Final Round in 2019 DMC US Regional Battle Series, Exemplified High Level DJ Skills & Evolvement of Regionals in DMC History

Posted by Billyjam, June 19, 2019 08:13pm | Post a Comment

The final US 2019 DMC Regional DJ Battle in advance of the upcoming 2019 DMC US Finals, that was held recently in the Bay Area, exemplified two major points. First it demonstrated just how much the level of turntablism skills has steadily risen over the decades in the prestigious long running DJ battle organization that formed way back in the (pre-digital era) 1980's. Secondly the 2019 DMC Bay Area Regional, held at the Uptown in Oakland on May 26th (where the 2019 DMC US Scratch Finals were also held), spotlighted the progressive changes to the meaning of “Regional” DMC DJ battles; in an age when air travel has become relatively cheap and competitors are hungrier than ever for a chance to qualify for a coveted slot in the DMC US Finals; happening September 8th 2019 in Denver CO.

Traditionally limited to competitors from corresponding geographic regions, the modern era US DMC Regionals have a distinctly more national flavor as they routinely feature out of state competitors alongside local turntable talent.

This evolvement over the years has resulted in the annual nationwide DMC Regional battle series becoming essentially a series of national battles, albeit regionally held.  While this practice has some critics, most feel that it is a positive evolution in the annual DJ battle series. Those proponents insist that the recent era changing face of the DMC Regional has helped elevate US competitors’ skills and endurance. Thereby, they say, it ensures that the winner of the annual DMC US Finals will be highly skilled with a better chance at competing against DJs from around the globe. That final annual battle, the 2019 DMC World Championships, will be held on September 28th at Islington Assembly Hall in London, England. 

Before further discussing the face of the Regionals in 2019 (with insights from DJ Pone, DJ Quest, Ty Handswell and The Beat  Molester) let’s first review the two battles that took place in recent weeks in the Bay Area. Held once again at Oakland’s welcoming Uptown nightclub the dual battles (2019 DMC US Scratch Finals & 2019 Bay Area Regional DJ Battle) brought out in force many of the Bay Area hip-hop community both in the audience and onstage as judges.

These included, to name a few, longtime journalists Davey D, Adisa Banjoko and Eric Arnold, veteran radio DJ and ABB Records label founder Beni B, DJ Platurn, DJ Cue, DJ Marz, notorious US DMC champ and DJ for Beck/ Ministry etc DJ Swamp, Mista B (judging), DMC champ and former ISP member DJ 8-Ball, legendary DMC champion DJ Qbert as well as fellow Inviisibl Skratch Piklz member DJ Shortkut. The latter three were each judges while Shortkut additionally did an impressive showcase DJ set as part of the battle intermission entertainment. Similarly fellow judge DJ Quest and  DJ Teeko also graced the turntables with showcase sets. Meanwhile former DMC USA Champion DJ Traps did an extended killer/funky party-rocking set at the opening of the long entertaining night of competition-meets-concert where BAS-One was host of the night.

The 2019 DMC US Scratch Finals battle portion of the night, that consisted of two rounds, was unique [by digital era standards] in that only records and no DVS (Digital Vinyl System) or body tricks were utilized. They would be however in the other (Regional) battle of the night in which all styles of DJing were on display. Among the many records and vinyl battle tools used by DJs in the US Scratch battle included Cues Hip Hop Shop Vol 2 2LP and several classic Dirt Style battle records which was cool since DJ Qbert, who produced many of these battle DJ standards, was on stage looking on as one of the judges.

As it can often happen, during the scratch battle routines a couple of the DJs had the misfortune of their records skip on them. But they did what a trained professional does; not be distracted or give up but stay focused and simply forge ahead.

Among the fourteen DJs in the US Scratch battle, many of whom had also entered the Bay Area battle, were the impressive Skratchinator, DonDon, (J)Pope aka JP The Giver, Hijinx, LazyBoy, DJ Benny Contreras the Tapatio Turntablist, Lou $hort and DJ Prolifix. And it was the latter who would surprisingly take the title since, while he was real good in the first round, he waited until the second/final round (with eight DJs that round) to truly let loose and unveil his best jaw dropping turntable trickery. With the US Scratch Final title going to DJ Prolifix from LA, it was Lou $hort who came in second and DonDon in third place.

For the 2019 DMC Bay Area Regional battle, that featured two rounds, the judges included Shortkut, 8-Ball, Qbert, DJ Quest, Pone and myself. In round one first up was DJ Benny who had the distinction of opting out of use of any DVS technology; just old fashioned records, mixer and two turntables. For his routine Vallejo DJ J-Spades sprkinkled some West Coast flavor into his tight set; sort of a jackin for beats of West Coast records that ranged from Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” to Too $hort's “Blow The Whistle” (a song that would be heard again throughout night by different DJs, in addition to snippets of other hometown hero Too $hort songs).

