Once I found out I was going to be in the NC edition of Red Bull’s Thre3style battle I was immediately hit with pressure. I typically don’t consider myself a battle/competitor so I knew I had to start preparing myself mentally. I knew I had to represent my name and my crew, and also do my best to try and take home a win so that DJ Mensa wouldn’t disown me!
All things considered, from notification of entry until the actual battle was a short period of time (approximately three weeks) so I started jotting down ideas into my to-do list from the jump. I kept some, scrapped a lot, and somehow managed to put together a fifteen minute set. For me, doing this battle was difficult. Compressing your knowledge of music and showcasing your ability to rock a party in fifteen minutes is no easy task, especially considering you will be judged by established party rockers and DJ legends.
People have been asking me what my process was when putting my set together. I sketched out some thoughts ahead of time, but I really didn’t lock in until the week before the battle. I spent a lot of time in my studio room going back and forth with some ideas and mapped everything out as I added and subtracted on a dry erase whiteboard (if you needed further evidence that I’m a nerd, here you go):
Truthfully, I still didn’t think I was ready the day of the event. I probably could have practiced for a month straight and not been ready to be honest with you. I’m too much of a perfectionist and I’m never really satisfied with the things I do. So the day of the event was torture for me, especially because I had a 2.5 hour drive to Charlotte where my mind was able to wander and think about possible changes to my set (I actually did make 1 change that I finalized in the hotel room later RIGHT before the event). Speaking of the hotel room, huge thanks to Red Bull for putting us up in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever been in, ALOFT at the epicentre.
OK I’m getting long-winded because I’m drinking coffee and I’m wired. Let’s get to the reason you probably clicked to read this entry: the battle itself!
We had soundcheck at the venue at around 4 pm, where we were able to meet each other and test out the equipment to make sure it was working. After that we headed out for dinner, and then back to the club around 8 pm. For the first hour the doors were open, DJ Supaskip played a video set to warm up the crowd. To me it was apparent the crowd was HEAVY on some hip-hop iddish (jazzy jeff was headlining, what else would you expect!). 9pm arrives and it’s time for us to begin the event. DJ R-Wonz went up first (we had drawn our order from a hat earlier in the evening, I got number six). First is a TOUGH spot to have because the crowd hasn’t fully arrived yet. It’s kind of a double-edged sword though because you can play anything you want and not get penalized (you lost points for repeating tracks another DJ has already played). I stayed close to the stage the whole night because I wanted to make sure I didn’t hear anything from my set and didn’t need to adjust last minute. I was getting increasingly nervous as the time drew closer for my spot, and had to keep telling myself to breathe (I probably have the WORST nervous system of anyone I know, it’s definitely one of my character flaws). My other raleigh homies, SPCLGST and Merlin, had already gone on, so I was the last to represent for Raleigh (more pressure!).
Luckily I was able to capture my entire set on video, thanks to Kam! So here’s my set. In the interest of disclosure, I have to admit I’m not entirely happy with this set. My acapella sections were off, and I started some things in the wrong area, and I forgot to loop a couple of things. That’s the penalty of being nervous + getting a little too excited. Once I do the miami recap you’ll see I cleaned it up a bit though. Anyway, heeeeeeeeere we go:
That fifteen minutes FLIES by when you’re on stage. You want to talk about pressure? Let’s talk about 500 people staring right at you, collectively thinking “ok. do something.” — that’s pressure. Also, I wasn’t too happy about the sound issues during my set, especially during what was supposed to be the hypest part, but what can you do?
The response I got at the end of the night was amazing. Walking through the crowd I had complete strangers stopping me to tell me that they enjoyed my set. Even if I didn’t win that was enough for me, plus two of the DJs I’ve come up under since I started, DJ Skillz + DJ MC, told me they were proud of me, that, again, was enough for me. Just prior to the announcement of the winners, I was able to get a picture with Jazzy Jeff, who told me “good shit, man”. REALLY HAD TO RESIST THE URGE TO BE LIKE “HELLLLLL YEAHHHHHHHH”. But I maintained my senses
Just after this they announced the winners who would be moving on to the regional battle in Miami. They announced DJ Merlin and DJ Forge, and I felt this wave of relief come over me. I can’t really explain my emotions at this moment, but it was a mix of happiness, pride, and the realization that putting my mind to something can yield a good outcome. After the announcement we were all whisked backstage for our prizes and interviews and all the stuff that makes me even more uncomfortable (despite what it may look like, I don’t like talking about myself!). But after that came the best part of the night as we were treated to an hour and a half of DJ Jazzy Jeff on the decks + Skillz rocking the MC position. Jeff showed all the DJs in the room why he’s the magnificent, and personally I quit DJing a few times during his set. If you ever get the opportunity to see him live, DO IT (I have some video, but out of respect I won’t be posting any of it. You just had to be there.)
All in all it was an outstanding night. At the end of this post you’ll find a photo gallery of the night that you can click through. Before that though I have to send a extra hi-five to fellow Jukebox Heroes member DJ A-Minor who entered the battle last minute (another competitor fell sick and wasn’t able to compete). A-Minor was not able to prepare a set but still held his own. In fact he was hand selected by Scott Speed that night to DJ at some upcoming NASCAR races, and he was featured on SPEED tv for his accomplishments. Salute!
Also, here’s a GREAT, unbiased review of the show by Mike McCray of Creative Loafing. Thanks for the kind words!
Once again, HUGE HUGE HUGE THANKS TO EVERYONE THAT CAME OUT AND SUPPORTED ME THAT NIGHT. IF I DIDN’T HAVE PEOPLE IN THE CROWD CHEERING, I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO IT. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
I’ll put up the Miami recap next week. Gonna be busy until then: This friday and saturday I return to Butter in charlotte, then Sunday I’m off to Mexico for vacation/my birthday. Stay Tuned!