Red Bull 3Style competitors expound on significance of 3Style to DJ culture
In early December, six of the country’s most skilled disc jockeys arrived at The Midway in San Francisco, each with the same objective: take home the title of Red Bull 3Style USA National Champion. Like past 3Style finalists, for months, DJ Lazyboy, Matsu, Dynamic, DJ Fingersmith, Chris Villa, and Shane Canfield fervently wrote, rewrote, and practiced the sets that they would deliver at the National Finals.
“The first month was a lot of brainstorming, piecing things together. The second month, showing a lot of people my ideas, getting feedback, and figuring out how to make everything flow.
In the last three weeks [leading up to the competition], it’s been nothing but repetition, repetition, repetition. Drill, drill, drill. Do it with the lights off, do it with the volume all screwed up, can you still hit it right? Every night before I went to sleep, I ran through it in my head, top to bottom.”-Matsu
Whereas the number of times that some contestants practiced their sets pre-finals grew from once, twice, to an innumerable tally, DJ Lazyboy, a Bay Area native known as Gregory Sherrell off-stage, told Dancing Astronaut that he had not prepared for the competition. “I’m still editing now,” Lazyboy said, before dashing off to rework a portion of his set that required revision with just an hour or so until showtime.
DJ Lazyboy’s last minute alterations would prove fruitful: the tenured turntablist with 19 years of experience would, at the end of the evening, be crowned the victor of the 2019 3Style USA National Finals. The title “Red Bull 3Style USA National Finalist” and its bragging rights come with an indisputable luster, but they too come with another step: advancement to the World Finals in Moscow, Russia.
DJing is the best kind of passion; you can make yourself and other people happy.-DJ Lazyboy on his passion for DJing
There, DJ Lazyboy will represent the United States from April 20-28, 2020 as he faces off with the winner of each National Final from the 20 3Style finals held across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
A Decade Spent Celebrating DJ Culture
2019 was not just another year of 3Style programming; it was a watershed in 3Style history, marking a decade of Red Bull’s commitment to championing the craft of DJing and its culture. Founded in 2010, Red Bull 3Style is Red Bull’s effort to not only advance and celebrate turntabling, but also foreground the talents of DJs who live for the time spent behind the decks.
Red Bull 3Style’s 2019 national finalists were selected based on a five-minute online video submission that was open to DJs across the world. The entering DJ’s biographical information, existing body of work, and quality of video performance guided contestant selection.
The dynamic competition focalizes the genre-fluid turntable capabilities of its contestants, who are required to play a minimum of three musical genres in their 15-minute sets. Judges assess the DJs on their originality, skills, and music selection, as well as the crowd’s response. 2019 USA National Finalist judges included DJ Jazzy Jeff, Four Color Zack, DJ Puffy, and the Bay Area’s own J. Espinosa, who triumphed at the 2019 3Style World Finals in Taipei, Taiwan.
An impressive competitor, DJ Jazzy Jeff said, is one who can read the crowd and adjust his approach in realtime.
“A great DJ can walk into a room and adapt very quickly based on what the room is telling them to do,” Jeff told Dancing Astronaut. This dexterity, Jeff noted, is key to 3Style and to the art of DJing in general, no matter the setting.
The crowd, however, is not the only entity from which 3Style contestants can learn. “The cliche ‘iron sharpens iron’ is very true of this competition,” Jeff said. “In watching other DJs, you see what you can stylistically apply [in your own sets].”
The potential to better one’s own craft in observing other turntablists is part of 3Style’s allure for DJ Fingersmith, an instructor at the Scratch DJ Academy and a fixture of the New York dance circuit.
Most people find their style and hit their level of skill, and as an adult, all kinds of responsibilities [can distract you] from really trying to improve on your craft, especially if your craft is already making you money. You get utilitarian as you get older.
[Me?] I want to be known as the guy who keeps getting better.-DJ Fingersmith
With 10 years of experience to his name, DJ Fingersmith is no novice, but the expertise that he has developed to date isn’t reason to disengage from the push for personal progress.
“The other guys in this competition have crazy skills; they’re all DJs I look up to, and the judges also have ridiculous skills, music knowledge, and the ability to work with the crowd,” Fingersmith said. “[This is] all the stuff that I could or should improve, and will improve.”
3Style Carves its Niche
The longevity of Red Bull 3Style, its identity as the world’s largest global DJ competition, and its annual appeal to the crowds that assemble to watch the national finalists battle in realtime signal that 3Style’s stature continues to grow with each year.
There’s a lot of battles that have been around for many, many years that have faded [away] or recycled a lot of the same competition.
Red Bull 3Style is younger than a lot of these other competitions, but it’s found a [distinctive] vein of relevance to people who like to go to the club to hear this music.-Matsu
In 2010, Red Bull pressed “play” on 3Style, and the world has not stopped listening since.
Stream DJ Lazyboy, Matsu, Dynamix, DJ Fingersmith, Chris Villa, and Shane Canfield’s live sets from the 2019 USA National Finals in San Francisco:
DJ Lazyboy [WINNER]
Featured photo: Long Nguyen