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Cover 04/03/2013

SA DJ Donnie Dee Already Crushed the South; Now He Goes for National Gold in LA

Photo: HANNAH SNYDER, License: N/A


Donnie Dee mixing it up during his Friday gig at the Revolution Room

Photo: COURTESY RED BULL, License: N/A


Dee during his 15-minute winning set at the Thre3style Southern region championships

For two years, San Antonio-born-and-raised DJ Donnie Dee (Dontia Twine) wanted no part of Red Bull’s Thre3style competition, in which DJs have 15 minutes to pump up the crowd while mixing at least three different styles of music. Super Soul Shakedown’s Scuba Gooding Sr. (Steven Balser), a longtime friend, kept pestering him about it, but he would have none of it.

“[Balser] was very persistent, telling me how this would be a springboard for my career and all that shit,” Donnie Dee told the Current while preparing his regular Friday night gig at the Revolution Room. “I understand friends want to help friends, but I was a little burnt out and he kept bugging me, to the point that we had an argument about it and didn’t speak to each other for a while.” (Balser, who two years ago joined Red Bull as Cultural Event Marketing Manager for the 13-state Mountain South region, said he couldn’t speak for this story due to “company policy;” ironic, considering that all Red Bull energy drinks do is keep you awake and wanting to talk.)

Dee had burnt out despite being a two-time U.S. finalist in the prestigious DMC world DJ championship, tired of a slow decline in the local DJ scene, especially after the demise of party-hearty FM radio station Power 106.

Dee also had doubts about this new Thre3style competition. “I just didn’t see it,” Dee said. “I’m so stuck on DMC and how that’s run, and being part of that whole world. I didn’t feel I belonged [in Thre3style].”

Eventually, Balser convinced his friend and, on January 25, Dee went to Austin to represent San Antonio in the regional qualifier facing Austin’s top DJs. He killed it, pulverizing the opposition in 15 minutes of glory that then took him to Dallas on February 22 to compete against the South’s top DJs. He won again, and on April 5 in Los Angeles he’ll represent the South against the nation’s top five DJs for a chance to wear the red, white, and blue colors at Toronto’s Thre3style world finals in the summer.

“This is all so unbelievable,” said the 33-year-old Dee, who started DJing when he was 12 but up until now had only competed in six-minute sets at DMC, the world’s top DJ competition launched in 1986. “I never thought I was going to win Austin or Dallas. And just for you to be interviewing me, it is so weird. I’m not used to it.”

Red Bull’s invitation-only Thre3style started in Canada in 2008 and quickly grew into an international event in more than 24 countries. Unlike the DMC, which focuses on shorter routines and emphasizes pure technique and mixing ability, Thre3style competitors are judged in track selection, creativity, mixing skills, stage presence, and crowd reaction, and DJs must mix at least three music styles in their 15-minute set. Qualifiers win $5,000 and regional champs receive $10,000. Dee used his cash prizes to fix his mother’s Toyota Prius and saved the rest. If he continues his run, he may have enough to do one or two more tune-ups: the national winner gets $20,000 and the World Champion in Toronto will earn $50,000.

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