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Entries in Review (8)

Wednesday
Oct112017

DMC World DJ Championship Final 2017

Twenty-seventeen was the 32nd year of the infamous DMC World DJ Championships, and my third year in a row attending the final. It rolled around at a strange time in my life, I had just packed my bags ready to leave London for good and return home to Australia. My practical mind was telling me no but my musical heart got the better of me.

This year saw a change in venue for the championships, moving from the Forum in Kentish Town just down the road to KOKO Camden.

Luckily the organisers hadn't lost the vibe of the day in the venue relocation. The DMC's have become somewhat of a pilgrimage for lovers of hip hop culture and as I enter the multi-tier theatre the now familiar items that make up this great day are still present. Thumping hip hop comes from the warm up DJ, kids in hoodies chat best gigs with older kids in snap backs, judges mix in with fans, dudes pay for beers with loose change, gold plated prizes take centre stage, baggy tees and slip mats are on sale at the merch stand.

17 DJs’ from all corners of the globe had flown in to compete. After setting in to a prime balcony spot with my mates the MC's on stage remind us that everyone we were about to see is already a champ for winning their own national comps. Ahh, I think this is going to be a great break from seriousness on a Sunday evening, 'Yeah I'll have another beer.

The USA entrant DJ Perly is up first, unbelievably the first female DJ to make it to the finals. For any newcomers or sceptics in the crowd, this set showed just what the DMC's are about. Perly delivered a solid six minute set, and to my untrained eyes and ears a pretty technically sound one at that. Already I'm thinking this will be hard to beat! 

Next up was the New Zealand entrant DJ Gooda who was a tad jittery at the start but his set was full of fun so the crowd got on side. Featuring old tracks from all genres and the first 'trick' of the evening - pressing the middle of his back onto the record to hold it just before the beat dropped. But full points from our section of the audience when he whipped out an actual basketball and proceeded to spin it on one finger, all while beat juggling 'Skee-lo - I wish.’ Sorry USA, maybe next year… 

The DJs' keep coming, and this competition is seriously the highlight of a full day event. 

I'm sorry to say that Australian entrant DJ Osyris just wasn't quite up to scratch (ha get it). His set, along with Brazil and Denmark just seemed like nothing new, a bit too safe for a world final. Some decent tracks and a lot of beat juggling but no real wow moments. Have we already seen the winner? 

French DJ Skillz was up next and as my friend said at the time 'fast movement is so much more impressive when it sounds this good.’ He was right! After a few intense scratches and beat juggles from the guys before him, Skillz just seemed to have that bit extra. He stood at the perfect height for the decks. Moved easy from mixer to vinyl and back again, a bit like a cat. He also whipped out a back hold move. 

DJ Spell has been a favourite of mine since I first caught him live in 2015. Already taking out the online championship for this year, he gained an automatic entry into the world final. I think it's his music selection and enthusiasm that makes him stand out, and I was excited to see what he had in store. The six minutes delivers again with tracks like 'Dr Funkenstein' and xx. But this time it's the tricks that get everyone talking. The MC gave us a little heads up before the set to 'watch the screens' and as we see an overhead view I can see a pen blu-tacced to a filter nob. He also holds up a 7inch record to the crowd before blu-taccing this to another filter, and yep he's just created a new instrument, scratching the 7inch like it was any other vinyl while moving the pen on the filter like a fader. You've got to see it for yourself.

Japan's DJ Rena was the final DJ of the day, have they saved the best until last? Starting his set with funky cold medina, it doesn't take Rena long to win over the crowd. He shows some incredible skills, moving the fader quicker than any other DJ I've seen. Thankfully the accuracy is there as well, and this set is as much a feast for the ears as it is visually entertaining. Not to be outdone by his older peers (Rena is just 12-years-old), he throws in some tricks like mixing his back and using the turntables speed control to create a new beat. This kid must have known he did well as he finishes the set by walking out in front of the decks to soak up the roar from the crowd. Will it be Japan crowned champions for the second year in a row? Judge for yourself below

While the judges compiled their results we were treated to a rare performance from London Posse along with a special tribute to DJ Daredevil from eight UK turntablists. 

While the tribute was fantastic - always great to see multiple DJs working together to form one sound, I do find it a bit strange that the finals were not the headliner today! Everything they bring sounds so fresh and the DJs' who entered are doing all they can to keep the crowd hyped. I guess it's just a necessity to fill in some time before the results, but London Posse didn't add much value for me. 

