After two hard fought nights that featured 12 of the nation’s best DJs scratching, mixing and looking for the perfect beat, five finalists would go head-to-head for one night and the opportunity to represent the United States at the Red Bull World Final in Tokyo.
After the smoke cleared, judges Four Color Zack, Z-Trip and DJ Jazzy Jeff decided it was San Francisco native and Eugene, Oreg., regional champion DJ J. Espinosa that stood above the rest. Despite sneaking in as a wild card, DJ Reed Streets came in second.
Before the contest even got crackin', the people of Phoenix got to witness greatness as 2013 Red Bull Thre3style national champion Trentino from Chicago delivered an epic set before the finalists got down and dirty.
Reed Streets went first and immediately showed he was no fifth wheel, starting off with a murdered-out version of the theme song to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an ode to his home city. The crowd energy never wavered as the bearded beat junkie wove in and out of genres, while showcasing his sleight of hand with a strong scratch game.
With the standing-room-only crowd visibly and audibly turnt, DJ Trayze kept that momentum going, taking the people on a bass-infused journey with everything from classic hip hop to ratchet rap to rock, punk rock and a touch of EDM-tinged pop in between.
Next up, hometown favorite DJ Akshen took advantage of that desert love, speeding up the tempo with a drum 'n' bass intro that had the capacity crowd clapping along immediately. Despite a few repeats from his opening night set, the Arizona native brought out some new tricks and made his region proud with a solid effort.
With a momentous first round performance fresh in people's memories, expectations were high for J. Espinosa and he did not disappoint. The Bay Area champ dropped an entirely new set that started out with classic hip hop hits like The D.O.C.’s “It’s Funky Enough” and Black Star’s “Definition” before going straight into a high energy, rock-infused set that never let up from start to finish. Flawless transitions, incredible hand speed and an unrelenting arsenal of songs made it clear from the jump that J. Espinosa would be tough to beat.
Closing out the contest was LA’s DJ Dynamix, who gave everyone a run for their money with an engaging and versatile set that began with a genre-fusing flurry of hits from club staples like Daft Punk and Three 6 Mafia before transitioning into a funk/pop/hip hop blend. As he did during his first set, Dynamix closed out with stadium music to make sure he had the people’s attention. After that, it was time for the judges to make their decision. But first, two of them, Z-Trip and Four Color Zack, took turns showing the crowd why they are the authorities when it comes to the turntables.
By then, the crowd should have been tired, but with incredible music and a building full of Red Bull, nobody was trying to leave the best party of the year. After all was said and done, the judges gave the trophy to J. Espinosa and the weekend was over but not before the DJs all got to share one last ride together on the big red Red Bull bus, which came equipped with turntables of its own, lights and everything else one would need to create a mobile club atmosphere.
From start to finish, the people at Red Bull put on an incredible event and allowed BET.com all access into the world of hip hop’s most sacred subculture. We’ll keep up with U.S. champion J. Espinosa as he takes on the world in Tokyo.
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(Photo: Aaron Rogosin/Red Bull Content Pool)