Written By: Rob Swift - Judge of the Needle To The Record DJ Competition at the A3C
From 1991 to 1992 I entered every battle I could. It didn't matter whether it was local or national, head to head or showcase style. I didn't even care if the prize was $100 or free DJ equipment. I just wanted to introduce my style of Turntablism to any one that would lend me their ears and eyes. It was never about winning for me. It was about gaining the respect of my peers and audiences every where I went.
On October 9th, I'll be performing/judging Needle To The Record DJ Competition during the A3C Hip Hop Festival, being held at Masquerade (695 North Ave. Northeast). I'm really excited. I look forward to being inspired by all the creativity taking place on stage. When I was coming up, DJ battles used to pop up every where. I remember Raida (R.I.P.) and myself would take the train into the most seedy of neighborhoods just to be able to say "we took that neighborhood's DJs out!" Haha, those were the days!
Here are my top 5 battles of all time:
5. Baby G VS Franscesco Zappala (1990 New Music Seminar)
*Both Baby G and Francesco specialized in "Body Tricks," using different parts of your body to manipulate the turntables. DJs like GM Roc Raida went on to figure out more mind boggling ways to use an elbow, mouth or stomach within the execution of a routine but for me, Baby G and Francesco were the best "Body Trick" DJs during this time period. I'd describe Francesco's style as frenzied. It's like he would just go crazy. He'd hit you with 4 - 5 different tricks in the matter of a few seconds. Francesco might of not been the funkiest DJ but he was definitely pleasing to the eye. Baby G was more controlled. His body tricks were organized in a more rhythmic way. Although Francesco went on to win the battle, Baby G definitely held his own. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any footage of the actual battle but here are some cool YOUTUBE clips of Baby G and Francesco doing what they do best.
4. DJ Cash Money VS DJ Jazzy Joyce (1987 New Music Seminar)
*I remember popping in the VHS tape of the '87 NMS Battle For World Supremacy and seeing Jazzy Joyce go at Cash Money with all she had. It was really impressive because female DJs were far and few between back then. Nowadays, female DJs are more prevalent but in the late 80s, the only other female DJ I could think of who had skills was the original Spinderalla. As for Cash Money, what can I say? As impressive as Joyce's routines were, she was going up against the only DJ to unify both the NMS and DMC titles. I don't think GOD himself could of beat Cash during the 2 years he battled!
3. DJ Cash Money VS Joe Cooley (1987 New Music Seminar)
*Who should of won this battle has been a topic of debate for years. It was the classic East Coast versus West Coast style matched up against each other. Being mostly influenced by East Coast DJing, I can't help but think Cash Money (Philadelphia) won this battle. Cash was well rounded and funky to the bone! That being said, there are those who think Cooley's (Los Angeles) aggressive West Coast, scratch style and single turntable doubling made him the victor. Judge for yourself, hear some audio of that historic battle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IbVXHvb7mI
2. DJ Miz VS DJ Aladdin (1989 New Music Seminar)
*East Coast versus West Coast part 2. Both Miz (Philadelphia) and Aladdin (Los Angeles) ensured the debate regarding which style was better, East or West, would continue. In the 1989 American DMC Finals, Miz was the first DJ I ever saw manually rearrange the kick, snare and high hat from a drum track. A style of DJing which would later become known as "Beat Juggling." DJ Aladdin, on the other hand, took the term "do a little bit of everything" to a new level. It's like he was well rounded to the 10th power but still kept that West Coast flavor within his persona on stage. Aladdin? That boy could scratch his ass off! If you ask me, Aladdin won this battle but the judges obviously didn't agree. DJ Miz was crowned the victor that year. You be the judge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srcpASrIfF8
1. X-men VS Invisibl Skratch Piklz (1996 ITF Battle)
*East Coast versus West Coast aka World War 3, lol. This is hands down my number 1 DJ Battle of all time. Not only was I fortunate enough to witness this in person, I was actually in it! Yes, I along side my fellow X-men brothers battled Shortkut, Mix Master Mike and DJ Q Bert. Words can't describe how tense the months, weeks and days of practice were leading up to this historic battle. We billed it as sort of a "scrimmage" battle, it was supposed to be for fun. Yeah right! Both sides left it all on the stage. If you weren't there you're probably asking yourself "who won?" The truth is there was no winner in my book.
At the end of the day, more important than "who won?" both crews sacrificed their reputations to put on a great show for Hip Hop fans who came from all over the globe to witness history. When I think about the battle between us and the Piklz, I don't think about "who won?"
Instead, I think about how much I learned about myself the days leading up to the actual battle. I was 4 years removed from battling. I retired in 1992 thinking never again. Four years later I was creating new routines, with my boys, tapping into a part of my brain I didn't even know existed. That's what happens when you realize your full potential!
Unfortunately I was only able to find footage from the Team Battle at NYC's Manhattan Center. There was a Head to Head singles portion of the battle which happened at a different location later that evening.
Have fun watching this cause it'll never happen again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnAF8ehFRiE
Good luck to all of the competitors entering Needle To The Record. To all you DJs entering the battle, be creative, be well rounded and have fun!
Needle To The Record DJ Competition :: Saturday, October 9, during A3C Hip Hop Festival [http://www.a3cfestival.com/]
There are just a couple of spaces available to battle! Sign up NOW to be part of a powerful night of turntablism! CLASSIC, VINYL ONLY, head-to-head competition!
Sign up here: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGNxd29IZFVyNW5iTXFuMEprWUk4MHc6MQ, and be sure to follow the event's producer on Twitter: @warriormamma
This year's judges include: DJ Scratch, DJ Shiftee and DJ Rob Swift :: Now you KNOW you must come with YOUR BEST.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org