It's finally results time and at the end of the day it was 12 year old DJ Rena from Japan who took home the title, a well deserved win and probably the first of many for this young DJ! See the full list of results below, and don't forget to get out and support your local dmc comps in 2018!


Friday
Oct072016

DMC World DJ Championship Finals 2016 Review


The DMC World DJ Championship Finals is an annual event showcasing the most talented DJ's in the game. Although there are no real restrictions to genre, the event has become something of a holy land for fans of hip hop, including myself. In the months leading up to the event I kept a close eye on the announcements and was excited to find that the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (feat. DJ's Q-Bert, Shortkut and D-Styles) would be headlining in 2016!

I recall watching a documentary about scratching and turntablism in my youth and seeing a guy called Q-Bert interviewed. He had a turntable fitted to the middle console of his car so he could scratch records wherever he went. Although a little concerning that he spoke of channelling conversations with aliens when he put the needle to the vinyl, the documentary intrigued me and I've followed turntablism ever since. Q-Bert is a past winner of the DMC World DJ Championship and a true legend of the art, I couldn't wait to see him live with the Piklz. 

But first, I had a whole day of competition, guest performances and workshops!

WORKSHOPS

Having studied the program ahead of time, I arrived at the Forum in Kentish Town around 4pm and joined the workshops taking place upstairs. Popmaster Fabel of the Rock Steady Crew was back for another year, trying his best to turn some young (and not so young) hopefuls into fully fledged B-Boys and B-Girls with the popping and locking workshop. The workshops are definitely an integral part of the day, and watching the crowd get involved I felt that they are an important part of the whole hip hop scene. Handing down knowledge and skills to the next generation so that they can build on it and progress the genre.

My attempt at beatboxing probably didn't do the genre any favours however! Yep, the beatbox workshop was next, hosted by the beatbox collective. It was great to see these guys up close and they intertwined lessons and tips with full-blown performance. After teaching the whole room some basics, individuals from the crowd were invited up to take a mic and try out beatboxing solo. My partner pushed me up as an unwilling volunteer and I was given some simple instructions which helped form a basic beat. The rest of the collective then joined in to make me sound good! Highlight of the day number one.

 

BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY

After a brief stop at the bar and I made our way into the main auditorium for the first 'final' of the day. Erick Jay was one of my favourites from last years competition, so I was happy to see him back competing in the Battle for Supremacy. This competition is a bit like a rap battle for DJ's, with three rounds of 90 seconds for each DJ to outdo the other. Two DJ's compete in each round and the winners progress through semi finals and into the final. 

This years final saw DJ Fummy from Japan up against DJ Erick Jay from Brazil. The battle is as much about song selection and sample selection as it is about skill. The DJ's mime the words being uttered from the samples they choose, and getting the crowd on your side to go 'woah' at the right moment must feel like the battle DJ equivalent of a slam dunk. 

The final was tight, and I couldn't pick a winner after the rounds were complete but fingers were crossed for Erick Jay. The judges raised their score cards, and….

Runner Up - DJ Fummy (Japan)

Battle for Supremacy World Champion - Erick Jay (Brazil)

Being a near full day event, I took a quick break to grab some food from the local Kebab spot, as you do.

THE BEATBOX COLLECTIVE

The Beatbox Collective in full effect
When we returned to the Forum there was a definite heightened buzz from the additional punters who came along just for the main event. But, as I discovered, the DMC World DJ Championships are more than just a DJ competition. The crowd were treated to so much entertainment for their hard earned ticket, and the standard is high!

Having attempted to beatbox with them earlier, I was keen to get a good view of the Beatbox Collective as they brought their full crew together for a showcase performance. We took a seat in the balcony section and watched in awe. These guys are current world beatboxing champs for a reason. Covering everything from hip hop to dub to drum and bass, it was an amazing set. I've still got a long way to go but I'll keep practicing!

WORLD DJ CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Nine of the best DJ's from around the globe had made it through to the final. A little different to the supremacy competition earlier, this competition is anything goes, for 6 minutes. DJ's can use laptops, Serato, queued up samples along with stage presence and trick moves to impress the judges. This makes for straight up entertainment for those of us watching on.

Starting the show was DJ Ruse from New Zealand. His set was blistering and he got myself and the rest of the crowd on side scratching up a hip hop version of classic rock song 'War Pigs' by Black Sabbath. You've really got to hand it to these guys, so much has been done before them yet somehow they find a new and interesting way to get your head nodding.

