family, with his partner DJ Deeandroid, has grown. The DJ couple now have two young daughters (ages 2 and 5) to raise on top of all their other commitments.

At the end of the night at last month's USA DMC Finals when the the top three winners were announced many in the house were sure that Traps would have won. But DJ battle results can often be what you don't expect. Impressive at the battle's end, when it was announced that he placed third, was how gracefully Traps responded to that announcement: one that would have disappointed many who might have found it hard to hide their upset. But Traps was grateful and graceful and smiling widely in accepting his third place prize. Holding his two year old daughter Aliya in his arms, he cheerfully walked onstage as runner up in a battle that he had actually won. Minutes later off stage he said he fully accepted & respected the judges' decision. More importantly to him was that he felt "satisfied" with the  routine he had just done.

As for the unfortunate mix-up in the battle results announced, the DJ himself  took it more in stride than those around him. The following morning, after it was announced that he was the actual winner, one of his five sisters took to social media to express her feelings. "The true 1st place winner never received their moment in the spotlight to accept the awards and praise they unselfishly deserved," she noted of her only brother. "He rightfully won based on actual scores and he's worked hard for it for many years. Being a DJ is his life, and I believe being a DJ has saved his life. The attention and focus on the miscalculation of scores has overshadowed the discipline and dedication my brother has given to his music for the last 20 years." Indeed!  And as such the Bay Area DJ, who travelled 6,000 miles yesterday from SFO to Heathrow (as noted on his Facebook page), is primed to win the 2016 DMC World Championship title!

On Wednesday this week, the day before flying out to Europe to battle, I caught up with Traps on the phone. He was busy folding socks and packing for his upcoming trip, as well as taking care of his two young daughters while Dee was out at work. Later that night he planned on fitting in one final practice session on his home DJ set up.
The DJ also reiterated how the initial incorrect result at the USA DMC finals  four weeks ago was actually a blessing and "a test." "I had told myself beforehand to accept whatever the outcome might be because it was out of my control. And just to do my set and do the best I could. It was a test, a test that worked out!" That mindset will accompany him at this weekend's international DJ battle. "As far as London, I am just gonna keep the same attitude of just doing what I do, and accepting whatever the results might be, no expectations. " But he noted that he does practice visualization. "I visualize that I will win. I even picture myself walking away with those prizes," he laughed. And as for how he feels about his competition? "From what I've seen the level out there is really high and on the technical side [so I'm] just gonna bring my own flavor to the event and see."

Among the competitors that he rates highly are Canada's Brace and New Zealand's DJ Ruse. "They're both pretty good, but overall the level is very high this year. It is high all over, unlike say in '99 when the US was far ahead. I think now a lot has to do with DVS been introduced." Has he been practicing a lot over the past four weeks since winning the US title? "I still have to be dad, so time is very limited when you got other lives counting on you. I practice as much as I can: a good hour in the day and then when the kids go asleep at nighttime maybe another two hours." However having the restraints of the demands of being a parent of young kids also has some advantages. "If I can practice through all the chaos at home with two young kids, then performing in front of strangers is not a problem," he chuckled. At the DMC US Finals in August he traded stories with fellow parent, DJ Ambideckstriks from Chicago. "It was comforting to hear someone else who says he experiences the same things, being a parent and battle DJ!" While his two kids and their mom DJ Deeandroid will not be traveling over to the UK this weekend, they will be there in spirit.  "But my mom just bought a ticket this week and one of my sisters on the East Coast is going over to London too," he said.

The 2016 USA DMC Finals at the New Parish in Oakland four weekends ago was the first USA DMC Finals to be held in the Bay Area in a decade and a half. The end results were DJ Traps taking the title, with NY DJ Perly and Ohio's DJ Spare Change placing second and third respectively. It was an amazing battle with top level skills displayed by all of the twelve US competitors.  The skill level and the accompanying enthusiasm confirmed that the art of the battle DJ is indeed enjoying a renaissance right now. Also noteworthy was that a woman DJ placed higher than ever before in this traditionally male dominated arena. DJ Perly's performance matched the high levels of her male counterparts. "This is the best DMC US Finals in years!," exclaimed DJ Snayk Eyez of the heated battle that featured lots of body tricks and good humored battle dissing. Fellow judge, 3 time DMC World champ DJ Craze (and showcase performer) was equally impressed by this new wave of DMC battle DJs.