James The Butcher Martinez came on next followed by DJ Xist from Simi Valley who, among a variety of styles, brought a refreshingly raw energy via hard beats and hard rock sound sources. Ty Handswell (Severn MD) juggled and manipulated Black Sheep’s classic “The Choice is Yours” while Inspekt (Waipahu HI) broke out some nice body tricks and, like others that night, incorporated some headbanging hard rock into his routine.

DJ LazyBoy, who is from Santa Rosa but claims Pacifica where he now lives, has honed an incredible style in his years of DJing; graduating from battle DJ to in-demand club party rocking DJ as well as on the radio (Q102 on Fridays). This well rounded background of LazyBoy's shone through in his slick routines that were distinctly musically structured; something that set him apart from most other competitors of the night. Further LazyBoy’s sharp sense of humor was on display right from the get-go when he opened his set with a sample of his voice saying “Hey guys I just entered the DMC so I could get in for free.” He then stopped still for a pause in what looked like he was about to just walk off as part of a funny prank. But instead, after waiting a couple of silent seconds, he got busy launching into an impressive routine.

AkikoLUV (from Pasadena CA who had placed third in the 2019 DMC Los Angeles Regional) opened by manipulating parts of the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps” followed by an entertaining routine that included the self-identifying trans DJ humorously working in subliminal and not so subliminal references to her identity by dropping in diss samples aimed at her competitors like Nicki Minajs “Did It On’em” track off 2010 album Pink Friday with the line “If I had a dick I would pull it out and piss on em.” 

Recent addition to the KMEL lineup and hailing from San Leandro DJ Solrac (Carlos spelled backwards) was up next with a routine that clearly impressed the Oakland crowd; especially his reworking of Too $hort “What’s my favorite word” acapella. Solrac also incorporated a lot of cool body tricks in his routine.

While in the first round of the Bay Area Regional contestants were limited to two minutes, those who advanced to the second/final round had six full minutes each; an extended time allowing DJs the opportunity to stretch out and flex all elements of turntablism.

like so many others that night, dropped a good chunk of hard rock in his routine along with various other styles and records including the 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny.” Inspekt worked in various styles from pop to metal in a set that utilized the effects on his mixer all the while working in some hard hitting tone sound effects.

Xist had a tight set too but LazyBoy’s impressive second round set also showed his comic-drama side by opening with main vocal part of the ballad “If you don’t know me by now” and followed up with a heavily chopped up montage that repeatedly featured his trademark sound effect “Lazy Boyeeee.”

After advancing into the second round AkikoLUV delivered a set rich with body tricks that was musically hard-rockin with raw scratching and a head-nodding, rhythmic sensibility. For his winning set TyHandswell did a no-frills (no added digital effects) straight ahead, beats and funk-driven, routine in which he flexed his multi-faceted DJ skills. Consequently the judges chose Ty Handswell as the 2019 DMC Bay Area DJ Battle winner with DJ LazyBoy coming in second and Dayvers in third place.

As winner of the 2019 DMC Bay Area Regional, who will go on to the upcoming late summer 2019 US DMC Finals to technically represent the Bay Area, Maryland DJ Ty Handswell is just one of several DJs in this year’s DMC US battle series to travel across state lines to win a Regional title. Another was The Beat Molester from Seattle who, a month previous to traveling to the Bay Area to partake in the US Scratch Finals, had flown from Seattle down to SoCal where he won the 2019 DMC LA Regional DJ Battle title. 

“I remember how back in the day most people competed in their respective regions. But now people are able to travel more,” explained Ty Handswell of the currently common phenomenon whereby it’s not uncommon for a DJ to fly across country or drive for hours to another state to compete for 2 to 6 minutes.

Another example was the 2019 DMC Cincinnati Regional Battle in Ohio on May 20th where the winner DJ Remedy had travelled in from Maryland. Meanwhile the second place competitor in that Ohio battle, DJ Philo, traveled in from Florida and the runner up, Fingersmith, from New York.

It is also not uncommon for the same DJs to compete in more than one US Regional battle. That's because DMC rules do not restrict such a practice. A DJ can enter any Regional battle and as often as they chose to do so. However the US DMC rules do insist that each contestant be a "US Citizen or have lived in the US for at least 6 yrs and can prove it."  Hence why two weeks previous to the Cincinnati battle, both Maryland’s DJ Remedy and New York’s DJ Fingersmith had each competed in the 2019 DMC NYC Regional, held May 6th at the Chelsea Music Hall. There they placed second and third respectively while the winner of that NYC DMC battle was DJ Steel from neighboring New Jersey.

So do DMC Regionals matter or mean the same thing like they used to back in previous decades? Are they the same or different from a previous era when it seemed all DJs hailed from the same region that they competed in? “While perhaps it does not matter the same way like it once used to….yeah a lot of guys travel to other Regionals….but there are a lot of DJs who still win in their respective regions like Dopez in Texas,” noted Maryland resident and new Bay Area Regional title holder Ty Handswell in reference to the 2019 DMC San Antonio Regional Battle. At that Texas battle, held at Paper Tiger on May 2nd, all three winners were from the Lone Star State; Dopez as well as runner up DJ Ivan G, and 13 year old K-Sprinkles who took third place.

