Red Bull and Trees hosted the Mountain South Regional Finals of the Thre3Style DJ competition on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Five of the region's most talented DJ stars assembled in a battle for the right to represent the Mountain South Region at the National Finals in Los Angeles this April. With the venue at max capacity, fans cheered on as each competitor was allotted 15 minutes to rock the party to the fullest, scored on their mixing skills, creativity, stage presence, track selection and audience response. The judges featured an all-star lineup consisting of DJ Z-Trip, DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ A-Trak.
The competitors were DJ Spinstyles from Kansas City, MO, DJ OG Bobby Trill from Houston, DJ Jive from New Orleans, DJ A1 from Dallas, and DJ Donnie Dee from Austin/San Antonio.
The night started with a fun and fierce set by current Thre3Style World Champion Four Color Zack, who warmed up the crowd as the competitors got ready for battle. Also in attendance were the queen Miss Erykah Badu and former Salt-N-Pepa member DJ Spinderella. The MC and host for the night was radio personality Headkrack of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show, who kept the mood light and flowing with his jokes, ad-libs, and observations.
By luck of the draw, DJ Spinstyles was selected to spin first. The young, spectacled DJ was visibly nervous, yet cool and calm as he approached the table. He attempted to win over the crowd with an opening selection of Texas shout outs: Lil Jon's "I thought this was muthafuckin' Texas!", Destiny's Child's "Say My Name", and the unofficial state anthem "Deep In The Heart of Texas." It was a nice and cool attempt that ultimately missed its mark. The sound also stopped for a couple of seconds as he fumbled a transition, but recovered with a bounce mix that lead to the blending of "25 Lighters" as covered by ZZ Top and the DJ DMD original.
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DJ Jive from New Orleans was next, and he started his set with the confidence of the Crescent City with a bass bounce mix that set the tone for his set. Although not as technically skilled as the others, Jive made up for those shortcomings with expert track selection. Crowd favorites such as Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" and MC Hammer's "Too Legit To Quit" elevated his points in those categories. He also directed a few tracks towards judge DJ A-Trak by playing both "Barbara Streisand" and his "Heads Will Roll" remix by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Smart move on his part, as he won over the crowd and at least one judge in the process.
Houston's OG Bobby Trill began his set with an old school rock & roll vibe, tapping "Do You Love Me" by The Contours as his opener, then scratching and juggling the beat into more modern dance tracks like "Teach Me How To Dougie," "The Wobble" and "Everybody Dance Now" by C&C Music Factory. His set was off at the beginning due to a technical problem, but he recovered nicely and showed off his technical skills. The more interesting sections of his set included cumbia rap remixes and fast Miami bounce tracks, but sadly he did not extended these for more than half a song.
The Austin regional winner Donnie Dee followed, and he also leaned on his strength of mixing oldies and soul records with more modern hip-hop and dance tracks. He donned a wig and sunglasses as he satirically played "Gangam Style" as a commentary of the wackness of most radio, club, and Top 40 DJs. After discarding of the props and wack tracks, he dug into a set that leaned heavily on mid-ninties rap and rock anthems, and even managed to include some dubstep. He also won over the crowd with some Parliment/Funkadelic G-Funk before using the Kriss Kross track "Jump, Jump" to again call out his competition as "wiggity, wiggity, wiggity, wack!"
Local DJ A1 was playing on home turf for this event, with his boss Erykah Badu sitting with the judges in support of her tour DJ. He was perhaps the least prepared of the bunch after going on a short tour with the R&B diva, leaving him with a short amount of time to prepare for the competition. Indeed, this showed at the beginning of his set as his beat juggling and mixing were somewhat off. His track selection was good but not great, although he was the only DJ to drop the current crowd favorites "Fuckin' Problems" and "Swimming Pools" into his mix. Dubstep was also a big part of the selections, ending with the Jay/Kanye question "Who Gon' Stop Me."
After a short break, the judges turned in their results. It must have been a difficult line-up to judge, but with three of the best DJ's in the world on the panel, the decisions would be hard to refute. The way the scores are tallied is interesting: Crowd response and stage presence carry the least weight, whereas mixing, creativity and track selection carry the most.
The second runner up was DJ A1, much to the hometown crowd's disappointment. With the crowd favorite in third place, the top spot was up for anyone to grab. The first runner up was named to be the youngster DJ Jive, who was surprised and thrilled as his name was called.
The winner of this regional was named Donnie Dee from Austin/San Antonio. This turned out to be a bit of a surprise to many in the crowd, but he definitely turned in a great set that won over and impressed the judges. As he stood onstage in a bit of disbelief, he reflected on the win and eventually accepted the award.
"I stand up here right now, and I can truly say that I don't deserve this, man," he said humbly. "With all of the talent on this stage, I don't deserve this... but I will accept it and represent Texas to the fullest in Los Angeles." Donnie also dedicated the win to his grandmother who passed away just a few days earlier. In a previous interview with Red Bull, he recalled how supportive she was to his career, and how he even kept a room full of records at her house.
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Proceeds from ticket sales for this event will go toward the Deep Ellum Mural Project, a neighborhood street art/mural project spearheaded by the Deep Ellum Community Association.
We wish Donnie Dee all the best and good luck at the National Finals. Thanks to Red Bull and all of the DJ's and judges for a night that Dallas will never forget.
On to the next one....