Despite arriving two hours late, the event seemed to be running on H.H.T. (Hip Hop Time) as standard, and so I am reliably informed that I missed nothing. Indeed, I’d just acquired some assistance from a passing young man to totter back from the bar carrying a couple of beers when things kicked off with the legendary Rob Swift taking to the stage for a set. Heads bobbing and fierce grins all round, the packed venue demonstrated that no matter what new genres and sounds DJing may reach or create, nothing can match the original old-school hip hop ethos of beats, breaks and setting an atmosphere with dope skills and real love, which Rob Swift brings in abundance. The man is such a pro that when he had to change a needle mid-set it weren’t no thing – the man didn’t miss a beat and the grooving continued without interruption. It’s not every day you get to watch Rob Swift change a needle.
Billy Biznizz and Inja hosted with much banter and gusto, making frequent with the freebies to keep the assembled throng entertained between setups. In fact, Inja’s pitching could see him as a contender for the Ashes next year, making sure those in the balcony got a few goodies too. The crowd gets props too for being enthusiastic without being rowdy, nice to see a smattering of females besides myself and it felt like a good place to be, as people politely made way for those a tad less lofty to get a good view near the front. And yes, that means me.
Being involved in any international competition is never easy, let alone one where the chances of any supporters in the crowd are slim to none, so it’s no wonder DJ Steel of Switzerland looked so serious behind the decks. His set seemed to fly by, and before we knew it New Zealand’s DJ Impact was spinning his six minute set, albeit with a few of London’s New Zealand population there to cheer him on. I’ll bake cookies for the first person to tell me where on earth Benelux might be, but that’s DJ MD’s hometown, and the people standing next to me in the audience seemed to be cheering him on loud enough for me to be assured that it must have a population of at least twelve. No such problem locating Norway, where the people are as cool as the fjords. DJ Final’s zen-like calm may have come from opening his set with a blinding cut up of a Hare Krishna chant, or maybe he’d been paying attention to Rob Swift, because even when he messed up he styled it out and carried on playing a nice set with great musicality and space that in my book makes him one to watch in years to come.
The UK Champion DJ Jeppa brought rousing cheers from his home crowd and the set that won him his place back in July incorporating War of the Worlds and dub step aplenty, bringing some appropriate drama to this 25th anniversary event. His confident set didn’t even use up a full six minutes, which was a blessing on the time-keeping front as there was a whole host of goodness yet to come. Italy’s DJ Mandrayq was both fast and furious, launching into a set that was hectic from the start – I felt like I needed a quick lie down after that six minute session! The pace didn’t let up when France’s Ligone took to the stage with an assured set that marked him out as a clear contender.
And then there were two… the penultimate performance came from Japan’s DJ Co-Ma who showcased quick and precise cutting and juggling with some under knee and cross arm moves that demonstrated the showmanship needed by a truly great DJ. Last to caress the decks was DJing’s very own Louis Theroux lookalike, America’s DJ Shiftee. His inventive mixing of quotes, beats and songs that even took in Annie Get Your Gun coupled with his infectious grin and audience interaction, made his set a clear crowd favourite.
Before the results were announced we were treated to a demo from the almighty DJ Qbert. This is the moment that the assembled crowd lost any semblance of ‘cool’ they may have had and started to resemble something more akin to a gathering of Take That devotees. Cameras were aloft and arms outstretched as he dazzled and entertained in equal measure, throwing out some copies of his new album and even the vinyl fresh from his deck! Just when you thought it didn’t get any better, the next slot was a six setup spectacular with a whole plethora of DJ icons and Killa Kela joining Q-Bert for a jam, including Tigerstyles, Prime Cuts, Rob Swift, Woody, ID, Switch and more and more and more until we were close to meltdown! Trust me, it will be worth buying the DVD for!
Finally, it was results time – the gold plated decks and mixer gleamed invitingly for the first place winner, but, as ever, the results came in reverse. France’s Ligone was congratulated in French by Tony Prince – oo-la la! It was a close call and much discussion was had afterwards regarding first and second place, but DJ Co-Ma will be back next year aiming to upgrade on his second place no doubt. This meant that donning the winner’s jacket with a grin from ear to ear was DJ Shiftee.
Of course, the night didn’t end there, the after party upstairs saw the DJs and assorted liggers relaxing until 3am. Stig of the Dump made his presence felt by making a significant dent in the beer supply. Former Battle for Supremacy champion and four times DMC finalist himself DJ Matman made a valiant attempt to keep up with Stig on the beer front, but party animals of the night were Shiftee himself as a deserving winner should be, and Billy Bizness who got down and threw some b-boy moves on the dance floor representing true hip hop style.
Props to DJ IQ for DJ-ing at the after party – not a gig most people would want, but IQ is a former DMC champion himself and so dropped those party tunes to keep everyone happy and moving until it was time to stumble out into late summer night…