On August 11, Red Bull’s Thre3Style World DJ Championships — the largest global DJ competition in the world — is scheduled to kick off their 2016 USA Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This year’s competition brings together six finalists competing for the title of 2016 Red Bull Thre3Style USA Champion. The finalists, who were chosen from a pool of 1,000 applicants, will battle before a panel of all-star judges, including the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, Skratch Bastid, and 2015 Thre3Style World Champion DJ Byte.
“Red Bull Thre3Style has such a strong legacy in the industry and it’s been a blessing to be a part of the movement,” Jeff said in a press release. “The best part is witnessing all the creativity that these guys bring to the table year after year, and I’m looking forward to see how they impress my hometown Philly crowd at the 2016 USA Finals.”
We briefly chatted with Jeff about Thre3style, how he got involved, and how the history of turntablism plays a vital role in the competition.
When did you become a part of the Thre3style movement?
I was involved with Thre3style from the very first one, and, of course, that was way before it had gotten to the level that it’s at now. Well, let me clarify that — not the very first one; the very first international one. It started off in Canada and it just spread, but from the very first one I knew they had something on their hands just based off of the criteria. It was a little different than other DJ competitions because the criteria for this one was more suited to groom an overall DJ instead of a specific type of DJ, and I thought it was great. When I got a chance to kind of really, really be involved before it extremely took off, it was a no brainer for me.
Why do you feel like competitions like Thre3style are necessary today?
Thre3style focuses on multiple areas of you being a good DJ. It focuses on not only your skill level as a DJ, but your play selection, how well you do with an audience in front of you, your ebbs and flows, and that to me — that’s what makes a great party. What makes a great party or a great event is a DJ that knows how to string the right records [together] at the right time, that knows how to tug and pull on a crowd’s emotions to give them a very special night. We live in the time now that everybody in the world wants to be a DJ, but that doesn’t mean that everyone understands what it takes to be a good DJ, and I think anything that you can do that will breed more good DJs — all it does is make the party atmosphere around the globe better.
You brought up a good point. Can you elaborate more on the current state of DJing? Do you feel the art of turntablism is still relevant in an era where a lot of people are just showing up with their Macbooks and playing music from their computers?
I definitely think it’s relevant. There’s so many different styles of DJs. The EDM DJ took off, and that’s what basically brought so much of the light to the DJ culture because they became so big and so popular, and especially when you started posting some of these EDM DJs — their feeds and how much they were making — that’s what turned the business world’s eyes open to the DJ culture, henceforth so many humongous clubs being built in Vegas and all around the world that cater to that. I don’t know too many people who like one type of music, so when you get to it it’s kind of like when you can play multiple genres of music from multiple eras, it, to me, creates a better party atmosphere. And the turntablists are a little bit more skilled at the art of DJing, so once you kind of add that element and then add the playlist element into it, it makes for a great DJ.
The Thre3style US finals are taking place in your hometown of Philly this year. What can we expect that’s different from the previous competitions?
This year we focused a lot more on the online aspect. We gave a lot of the contestants the ability to create their own sets, film them, and send them in — in their own environment — and there were some incredible entries. I think this competition is gonna be a lot more fierce than normal. For the past couple of years they have been extremely great. I think this one might be the best one so far, especially because you’ve got six or seven great guys from all across the United States. A few of them are previous contestants, which always gives a benefit because I always feel like you can’t win something until you know how to lose it, so a lot of those guys have an advantage of “Listen, I’ve been here before and I lost, so I kind of know what to do,” so I’m really looking forward because I think this is gonna be a good one.
What are some key elements from the origins of DJing that you feel are missing and wish were still around?
A lot of [what I miss] is stuff we’re trying to put back into Thre3style. With a lot of the newer DJs, a lot of times a DJ will play the entire night with their head down and never look up at the crowd, so they never get a feeling of the ebbs and flows. Sometimes you have to observe the energy in a room to know, “I think that I can pull this record out and I think this will really work,” or, “You know what? I was about to play this, and I don’t think this is gonna work right now.” Before your laptop, you just had your records, so you were forced to basically look up and look at the crowd and kind of pay attention to what’s going on, and one of the things that we really push is to take your head out of the laptop. The laptop is just a tool, and [you should] pay attention to who’s in the room.
I’ve definitely been to events where a DJ is spinning and they’re not connecting with the crowd in the room.
At all. A lot of DJs who came from vinyl and went to computers basically look at the computer like, “This is a tool! This is great because this enables me to carry my music,” but that’s all it is. The art of DJing had to do with how well I can string these records together depending on the energy in the room. My set changes depending on the energy in the room. It’s not like, “Okay, I’ma put this set together, and I’m just gonna tunnel vision go and play it.” Sometimes you have to change something up in order for it to work.
Do you feel computers enhance the DJing experience in any way?
Not at all. And I often say if you sucked as a DJ before computers, you suck as a DJ after. The only thing the computer does is it allows you to organize all of your music in one place. We couldn’t carry this many records to an event before because you were carrying crates of records, so you were limited to what you brought. All this does is it allows you to bring your record collection to every event, but if you don’t know what to play at the event, if you don’t know how to go to your record collection to find what you need to play at the event, it doesn’t matter. People would often say, “Aw, programs like Serato have changed the DJ world.” The only thing it [does] is it makes it easier for you to carry your music, but it does not by any way, shape, or form make you a better DJ.
Tickets are still available for the Red Bull Thre3style 2016 USA Championships in Philly.
General admission is 21+ with a valid ID. Advance tickets can be purchased here for $15, or $18 at the door.
SOURCE: Red Bull | PHOTO CREDIT: Nina Sandejas, Redbull Content Pool