Seattle, Washington DJ The Beat Molester, who will technically represent LA in the upcoming 2019 DMC US Finals, pointed out that sometimes it is out of necessity that DJs travel to out-of-town/state battles. “There was no Seattle DMC Regional this year,” said the DJ.  “There were only nine [US] Regionals this year. There used to be more of them than that,” added Ty Handswell further noting how some Regionals carry more weight than others. “The most notable Regionals are usually San Fran, LA and New York,” he said.  “So it was quite an experience for me to go out and battle in the Bay which is known for scratchers and where a lot of my main influencers are out there, two of the judges in fact - Shortkut and Mista B so kudos to those guys. I was super tired working the day before and flying out there and back but I probably put in more time practicing for this Regional than any other one.”

A judge at the Bay Area Regional, with a rich battle DJ history himself, DJ Pone weighed in on the topic stating that, “Regionals still matter, I think. Not everyone can travel. And also there tends to be Regional preferences in the judging which I think is good. It is good when there is a variety of Regional flavors in the US Finals.” The former battle DJ and founding member of North Bay turntablist crew the 89 Skratch Gangstaz further stressed how the "no-borders" contemporary era approach to Regionals forces competitive DJs to work even harder on their routines. “For any Regional competition, it is very tough these days with out of state DJs, who frequently come and win, also in the battles. I don’t think that is a bad thing necessarily. Sometimes certain areas have more DJ talent than others, so the real motivated battlers will travel when they don’t win their region. DC/Maryland/VA area is a good example right now,said Pone of the area where Ty Handswell comes from and where fellow Maryland DJ talent As One won the 2019 DMC Battle for US Supremacy while DJ Ragoza won the 2019 DMC DC Regional title back on April 6th”

Veteran San Francisco turntablist DJ Quest (Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters, Space Travelers, Live Human), who began his illustrious career as a talented teen in the 1980's as a battle DJ, has witnessed firsthand how the battle scene has progressed and morphed over the decades. A judge and a showcase performer at the recent Bay Area Regional DMC battle, he has mixed feelings on the current state of the Regionals.  “The guys who fly in from somewhere else likely came in second place back in their local Regional so they already have an advantage," said Quest. The veteran SF DJ added that, seeing how overall the talent level is so high, that to give those highly skilled DJs who place second or even third in Regionals another chance, "That maybe they can come up with another class within the DMC whereby all the runner ups, they’ve earned that right, are allowed to go to the Finals in say a new second place class or a third place class. It's something to consider."

Added DJ Pone of his NorCal home’s battle scene; “The Bay Area has a long DMC history of having some of the best battle DJs but most of the Bay Area battle veterans have retired. Currently the Bay battle scene, which does have some really strong competitive DJ such as LazyBoy, is not at the same level it once was. It’s in transition and the the high bar set by previous generations of Bay Area battle DJs is a tough one to match.”

So will Maryland DJ Ty Handswell, as winner of the recent Bay Area Regional, feel like he will be fully representing the Bay Area when he competes at the 2019 US Finals September 8th in Denver? “I definitely am going to represent for the Bay. I mean you represent for where you won in," replied  Ty Handswell adding,  “I won the Bay Area. I live in Maryland but I am from Atlanta. So I guess I am really representing for all of them.”

Relevant Tags

Isp (6), Mista B (16), Beck (19), Ministry (9), Dj Swamp (6), Paper Tiger (2), 2019 Dmc San Antonio Regional Battle (1), Dj Ivan G (1), Dj Dopez (1), K-sprinkles (1), Dj Benny Contreras The Tapatio Turntablist (1), Lazyboy (2), 2 Live Crew (3), Dayvers (1), (j)pope Aka Jp The Giver (1), Dj Xist (1), Hijinx (2), Inspekt (1), Dondon (1), Too $hort (46), Uptown Oakland (3), Skratchinator (1), Dr Dre (10), Akikoluv (1), J-spades (1), Tyhandswell (1), The Beat Molester (1), Dj Pone (5), Islington Assembly Hall (2), 2019 Dmc World Championships (1), Lou $hort Dj Prolifix (1), 2019 Dmc Us Scratch Finals (1), Fingersmith (1), 2019 Dmc Cincinnati Regional Battle (1), 2019 Bay Area Regional Dj Battle (1), Dj Remedy (1), Dj Philo (1), Abb Records (2), Davey D (4), Eric Arnold (4), Beni B (2), Dj Cue (18), Dj Platurn (47), Dj Qbert (20), Inviisibl Skratch Piklz (1), Dmc (53), Dj Marz (7), Dj Shortkut (14), Dj Quest (54), Dj Teeko (3), Dj Traps (13), Dj 8-ball (1)