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DJ Trayze talks Red Bull Thr3Style and The Evolution of DJ Culture

Red Bull’s Thre3Style DJ competition is a highly entertaining showcase that deftly blends party-rocking jams and technological histrionics. The United States Finals of the event that’s an ideal celebration of the history of the DJ as turntable manipulator, crowd-controller, b-boy back-breaker, and party exciter are being held at U Street Music Hall on November 29th at 9 PM. As a multiple-time DC-area Thr3style contestant turned 2016 Red Bull Thr3Style US DJ Champion and two-time Thr3Style World Finalist (2014, 2016), Mount Rainier, MD-based DJ Trayze is an ideal judge (and guest performer) for 2017’s competition and a perfect person to discuss the event itself and the evolution of DJing as a craft. Moreover, his career in essence is a celebration the importance and level of diligence required to stay relevant as a turntablist locally, nationally, and globally.

In 2013, Trayze’s DC Thr3Style contest-winning set was described by Brightest Young Things as “[using] a MPC to transition classic old school R&B/Soul hits into Hip-Hop and dance hits” to deliver a “jaw dropping awe-inspiring performance that not only rocked the crowd but displayed impeccable timing and dedication to the craft.” Four years later, he notes, “I’ve been around the Thr3Style competition for five years, and it’s been an invaluable aid in my career. I got inspiration for my sets from the strangest places. Sometimes I’d hear a song or a lyric in the morning, and then I’d hear it in the afternoon, and I realize…wait, is there something I can do with that?”

The rules of Thr3Style are ideal for whimsical mindsets similar to Trayze’s own. Red Bull’s Thr3style website notes, “Each DJ has to play a minimum of 3 genres. In the spirit of Geoffrey Sumner — “This is supposed to be a journey into sound. A journey which along the way will bring us new value, new color, new dimension.” We are sure you get the drift. Every competitor gets one 15 minute performance with the goal to impress the judges and excite the crowed.” The judging is split into various categories and broken down as follows:

  • 20% Originality of your Track Selection
    (White Labels, Edits, Own Routines, Dubplates)
  • 30% Creativity of your mixing
    (Composition, Blends, Note Play, Word Play)
  • 30% Technicality of your mixing
    (Cutting, Scratching, Juggling, etc.)
  • 10% Stage Presence
    (You don’t have to ‘wile’ out to have stage presence)
    This is important!
  • 10% Crowd Response
    (You leave them wanting more)

Yes, this certainly isn’t the same as going to a nightclub on a Friday night and hearing a DJ spin for a few hours, but according to Trayze, there’s something about a disc jockey who understands these skills that truly adds something to the experience. “People love seeing and hearing these songs re-imagined. There’s something about the art and act of DJing that makes people attracted to it forever once they see and hear it done well.”

DJing well is something that Trayze certainly has done. In many ways, his growth as a top DJ via the competition is similar to the re-emergence of the nightlife mayor/commissioner-considering Nation’s Capital (where, in 2015, the direct sales contribution of the hospitality industry — of which nightlife is a part — was more than $2.8 billion) as a worldwide hub of nightclub-based musical culture. Alongside Trayze at 2017’s DC held US National Finals as judges are DJs Eskei83 and 2¢ (Four Color Zack & Craze). To grow from being a contender to being on the stage at the same level of renown as the living legends named is akin to DC’s “least anticipated to most wanted” rise, and thus nothing short of astounding.

“It’s been a mind-blowing experience,” Trayze reminisces. He still maintains a busy schedule of live DJ sets, and is also a husband and father. When asked about the growth of his own career, if he sees a similar career for his son, and potentially looking to the youth for inspiration in general, a holistic sense of who Trayze was, is, and is developing into as a man and as a professional becomes apparent.

“My son is becoming musical, which I love. Youth is amazing and important to music. Music is always growing, and having an awareness of that is important. At some point, Nas was where Lil Uzi Vert is, just trying to make a unique name for himself in a genre and culture.” He continues, “as well, it’s important to meditate on how much [DJ culture] has grown, too. [DJing] as a culture is everywhere now, and the inspiration can come from anywhere. Thr3Style as a showcase for all of this is as inspiring as it is exciting.”

Red Bull Thr3Style, featuring finalists Boi Jeanius (Chicago), DJ Ease (Las Vegas), DJ FingerSmith (NYC), Bo (Washington, D.C.), DJ Diggy Dutch (Austin), DJ Frazier Davis (Los Angeles) hits U Street Music Hall on Wednesday, November 29th. Tickets are still available.

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Marcus K. Dowling

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