When you think of DJ competitions, the first image that comes to mind is probably the battle from Ernest Dickerson's 1992 classic, Juice, featuring a young Omar Epps chopping up Big Daddy Kane's "Nuff Respect."
Last night, the Red Bull Thre3Style went down at D.C.'s newly-renovated Howard Theatre, and the energy in the building brought back the essence of the '90s as eight DJs faced off for bragging rights and the chance to represent the east coast in the National Finals this summer in Orlando, Fla.
Sponsored by Red Bull DC, Rock Creek Social Club, DC to BC, and SHAM, the battle gave each contestant 15 minutes to ignite the crowd with three different genres of music. Each DJ was judged on selection, skill, stage presence and crowd reaction. Howard University alum Jabari was the host for the evening, keeping the crowd active while DJ Geometrix, DJ Alizay, DJ Trayze, PHLIPZ, DJ Tech, Spinser Tracy, KC of The Fatback DJ's, and Amen Ra each did their thing.
After DJ Spicoli warmed the crowd up, DJ Tech kicked the battle off properly. Amen Ra kept things interesting by tossing blow-up flamingos into the crowd and dancing to Rihanna's "Where Have You Been." He raised eyebrows by closing his set with a few jabs at the other seven competitors. While surprising, this was no Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue scenario, as it was all in the spirit of competition.
After jumping his set off with Rare Essence's Go-Go classic "Overnight Scenario," Spinser Tracy had the whole building rockin' along with him by the time he spun NWA's "Express Yourself." Just when he had the crowd in the palm of his hands, he dropped Future's "Same Damn Time" and hopped into the madness to party with them—crowd participation squared. The legendary DJ Alizay had everyone in love with him after opening with Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." He almost started a riot with A$AP Rocky's "Goldie," but left the crowd in awe when he blended Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" with Wale's "Slight Work."
Each participant showed out, but only three would be selected to advance to the finals. When the smoke cleared, DJ Alizay came in third, DJ Trayze was the runner up after a killer, crowd-pleasing set, and a shocked Spinser Tracy was victorious. With less than three years of experience in the DJ booth, he offered the most genuine response to his win: "How the FUCK did I win this shit?" Gotta love that honesty.
Singer Mayer Hawthorne, who was also one of the event's judges, transformed into DJ Haircut and wrapped up the event with a live set. Fittingly, the Michigan native had folks dancing the night away to Motown classics, including plenty of Marvin Gaye hits.
Considering that the competition went down in Gaye's hometown, it was only right. Respect the DJ.
Written by Julian Kimble (@JRK316).