Tuesday, November 16, 2004
'It takes all kinds.'
That's the motto that KJHK's Wax Clash has lived and died by for the last four years. Dozens of disc jockeys - established or aspiring - have scratched, mixed, beat-juggled and party-rocked their way to immortality ... or ignominy.
For every DJ who emerged as a champion - DJ Sku, DJ Aether, DJ Boner Donor, DJ Syren - there's plenty more who walked away embarrassed, distraught and emotionally de-pantsed.
And then there's the rare loser who walked away proud... but probably shouldn't have.
Edwin Morales of Downplay Productions recalls one such spinster (his identity mercifully withheld by this publication). The pugnacious pugilist carved his name in the Wax Clash hall-of-shame by getting loaded on 3.2 beer (and then some) and completely embarrassing himself with an atrocious set of techno rave music.
"Yeah dude, that was intense," Morales recalled. "He had his own record bitch handing him records...he was extremely high on methamphetamines...
"He was so bad that he was cool."
While the Wax Clash has prided itself on allowing anyone with a stack of vinyl and size-12 cojones to compete, the growing sentiment among organizers and DJs is that the bar is going to have to be raised if the event is going to endure.
"Our goal this year is to kind of change things because we've had a lot of complaints," said Courtney Ryan, live events coordinator for KJHK, the student-run radio station that has sponsored the battle since its inception in 2000.
"When we started this thing we had a lot of the high-profile DJs from the area competing ... that's kind of gone down in the last couple years."
The forums at Lawrencehiphop.com seem to indicate the same, with posts like "WACKlash" and others that bemoan past battles' formats, lack of organization and mediocre talent.
This year's Wax Clash should be juiced up by the return of two of the DJs who helped build the battle's reputation - three-time champ DJ Sku and chronic runner-up DJ Proof (who estimates he's taken second place four or five times). Defending scratch champ DJ Boner Donor and runner-up DJ Aether will also be present.
If the last time Sku and Proof met in the Wax Clash was any indication, the competition should be fierce.
"I was in the middle of my set and he just started cutting in on my stuff, like scratching over me," recalled Sku, a.k.a. Corey Aguilar. "That's just part of battling - it's competition. He was obviously feeling it that night and just wanted to go at me."
Selected comments from lawrencehiphop.com For all the nuances of this discussion, please visit the site's 'forums' section.
Posted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 9:20 am By: Guest hooray the WACKlash
Posted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 1:31 pm By: barnyard barbarian how about instead of starting to complain AGAIN about the waxclash, everyone enters so it'll be cool again. see you there.
Posted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 3:00 pm By: jq i think the dj's should have to submit an audition tape, audio or video, to be allowed to participate in the battle. it might make for a smaller battle, but i think that would be good. last year was too unorganized, and having two catogories for judging was unnesassary and made that shit drag on way to long. watching some cat just blend records together for 10 minutes is hella boring, and in my opinion, it takes away from what that type of dj is good at, or should be, setting a mood and carrying a crowd through it all night. condensing it to 10 minutes doesn't allow for that.
Posted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 8:55 am By: Guest i think that they should involve people who actually know anything about hip-hop battles...or even hip-hop. having a bunch of industrial/indie rock/alt-country/trance kj dj's run it is a big mistake
Posted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 3:53 pm By: Guest not everyone who works at kjhk falls under your narrow-minded stereotype... measures are being taken to make waxclash better this year, but what we need is more cats like quest offering advice and feedback on years past. maybe not everyone at the station knows the hip-hop cognoscenti of lawrence's opinion of waxclash, but the least you could do is offer something that's fucking constructive. -philmatic
Posted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 12:49 am By: fedwell If you're looking for the dopest djs to enter you might want to consider contacting them. Just a thought.