DJ Traps of the USA was another highlight, with a more familiar hip hop classics set.  He got extra points from me when he dropped a perfect look-away beat-juggle. Flawless.

The runner up from 2015, DJ Spell was back. It must be something about New Zealand because he too opted to select some absolute classics and scratch them down to hip hop beats - Led Zepplin and Michael Jackson getting some airtime during his set.

Frenchman Dj Skillz took things in a different direction, using an almost haunted sounding sample to build up a trip hop beat. Reading the growing enthusiasm in the room well, his set sped up to be one of the most party-like so far, culminating in big bass drops that you might expect to hear in a different venue about 6 hours from now, but the crowd were up for it.

Brief disruption to address some technical issues didn't stop local lad Ritchie Ruftone from amping the crowd even further. Producing a mix of funk, dub and hip hop to bring the bar that little bit higher.

DJ Yuto of Japan was up next and his set was just next level! Man, it had everything and the precision was there to match. There was all types of music, technical skill, stage presence and tricks. There was even a scratched together version of the massive swedish house mafia club hit 'One' from a few years back. This guy has to win I think to myself as mini-dancefloors erupt around the room. I'm in awe!

DJ Yuto of Japan

SHOWCASES

As the all important decision is being made by the judges, I was entertained with back to back performances from DJ Fly and DJ Netik, King Kella and the Spitkingdom Soundsystem, and of course, Q-Bert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz - just as good as I had hoped!

One more trip to the bar was denied when we got told the bar was no closed - no! I was so disappointed the day was drawing to a close. Do we really have to wait another year to do this again?

THE SHOWDOWN

Tony Prince, founder of the competition, loves this event. You can just tell he is immensely proud of what it has become, and no doubt he has been at every single one. It seems fitting then, that he should award multiple-time world champ DJ Q-Bert with a 'Legend' jacket at the pointy end of the proceedings. Once the obligatory photographs are out of the way, Mr Prince returns to the microphone to announce the final results!

Third Place - DJ Traps (USA)

Runner Up - DJ Brace (Canada)

World Champion for 2016 - DJ Yuto (Japan)

Hopes for an encore set were dashed when the big lights came on and we headed for the exit. Another World Finals had ended, but this year I was truly happy with the outcome.

Hats off to the people that make this competition happen, and if you haven't already, make sure you get along to the local heats and finals in your city! Real DJ's are so much more talented than 'look ma, no hands' super-celebs may have you think.

Words by Harry Upton.

Saturday
Apr022016

Charles Bradley Live at Rough Trade (29.03.2016)

My first introduction to Charles Bradley was when a housemate showed me a video of this incredible soul singer performing in a bicycle store as part of SXSW. 

Instantly the video made me a fan. That was near on 5 years ago and I have been lucky enough to see the man they call the Screaming Eagle live for myself three times since then! The most recent of which was an intimate gig at Rough Trade's East London store.

On a rainy Tuesday night we made our way to Brick Lane with a bottle of wine in tow - BYO being one of the benefits of an in-store gig at Rough Trade! Upon arrival, it was a little surprising that only around 20 others were there. But after browsing the vinyl offering for a few minutes the store began to fill up and a crowd of about 150 people gathered near the stage.  

We took up position front and center where we met a 63-year-old Jamaican woman who wanted to confirm that we would be dancing once the music started - of course we would be!

His band 'The Extraordinaires' warm up the room with some funky rolling soul beats before introducing Bradley to the stage to a roar of applause. Prior to being discovered and recording his own songs with Daptone records, Charles Bradley was a James Brown tribute act for several years, and you can't help feeling like he comes from another era. Sporting a black turtle neck sweater, flared pants and jacket it wasn't long before he unleashed the voice that rivals the greatest of all time! 

What followed was a mix of songs and emotions spanning all three albums, we were dancing, swaying and embracing. The title track from his new long player 'Changes' was a highlight - looking directly into the eyes of the crowd, including my own, Charles spoke of how hard this song was for him, but how he promised his mother before she passed away that he would always sing it and give his audiences 'his best'. Everyone in the room is holding back tears as he wails "I've lost the best friend I ever had".

Other highlights include the classic 'Loving you baby' and some news favourites from the latest album 'You think I don't Know (but I know) and the irresistibly funky 'Ain't It a Sin'. 

Extending the brief 30 minute set into 45 minutes, it is all over too soon. But Bradley truly bonds with each and every one of us ending his show by walking through the crowd hugging everyone.

