Local DJs Battle for Supremacy at the Red Bull Thre3style on Saturday

DJ M2 competes at Red Bull Thre3style regionals in Scottsdale in 2011.
DJ M2 competes at Red Bull Thre3style regionals in Scottsdale in 2011.
Maria Vassett

When it all comes down to it, DJs wield a certain degree of power -- and we ain't just referring to all the money, fame, and influence that comes with the job. Instead, we're referencing their talents at controlling the energy and driving the dance floor at whatever gig they happen to be working, be it at a nightclub, hip-hop joint, or some enormous festival. And no less a source than the illustrious Kool Herc can back us up on that.

According to the legendary hip-hop pioneer and turntablist icon in the 1998 tome, The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries, any deejay worth his or her weight in vinyl has the ability to set the tone and amp up an audience. "The power of the DJ? It's to motivate the crowd, man," Herc states. "It's to have the insight to motivate the crowd, to have the crowd at your fingertips, to control the crowd. That's the best fuckin' power, man."

And its something that the selectors, turntablists, and mixmasters that will duke it out at the Red Bull Thre3style Regional Qualifier on Saturday, February 14, at the Monarch Theatre had better have down pat if they hope to triumph during the high-profile DJ battle.

After all, its one of several skills that the six different beat-slinging contestants scheduled to participate at the event will be judged on when they step behind the decks.

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If you're not familiar with the Red Bull Thre3style, its a global DJ competition that's been held off and on since 2010 and has a particular emphasis on the "party rocking" as well as mixing artistry. Regional qualifying events are held throughout America and in other countries that lead up to various national semi-finals and, ultimately, the worldwide finals later this year where the "Red Bull Thre3style World DJ champion" is crowned.

Saturday's qualifier at the Monarch will feature six selectors from both the Valley scene and from around the southwest, including DJ Akshen, current Power 98.3 mixer DJ Javin, Bottled Blonde resident DJ Metcalf, and onetime Thre3style national finalist DJ M2, who bested the competition at the local regionals in 2011 and wound up placing second overall in the U.S. later that year. Albuquerque's DJ OHM and Las Vegas' DJ Blaze will also compete.

Its the first time in four years since a full-on Thre3style battle was held in Phoenix. (DJ ManeOne won a spinoff competition, Thre3style University, in 2012). As in previous years, each competitor gets a 15-minute set that involves blending together at least three different genres and are judged on merits like crowd reaction, as well as their creativity, mixing talents, and stage presence, and song selection.

According to Akshen, a resident at The Beverly in Scottsdale, the Thre3style is more of a "new school battle" versus more technically oriented turntablist competitions like the yearly DMC or International DJ Association world championships.  

"It's geared [more] toward party rocking as oppose to the traditional battles that focus a little more on the technical side of DJing and turntablism, like scratching, beat juggling, et cetera," he says.

And like his fellow competitors, Akshen has been getting in a lot of practice in preparation for Saturday's showdown, to the tune of three to four hours daily. That includes bringing in a few of his peers to help critique his efforts and hone his craft.

"At first, I had a bunch of the homies come through to watch the video I submitted [to Red Bull] to get their feedback," Akshen says. "Then I wrote down what they liked and didn't like. I took into account what the previous [Thre3style] champions did, watched their videos for hours, and then began to construct my set. I've changed it more than 12 times and I'm about to change it again, but that's just me."

All this time and effort will be worth it, he says, if it leads him to victory and the chance to take on some of the best DJs in the nation...and maybe even the world.

"I think [Thre3style] is very important as a battle because it's gives a lot of new school DJs, party rockers and club DJs a platform to compete," Akshen says. "I think for me, personally, it would mean a great deal to win and be able to represent Phoenix in the U.S. finals."

May the best DJ win.

The Red Bull Thre3style Regional Qualifier takes place on Saturday, February 14, at the Monarch Theatre. Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is free before 11 p.m. to those who RVSP online via and $5 thereafter.

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