Who is the best party rocker in the world? Over the last 12 months this vital question has been reverberating around the globe as DJs from 10 different countries tested their steel in regional and national heats. And at 3am on Thursday night in Paris’s Elysée Montmartre, we finally learnt the answer, when France’s DJ kArve was crowned the first Red Bull International Thre3style Champion in history – before being swiftly carried from the stage on a sea of very sticky hands.
Over the course of the night and in accordance with Thre3style rules, each finalist played a 15-minute set encompassing three or more genres. A panel of judges including DJs Jazzy Jeff, Craze and Klever, and DJ expert (and sole female) Yasmina Benbekaï, marked them for crowd reaction, track selection and technical skills – although you might just as easily have monitored the bobbing of the line of baseball and flat caps as the judges threw their hearts and heads into the job. And although Nirvana’s Teen Spirit, the Beastie Boys and Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger kept resurfacing like relay batons, in general the mix of nationalities made for a brilliantly diverse night.
It was a relentlessly rhythmic, suavely scratched and deeply, shudderingly serious club set – not to mention a killer statement-sample in Lil Jon & Eastside Boyz’ Chris Rock In Da Club (‘We stay in the club! We live in the club! We die in the club!’) – that scooped kArve the prize. The judges praised him for respecting all the rules, playing more than three genres of music, and the fundamental but too often overlooked art of “managing to make everybody dance."
Brazil’s flamboyant and gadget loving Nedu Lopes picked up second place by proving himself master of the break, a clever scratcher, and a dab hand at ingratiating himself with the home crowd. Sandwiched between a French language intro and an outro of J’taime, he managed to pack in everything from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Beatles to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Armand Van Helden/A-Trak’s Barbra Streisand, via the original language version of Girl From Ipanema. A snatch of Blur’s Song 2 with its contagious ‘woo-hoos’ ticked the crowd participation box, while scratching the riff-rhythm to Walk This Way confirmed his technical skills.
Sharing joint third place (and a baffled glance as they entered on stage to the theme tune from Star Wars) were Canada’s DJ Drastik and Switzerland’s DJ Montes. Hailing from the championship’s country of origin and returning to battle DJing after a five-year hiatus, Drastik grabbed the competitive element by the cojones and unleashed a chest-poundingly aggressive and charmingly audacious battle set from the moment he sampled Jadakiss and Jay-Z’s Who Run This in his opening minute. Throw in La Roux, Missy Elliot, Radiohead, Queen and Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire amidst some edgy electro and grinding bass and you had a set with more than enough skill and savvy track selection to support all that DMC-schooled front.
Meanwhile, Montes rode in on some super fast beats and a sample from Taxi Driver before laying down a Tainted Love/hip-hop mash-up, scratching at Iggy Pop’s already ripped back side, raving in to Edith Piaf, and channeling the equally iconic sounds of, er, Tetris.
Earlier in the night judge, Jazzy Jeff had played an hour-and-a-half warm-up set of such solid gold, genre-spanning classics that you began to wonder – like a competitive dad smashing down every skittle with his first bowl – whether he’d left the young finalists with anything fresh to play with. But in the opening set alone the UK’s house, garage and hip-hop favouring DJ Santero managed to squeeze in at least twenty more, from Blue Monday through to Roxanne, while New Zealand’s Scratch22 looped Please Mr Postman and ricocheted into Dizzee’s Bonkers during one of the heaviest and dubbiest sets of the night.
That left the USA’s suit and tie-wearing DJ M-Squared to impress with an equally smartly tailored mix including old school hip hop and disco, and Colombia’s Dhago to kick off with a chilled carnival vibe before some quirky scratch interludes. The most idiosyncratic sets of the night, meanwhile, came from technical wizard Japan’s DJ Iku – whose frenetic scratching batted beats all over the place like a squash ball of sound – and Spain’s DJ Chelis, whose Serato-less, vinyl-only set was a curious semi-accident of throbbing trance and momentum-shrugging beats.
As kArve was finally allowed to reconnect with the ground and judges Craze and Klever took to the decks for a closing set, the DJs clustered backstage exchanging high fives and mobile numbers, while their fans swapped moves on the dancefloor. It seems the first International Red Bull Thre3style championship wasn’t just about finding the best party rocker in the world. To borrow a sample from Drastik’s set, Paris last night learnt that ‘15 minutes is time enough for many things to happen.'