Looking down from the vantage point of the balcony directly above the New Parish stage, the judges had a bird's eye view of each contestant's action-filled, six-minute routine. The other judges at this "Olympics of DJing" event included Apollo (who did a killer party rockin set), 8-Ball, Pone, Pos Red, Golden Chyld, Esquire, Cue, Quest, Mista B and yours truly. As judges the task was to choose only the top three out of the twelve six minute routines of the tightly paced event that was hosted by Toquon Tha MC. The criteria to evaluate performances included evaluating routines based on scratching and beat juggling skills, overall stage presence, as well as attention to composition, creativity, technicality and musicality. 

Some longtime followers of DMC battles have stated that today's advanced technology [IE: DVS - digital vinyl system - generated sounds via sample and beat filled laptops, and mixers like the Rane Sixty-Two which is a virtual mobile studio with endless effects] have made it way easier to be a DMC battle DJ in 2016. That point of view contrasts today's battles with the fledgling 80's era when a DMC competitor relied on a most basic, simple Realistic type mixer, two belt driven Technics turntables, and a piled high stack of records to continually work through for the next needed beat or battle sound sample. At last month's national DMC competition, veteran battle DJs 8-Ball and Quest each noted how, regardless of the technology or the decade, it all comes down to the skill of the individual DJ. Technology does not automatically make one a champion DJ: hours of dedicated daily practicing do!

Just like in the 80's and much of the 90's, when the technology was relatively primitive, today's battle DJ similarly has to invest endless hours of honing his/her craft.  "I put in four or five hours a day of practicing every day, even when I am not getting ready for a battle," confided veteran contestant DJ J-Storm (a father of three) before the US Finals battle began. The Tampa, Florida DJ champion's DMC history dates all the way back to the 2000 US Finals when he faced off against Snayk Eyez and others in the big DJ battle. Allies crew DJ Klever won that year in the filmed event that would be featured in the Doug Pray movie Scratch. To add up all the average DJ's hours of practicing accumulated over the years, that's a hell of a lot of time and love for something that rarely results in any dividends. Some DJs battle for a long time, others for a limited time. The Bay Area's DJ Pone (like Snayk Eyez, formerly part of the 89 Skratch Gangstaz), stopped battling for good after the 2001 DMC Bay Regional (Golden Chyld won that battle). "It's too time intensive. You have to dedicate so much time to be a battle DJ and to get to this point to make it to the USA Finals. It's a very serious undertaking," stressed the former battle DJ. 

Repeated daily hours of practicing for their 6 minutes (360 seconds) routine in battle, results in DJs having perfected the timing of their battle routines to the exact second, literally. At the USA Finals competitors finished exactly on the closely monitored 360 second mark. Denver CO's DJ Shake One finished 8 seconds early, prompting host Toquon to joke that with that unused time he could have fitted in "a couple of more scratches." During Shake One's entertaining set he took full advantage of all the sample pads on the Rane Sixty-Two model mixer, triggering an endless array of samples: most to diss his competitors. The majority of the other DJs at last month's US Finals also took advantage of DVS technology's immediacy: being able to grab any sound file sample via laptop right up to moments before the battle begins.. That modern feature makes a huge difference in comparison to the old traditional way of pressing up individually produced battle records that could take at least a couple of months to get made. DJ JayCee from Atlanta, Etcha Skratch from Littleton Colorado, DC champ DJ As-One from Rockville, MD, Cincinnati champ DJ EASE from Las Vegas, Chicago's Toltech and Ambideckstriks (the San Antonio 2016 DMC champ), and LA's DJ Shmeeze were among the twelve in battle at the New Parish late last month.

