JFB – Red Bull Thre3style World Final Qualifying Heat
This last week or so, Chile played host to the annual Red Bull Thre3style World Final. This has grown immensely from the first World Final in Paris, which I was lucky enough to take part in back in 2010 – it now comprises qualifying heats before the Grand Final.
The UK hasn’t featured in the World Final line-up for a few years, but this year the incredible JFB won a wild card place, and headed out to fly the flag!
Sadly it wasn’t to be in the Grand Final – I’ve yet to see the winning set from DJ Puffy, but it must have been impressive. But I have seen JFB’s extraordinary qualifying heat set that got him his place in the Grand Final, and seriously, it is 15 minutes of stunning skill, inch-perfect preparation, inventive transitions and fun tunes. Enjoy!
DOUBLE WHAMMY! Mix Master Mike – Rescue 916 & Neckthrust One
I’m old. At least I am in the context of clubbing and nightlife, but the fringe benefit of that is having had the fortune to live through the transition between the vinyl and cassette era and into the digital age. Record store culture back in the day was something that really helped shape me as a person and a DJ, and while I rarely buy vinyl these days, I do miss that little sense of community that happens when you keep seeing the same faces digging at record stores you frequent. And cassettes, ah cassettes… DJ mixes are still called mixtapes, and I had a few which I absolutely caned.
Two absolute faves are here for you to enjoy – Neckthrust One and Rescue 916, by the incredible Mixmaster Mike. I must have listened to these mixtapes hundreds of times, and spent countless hours trying to decipher how on earth to pull off these other-worldly scratches. I spent a fortune hunting down the records (this was long before Discogs existed!), the Al Tariq – Peace Akki track being possibly the most satisfying find of my digging career, as I had begun to think it was as mythical as unicorns before I stumbled across it in a 2nd hand shop.
Side B of Rescue 916 starts suitably with Jeru The Damaja‘s seminal One Day, a paean to the true spirit of hip hop holding out against the corrupting influence of bling and the Puff Daddy style of doing things. These mixes really are a great example of the art of DJing hip hop, with Mike scratching his way through boom-bap classics, electro gems, nuggets of pure funk and all manner of the sort of quirky samples that make him such a distinctive character in the music landscape. Him and Q-Bert absolutely revolutionised the scratch DJ scene with their utter dominance of the DMCs in the early 90s as the key members of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz – as a little bonus, here is one of my favourite ever DMC routines, followed by the mixes themselves. And trust me when I say that this battle routine is absolutely light years against the basic zugga zugga of their competitors, it’s like they’ve beamed in from outer space to show these mere humans how it’s done.
At the time that I was hammering these cassettes MMM was “just” one of the best DJs in the world, from the best scratch crew. He then went on to become the DJ for one of my favourite acts, The Beastie Boys (seeing them at Manchester Academy back around 95 was a real life highlight!) , and was the engine room at the heart of their seminal “Three MCs and One DJ” track. Enjoy hearing a true master at work!
This week I bring something a little different. As with the Leftfield episode a while ago, it’s a video of a live performance. But in this case it’s even further removed from being a mixtape, instead being a recording of DJ Craze‘s 2 rounds from the 1998 ITF scratch battle against DJ First Rate (then of the Scratch Perverts). This video here only shows Craze’s sections – now, while First Rate is an absolute badman on the cut, I don’t think I’m being unfair to say that this battle was a massacre!
While I don’t claim to be a scratch DJ (rather, I’m a DJ who can scratch quite well), I am a total scratch nerd. I spent those long hours with Dirt Style 12″s, I remember the early internet days of Asisphonics and Thudrumble forums, written-out text explanations of complicated scratch patterns, tricks with sticker-markers on vinyl to learn how to know when to open and close faders, a time before Youtube clips and college courses in DJing. I had many different VHS tapes of battles from through the years, and this stands out as probably my all-time favourite, with only the Dream Team’s (aka Invisbl Skratch Piklz) set from 1992 coming close to surpassing it in my affections as a demonstration of the art and craft of scratch DJing. And believe me when I say I have forced a lot of people to watch this routine in after-parties at my flats over the years…
Craze has a good claim to being the greatest of all time, which really shouldn’t be a shock when you know he won 3 straight DMC world titles (arguably only missing out the year before that winning streak because of a terribly unlucky needle mishap in the USA final that knocked him out of contention). The ITFs were often considered to be a bit more of a “purists” competition, with the battles broken down into technical sections for scratching, juggling, teams etc. In this battle he followed First Rate, with each having 2 x 3 minute sections to demonstrate their scratching prowess.
For me, what always made him stand out, alongside his unquestionable technical skills and prodigiously funky cuts, was his transitions in his routines, getting from this bit to that bit to the next bit. Many scratch sets were just a hodge-podge of as many short routines as the DJ could cram into their allotted time, with little or no thought given to the journey between these landmarks. Craze basically managed to make his 3 or 6 minute sets into tiny mixtapes with their own internal narrative and logic, seamlessly flowing between styles. It’s no wonder, therefore, that Red Bull Thre3style brought him on board to be part of their team, with him performing and judging the inaugural world final in Paris (that I was lucky enough to be competing in /brag).
These 2 short sets absolutely blitzed this contest, and included 3 of the absolute best disses I’ve ever seen in a battle context – the “you’re going too fast…” bit at the start of the 2nd routine only really makes full sense in the context of the approach First Rate had taken. Watch, and enjoy an absolute master at work.