So one would never, under normal circumstances, think of a craft such as DJ’ing (Disc or Record Jockeying) as an extreme sport. Music stands in the realm of musicianship normally and couldn’t be classed as a sport as it is a performance for an audience to express musical artistry. But what is a sport? By definition it means “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.” Well in 1986 for the first time in world history the artistry of music met the boundary of sport and threw a big party! The best DJ’s from around the world came in to perform and compete against one another to become the super supreme grand master DJ of the year! Or DMC World Champ for short! These DJ’s had worked like any other athlete for their entire lives to gain entry into this competition. Like athletes in all sports DJ’s use their entire body to perform their set with as much prowess, timing, and finesse as they can muster. By the end of the 6 minute set you’ll see dripping foreheads and elated exasperation as the crowd roars with excitement at the conclusion of a well performed mix. To be declared the winner and wear the yearly crown requires a perfectly timed execution, excellent stage presence, and crowd winning physical maneuvers that set you apart from the rest! The world of DJ competition is an extreme sport of the finest degree!
The DMC championships first began in 1986 and was hosted by a group in England called the “Disco Music Club.” In the beginning it wasn’t actually a world championship as it was only DJ’s in England who were competing. But later in the next year of competition DJ’s from around the world vied to perform in the tournament and it gained enough prominence to be held in the Royal Albert Hall which had never before had a DJ play in it’s halls let alone host a DJ competition! The DJ competition scene began with a bang and hasn’t slowed since. With superstar musicians like Run DMC, James Brown, Public Enemy and Janet Jackson in attendance over the years DJ’s bring their A game and have their eyes fixed on the title of DMC world champion!
The first winner of the competition was a young London born DJ named Roger Johnson. He was the competition’s first DJ champion in 1985! The following year saw a final between the Orlando Voorn and DJ Cheese with DJ Cheese taking the crown. That year people watched from all over the world as theatrics ensued with Voorn jumping on the mic after Cheese’s set asking the crowd “Is this a mixing or a scratching competition?!” In the years that followed it proved to be both as no DJ would be accepted into the competition without expertise in both crafts of mixing and scratching. Mixing is the ability to go from a track playing on one turntable seamlessly to another track playing on the other turntable. The mix must be on beat, have creative finesse, and work together harmonically (Or in beat) with the other track. Alternatively, the art of scratching is where a DJ pulls and pushes the record back and forth through an audio sample (or a vocal slice of a song) and inserts the “scratch” sound in with the other record playing a song or beat via the use of the mixer’s cross-fader. The cross fader is the lever on a mixer that shifts the audio from one turntable over to the other. If a beat or song is playing on one table and the DJ is making scratching noises on the other table quick motions of the crossfader to it’s middle ground where both tables are playing together cause the scratches to be heard together with the song and the chirp in on beats that the DJ “plays” by shifting the crossfader quickly. There are style points awarded when DJ’s perform physical tricks while scratching like spinning around, scratching backwards, and even using a football as was seen in the 1987 championships when Chad Jackson stole the crown when he scratched with a football!
The only way to understand performance DJ’ing is to see it happen for yourself. Here is a sample of one of my favorite DJ’s 5 time DMC World Champ DJ Craze going insane on some great technology! Check out the video!