Tuesday
Sep292015

OutsideIn Festival review 2015

Words by Margaret Tra.

As an avid hip hop lover, living in Australia can be quite frustrating. So when I originally saw the line-up for the OutsideIn Festival my heart skipped a beat. So many hip hop acts in one festival including Big K.R.I.T, Devin the Dude and Stormzy. I will admit that when Bilal was no longer on the list I cried a little inside, but hey we can’t have it all now can we?

With three stages, burgers and an endless amount of musical entertainment, the festival was a hit. Even the DJ’s I had never stumbled on before were fusing Aaliyah and Ginuine tracks into their house sounds. 

The first act that we caught was Devin the Dude on the main stage, a rapper so happy and humble that he’s smooth beats and timeless raps made his set unforgettable. He played his greatest hits ‘I’m just getting blowed’ and Doobie Ashtray, the only thing we missed out on was him playing with his drone on stage.

Next up was the grime legend that is Stormzy on the Red Bull stage, and well what can we say. When the set was over the last thing we wanted him to do was shut up. Grime brings something out of people and Stormzy delivered. The audience was hanging on each and every single one of his words, if I didn’t fear being squashed the death, I may have ventured to the front. Still from my view Stormzy killed it, and dare I say it won’t be long until we see him again. 

Lucky last we have Big K.R.I.T, Big comes out thrashing, ready to murder the stage. Rapping his classics and some of his new material with the crowd bobbing their heads up and down in unison. Devin the Dude also came on the stage blessing the audience with something they’ll never forget in their life.

Despite the rain OutsideIn pulled it together, with undercover areas and stages covered, a part from one of course but festival goers didn’t mind. It was a festival filled with people who had a passion and love for music which was seen through the audiences movements throughout the night and the way the festival was conducted by its team. We look forward to seeing it grow and to see what they have for us next year. Hip hop in Australia is alive, thanks to the team at OutsideIn.

 

Tuesday
Sep222015

Leron Thomas - 'Cliquish' Album Review

Words by Harry Upton.
'Cliquish' is the latest full length release from NYC based Jazz, Funk and Soul artist Leron Thomas, due out on October 16th (via Heavenly Sweetness).
This next paragraph is usually where I would try and define the genre of this album for you, but Thomas has built a reputation over recent years as quite the improviser, something which becomes more apparent as I listen through the 12 tracks and 56 minutes of 'Cliquish'. I hear tastes of funk, jazz and rock, dashes of hip hop and R&B, and sometimes a blend of two or three genres within one track! 

Not originally a singer, Thomas was persuaded to take to the mic by his regular collaborator Bilal (who also features on this record). Lucky for us he did! His style is unique and the listener first gets introduced to his story telling during the title track after chants of "Im so glad… I'm not a part of your clique.”

More humorous story telling is found on the fun and funky "Snicka bar,” and this track along with the more mellow space funk of "Role Play" has me drawing comparisons with the godfather of funk, George Clinton. "Role Play" is certainly a stand out though, it is the type of track that would be equally at home blasting from festival size speakers or enjoyed through your own little boombox at a Sunday BBQ, it can be enjoyed on different levels.

Be careful where you play "Asako" however, as this number might just blow up your little boombox! The catch cry is "Ambitious ways and no sex today" and this track needs to be played loud. Hints of TV on the Radio and Saul Williams can be heard as the guitar drives and the drums crash. They are joined by electrified horns and Thomas' distinct vocal cries before the crescendo is reached. Including a somewhat unexpected jazz breakdown, this rock track ensures a nod to Thomas’ jazz roots. 

Soul tracks "Mandy Jo" and "Don't you Know" are the love ballads of the record and let Thomas really sing. Although they are by no means deadly serious lyrically, there is less of the humour of earlier tracks and this makes for definite highlights.
Overall this is an enjoyable album. Book ended by trumpet solo's (Thomas is a trumpet player by trade), there is no shortage of great horn hooks on this record. Though these are often accompanied by funk-style slap bass, some heavy drums and whining guitars. He certainly crams a lot into the hour of genre hopping, but nothing feels rushed! Fans of music in general, not any particular genre, should certainly give this record a spin.

4 stars.

 

For those in London you can catch Leron Thomas at his official Album Release Party on November 5 at The Jazz Cafe. He is also performing a string of European dates including the MAMA Festival in Paris on October 15.

Links: www.leronthomas.com