All USA contestants did amazing routines including Denver champ Etcha Skratch whose hardcore scratching routine ended with speeded-up ultra fast beats with frantic paced cutting on top, and JayCee who, following a quick switch of mixers, jumped into a killer set off of 10" records that employed lots of funky breaks and displayed beat juggling and other well honed skills of the ATL champ. Although he ended up placing in the talent filled competition, Dayton Ohio DJ Spare Change was a late invite. He was the Cincinnati DMC runner up to DJ Ease. His crowd pleasing moves included dropping in the "But I am still thirsty" sample from Arrested Development's "Tennessee" followed by him using a thirst quenching soda can to work the cross fader for part of his spell-binding routine that would place him third in the battle, placing right after DJ Perly.

The only female competitor out of the twelve in the 2016 USA Finals, and the first woman to make it to the nationals since Kuttin Kandi in 1998 and an opportunity to make history by being the first to win the USA title, DJ Perly delivered an incredible and unique set as a turntablist of any gender. Sporting a DJ AM t-shirt, and exuding confidence and a commanding stage presence to back her multitude of skills, the NY DMC Regional champ unveiled an entertaining and refreshingly different six minute routine that included lots of Latin flavor from the Puerto Rican and proud turntablist. Impressive body tricks behind her back and under legs,  complimented her non-stop display of talent that was a clear crowd favorite, especially with the women in the full house. As accurately noted in an excellent editorial posted the week of the battle by former female battle DJ Kuttin Kandi, the fact that a woman had a chance of breaking through the glass ceiling and of winning a USA title for the first time ever was historic. But even more profound is the positive direct impact on other women in the male dominated field of battle DJing that a woman competitor can have.

As Kuttin Kandi wrote of her experiences as the sole female 18 years previously, "It really wasn’t what my DJ colleagues or what the DMC had to say about me competing that made me realize what was taking place.  It was the look on womxn’s faces when I walked into the room.  It was their head nods, it was in their smile, it was that hug of congratulations for just getting this far… it was that camaraderie that defied all myths that 'womxn can’t get along'!" The overriding positive vibe in the house toward Perly was undeniable. "From the beginning everybody wanted her to win," later commented photographer James Mak on his takeaway from the battle. That attitude perhaps was why no one seemed to question the initial announced erroneous results that placed the female DJ as number one, not two.  Note that, due to the confusion and upset caused by the incorrect result being announced, next year DJ Perly will bypass her Regional and automatically advance to the 2017 DMC USA Finals.

The overall caliber at this year's US finals was high with each competing DJ coming correct, excelling in their individually unique routines.  But the highest rated contestant and winner chosen by the judges at the New Parish, it transpired, would be DJ Traps. His routine killed it. To loud cheers from the hometown audience, he unveiled a flawless superswift six minute presentation of turntable mastery over a tightly paced backdrop of shifting beats. Making it look easy, he effortlessly unfurled an endless array of impressive techniques. At one point he worked in an under the arm body trick. At another point dropped in a battle sample of the recognizable voice of Bay Area emcee Bas-One. Throughout his routine Traps earned loud screams of approval from the packed New Parish audience that included his immediate family, Deandroid and their two kids, up front at the all ages event.

Traps finally making it to London follows years of hard work and perseverance. Like his sister pointed out, being a DJ is his life. Another sister, along with his mom, will be showing their support at tomorrow's big battle over in England. No doubt Qbert, Shortkut, and D-Styles will also be cheering him on. Before the battle this weekend Traps said that he will get in some practice time, and get in some alone time. "There will be a green room with turntables set up, so I will be able to get in some practicing."  He added how, "I usually pray right before a routine. And I like to be alone. I might go outside to smoke a cigarette alone. I have to be in my own lil space, to stay focused in my own mind." Good luck DJ Traps!

Relevant Tags

Dj Spare Change (2), Dj Brace (1), Dj Ruse (1), Dj Perly (3), Shortkut (19), Dj Traps (13), Christie Z Pabon (30), Dj Pone (5), New Parish (3), D-styles (12), 2016 Usa Dmc Finals (1), James Mak (8), Qbert (22), Ignacio Soltero (4), Dj J Storm (1), Dj Deeandroid (2), Skratchpad (14), 2016 Dmc Usa Finals (1), 2016 Dmc World Championships (1), Tony Prince (3)