Think you're down with hip-hop culture? Okay, son, then which of its four elements -- be it rapping, b-boying, graf artistry, and turntablism -- is the most vital part of its mix? According to veteran local selector DJ Akshen, it's the latter, since the beats dropped from the decks help fuel everything else.
And no less a source than Kool Herc, the founding father of hip-hop, backs this up. "[He] created a style of DJing that allowed the b-boy to dance and the emcee to rap," Akshen says. "Without [DJs], the other elements couldn't exist."
So strong is Akshen's belief in the importance of the wheels of steel in hip-hop's cultural mix that he's spent the last couple years teaching turntablism courses over at Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts. And now he's trying like hell to save said curriculum from being scratched.
A dip in attendance in recent months is endangering the classes at Cyphers, so Akshen is organizing this weekend's Ultimate Cross-Fader DJ Battle and The Scratch Exchange, a pair of back-to-back competitions, to help raise funds to keep things going.
"Cyphers can't teach hip-hop culture properly without the DJ," he says. "The DJ is the foundation, he makes the party move."
Both the UCF and the Scratch Exchange will involve local platter jocks and wax workers showcasing their skills and one-upping one other inside the center on Saturday afternoon while in pursuit of fame, glory, and primo rewards.
Akshen says that the UCF will operate under a "run what you brung" format where any equipment, from laptops to CD-Js, is permitted. Contestants will be judged on creativity, energy, and other factors by three of the Valley's best selectors: Power 98.3's M2, DJ Astonish, and local DMC champ LES735.
"I created a DJ battle where DJs who don't use turntables can enter. I was tired of all the excuses from DJs that couldn't enter the previous battles," he says.
Danny Morales, one of the co-owners of Cyphers, says that because there are no limitations to the equipment being used, there should be no excuses by the DJs involved.
"A lot of DJs use different equipment, whether its all vinyl, Serato, Traktor, CD-Js, whatever," Morales says. "Plug it in and play, because your skills are gonna speak for themselves. So as long as you come with your skills, you'll be good."
A $20 entry fee is required and first place lands you a guest set at Bar Smith's Foul Play night, a year-long subscription to the TrakkAddixx digital record pool, and other prizes.
The second battle of the afternoon, the Scratch Exchange, is similar to "Cut2Cut" competitions put on by renowned Bay Area DJ collective Battle Avenue. (In fact, Akshen got permission from the group to hold his contest.)
According to the DJ, the contest will be an all-vinyl scratch showdown that will be similar to a Battle Avenue affair and offer the winner a gig at an upcoming Blunt Club event. It will also be judged by M2, Astonish, and LES 735. The cost is $10 to enter.
Participants in either event are asked to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
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The Ultimate Cross-Fader DJ Battle and The Scratch Exchange takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 24, at Cyphers. Admission is $5 for spectators.