DJ Akshen @ Cyphers

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. "Without [DJs]," he says, "The other elements couldn't exist."

So strong are Akshen's beliefs in the importance of the wheels of steel in hip-hop culture that he's spent the past couple of years teaching turntablism courses over at Cyphers: The Center of Urban Arts, 9201 North 29th Avenue. A dip in enrollment in recent months is endangering the classes, but he's trying like hell to the curriculum from being scratched. He organized 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.

Both contests will involve local platter jocks and wax workers showcasing their skills and one-upping each other on Saturday, August 24, in pursuit of fame, glory, and primo rewards.

Akshen says that the UCF will operate under a "run what you brung" format, in which any equipment, from laptops to CD-Js, is permitted. Contestants will be judged on creativity, energy, and other factors. A $20 entry fee is required and first place will lead to a guest set at Bar Smith's Foul Play night, a yearlong subscription to the TrakkAddixx digital record pool, and other prizes.

Meanwhile, the second event will be an all-vinyl scratch showdown that will be similar to a Battle Avenue-style "Cut2Cut" affair and offer the winner a gig at an upcoming Blunt Club event. The cost is $10 to enter. (Participants in either competition must e-mail [email protected] to register)

Doors open at 3 p.m. Admission is $5. Call 602-297-4377 or see www.602cyphers.com.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.