The Red Bull Thre3style regionals kicked off last night in Philadelphia. Along with host Rich Medina and guest judges A-Trak, Jazzy Jeff and Z-Trip, hundreds of people crammed into Voyeur Nightclub to see which DJ would advance to the national finals.
DJs LAYZEEBOY (Boston), Petey C (Pittsburgh), Trayze (DC) and Zeke (New York) threw down excellent sets, but the regional crown went to Philly's own DJ PHSH.
“I think I was the youngest one competing tonight, and I know I was definitely the shortest,” said a breathless and rhapsodic PHSH minutes after winning last night's battle. The 24-year-old grew up in West Philadelphia (not far from DJ Jazzy Jeff), and is a member of the Illvibe Collective with DJs Statik, Panek, Phillee Blunt, Lil Dave and Skipmode.
In April, PHSH will travel to L.A. to compete in the Red Bull Thre3style national finals. Last night, backstage at Voyeur, we spoke with PHSH about his West Philly roots and his strategy for winning the finals.
RedBullUSA.com: When did you start DJing?
PHSH: I got my first pair of turntables when I was about 14, and I've been digging for records since I was 12. My mom has an extensive jazz and classical record collection, so I was raised on Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. And my dad liked a lot of classical stuff, and random rock stuff like Jethro Tull. He was into all kinds of stuff. Both my parents studied theater in school -- my mom did one-woman plays, and my dad did lighting and stuff. My background's in performance, so that's my whole thing.
And just being from West Philly, and b-boying in high school, you know. I really fell in love with breaks and samples and dancing. Philly did this to me.
"It's about making a timeless set -- putting a song that's 15 years old next to a song that's out right now and allowing people to make that connection." -- DJ PHSH
RedBullUSA.com: So you've found Philly's music scene to be a generally welcoming and nurturing environment?
PHSH: I guess it depends on your mindset. Philly, specifically, isn't really welcoming if you're not genuine about the music and the craft. You have to have a unique outlook, and the way you present it has to be pure and unique. I'm on 51st and Catherine. Jeff grew up on 56th and Cedar. King Britt had a crib on 47th and Cedar. There's definitely something about the energy and the area. It was super hood out there growing up, but if you make the best out of it, there are a lot of creative juices you can pull from.
RedBullUSA.com: Going into tonight's battle, what was your plan?
PHSH; I'm a big fan of putting the right music together. When I think of a song, I don't just think of a single song, but I think of three other songs that can go with it. That's my process. When I won the local competition, a friend of mine told me I won the battle because I was just being myself for 15 minutes. In the last battle, I made a mix of the live version of 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' by Prince, with Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime.' But there was also some trap and dubstep. It was good music all around, and stuff that hits really hard.
RedBullUSA.com: So it's all about the diversity?
PHSH: Oh yeah, it's all about diversity. My mom's Jewish, my dad's black. I grew up in the hood and went to Hebrew school in Chestnut Hill. I've been around rich people and poor people. But I'm able to assess the complexities of it all, and I translate that into my music so everybody can get into it. It's about making a timeless set -- putting a song that's 15 years old next to a song that's out right now and allowing people to make that connection.
RedBullUSA.com: What's your strategy for the final battle?
PHSH: Red Bull Thre3style is a great place to be original. That's how you really stand out as a party rocker. I could DJ in Vegas and be that dude who plays all the Top 40 stuff, but I'd rather take the time to do something unique. That's what Diplo and Jeff did. They toughed it out and tried to be themselves.
So I'm just gonna be myself, and keep expanding on what that means and learn how to better express that to the crowds. The way I think about it is, as long as I stay true to being that kid from West Philly, that's all that matters.
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