Posted: Sun Oct 24, 2004 5:05 pm By: FromageAndPaulProtocol The Waxclash is now officially just a scratching contes
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:12 pm By: scenebooster Two items I'd like to speak to: First, while the waxclash has not lived up to its potential the last couple of years, please realize that an event of this size comes with all of the drama of bathing an alligator and baby gorilla at the same time. So props to the KJHK staff who make the event happen at all, and let your feelings (ie complaints) be known, but also do what you can to help the show be the best it can be. Second - I seriously hope that I misread the post above, because a "scratch only" waxclash is a BAD idea. I like scratching as much as the next guy, but an evening of all scratching is about as appealing as listening to Eddie Van Halen go wheedlie wheedlie wheedlie all night. Scratching, while dope, is but a small part of DJing/ turntablism. Think back to the best DJ sets you've seen, and i think we can agree that the set was fresh not because some gimp could cut 64th notes in a backward crab flare, but because the DJ MOVED THE CROWD. While there are problems with mixing in live settings, it should not be eliminated, rather DJ's should have enough sense to know that the crowd does not want to watch you MIX for ten minutes, or really even two. Go ahead and blend "sittin on the dock of the bay" with "Impeach the President," but then get on wit it. ...If the event does turn out to be all scratching, you will see some dude get up, throw on a break record, and scratch furiously for three minutes, much to the utter boredom of the crowd.
Mon Oct 25, 2004 2:42 pm By: Butter The most important thing about battling is that you have the crowd on your side. Fuck judges. Judging is a matter of opinion. Let the crowd decide who wins. Fuck "turntablists"! Tablism died in 1998!!!!! Where the fuck the REAL Dj's AT.!!!!
Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:14 pm By: fedwell I agree. This is Lawrence, KS (not SF or NY). To do this successfully it needs to be like 20% battle, 70% show, 10% "I'm going to drink until that 200 plus hippie with the pit hair is fuckable...even liberal activists who work at the animal shelter and wear tie-dye sheets for dresses need to be fucked. I'll be like Scorpion-'GET OVER HERE!'" For real though, this has to be a party.
The altercation invited criticism from some local hip-hop-heads but caused no riff between Proof and Sku, who are friends and compete against each other regularly.
Though Proof, a.k.a. Ian Sotomayor, admitted feeling a bit "disenchanted" with the Wax Clash, he decided he'd throw his chips back onto the turntable this year.
"These types of things are good for that exposure shot," said Sotomayor, who owns a mobile DJ business and bartends at Free State Brewery. "That's my attitude on going back into it here on the 18th ... 'F*ck it - let's get busy.'"
Besides upping the level of competition, event organizers have been tending to a number of other sore spots.
Unlike last two Wax Clashes, this one will not be divided into "mix" and "scratch" categories (the format attracted criticism from some DJs). The battle will instead utilize a head-to-head format and ask the crowd to determine a winner.
"Basically we're just telling the DJs to bring every trick in their book and just rock the crowd, 'cause that's - at the end of the day - what a DJ is supposed to do," said Phil Torpey, a KJHK "Breakfast for Beatlovers" jock who is helping organize the event.
Torpey is seeing to it that hip-hop's "four elements" - MCs, DJs, break dancers and graffiti artists - are present by inviting local b-boy crews and area MCs. In lieu of showcasing local graf artists (who would likely be hesitant to throw their tags up in front of hundreds of spectators), organizers will instead screen old-school hip-hop movies like "Wild Style."
"Really it should be a celebration," said Torpey, who also hosts "The Parlance" once a month at the Eighth St. Tap Room. "People should be talking about this and anticipating it and thinking about it as a really big thing to look forward to every year."
Another improvement are the prizes awarded to the battle champ: a Vestax DJ mixer (retail $400), a posh pair of headphones and an opening slot with DJ Shortkut (Beat Junkies, Invisbl Skratch Piklz) the next day at The Bottleneck.
These prizes were what attracted DJ Sku, who skipped the last two Wax Clashes even though he regularly travels as far as Chicago, Madison and St. Louis to compete in DJ battles.
"The MC battles around here were paying like $500, the b-boy battles were paying like over $2,000 and here comes the Wax Clash and they're giving away like a $50 gift certificate to Love Garden," he said.
Though the competition is stacked with established talent, it will also provide a handful of newcomers an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of a crowd that - if past events are any indication - should number 300 or more.
"It's always cool seeing new DJs come out of their bedrooms, 'cause it's hard to get up there in front of all those people," Sku said. "You're nervous; you're shaking; you hope your needles don't skip ... Every time I'm up there I'm scared. I just don't show it."
According to Proof, the saturation of DJ "how-to" books and battle videos has made it easier than ever for aspiring DJs to learn the tricks of the trade.
"Nowadays cats got it pretty easy," he said. "I had no idea what the hell a slipmat was because I had yet to see somebody cutting off papers or felt and putting them under their wheels so they could get it to back-cue that much quicker."
"...But I don't knock that at all because, then again, when it comes to the mix and when it comes to party rocking, there's no way those kids got anything on me."