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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

HANNAH SNYDER

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

Photo: COURTESY RED BULL, License: N/A

COURTESY RED BULL

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


Though relatively new, Thre3style 2012 attracted stars like Erykah Badu and Salt-N-Pepa’s Spinderella, who is quoted in Red Bull’s press materials saying “This is the best DJ competition or event I’ve ever seen on so many different levels…The talent, production, competition format and everything were top-notch.”

The opinion of local DJs and a closer look at the judges confirm Spinderella’s perception.

“Red Bull is all over the place,” said DJ Tone, Best Club DJ winner in the 2012 Current Reader’s Poll. “They’ll send people to outer space to find DJs, and the winning DJs go to outer space too. I would rank [Thre3style] number two in the U.S. and in the top five in the world, maybe fourth or third.”

Thre3style’s invitation-only nature has its pros and cons. On the one hand, unknown (or PR-impaired) but skillful DJs get a break when Red Bull scouts “discover” them at a club and invite them to be part of Thre3style. On the other hand, more accomplished DJs feel undeservedly left out. What no one argues is the quality seen at Thre3style.

“I wish there was like an open invitation,” said DJ Tone. “But these unknown people really deserve it, and the judges are first-class. They’re really out there.”

DJ Tone thinks one of the reasons Thre3style works is because Red Bull reps were already in the clubs looking for new talent and then aggressively promoting the events (and the winning DJs). And when it’s time to court potential new stars, Red Bull won’t take no for an answer. Take Donnie Dee, for example.

If Dee was a tough one to crack, Balser (and Red Bull) were tougher. In a last desperate attempt to have him compete, they invited Dee to Austin. He accepted reluctantly and met Balser and several Red Bull representatives at the W Hotel in Austin last November.

“I go in, and they gave me a case,” said Dee. “I open it and there it was: a fully functional turntable with big letters reading, ‘Congratulations on becoming a Red Bull Thre3styler,’ or something like that. They charmed me and won my heart. When there’s more than one person who shows interest, you say, ‘I want to be part of this thing.’”

In Austin and Dallas, Dee performed sets that he conceived like all the others: in the shower.

“That’s when I figure everything out: ‘What can I do? What can I make fun of? What can I put in the middle to throw people off? What’s the climax?”

On paper, his choice to start could not have been worse. Live, the crowd went bananas.

“In Austin, especially, I went first, so I had to catch them off guard,” Dee said. “So I started making fun of ‘Gangnam Style.’ They wouldn’t expect the only black man there kicking things off with that and doing it the way I did it.”

How did he do it?

“I just let it play, man,” he laughs. “That’s all I had to do.”

From Psy’s “Gangnam Style” he went to Will.i.am and Britney to Jacko (solo and with the Jackson 5), in an explosive, scratch-filled mix of dance, hip-hop, funk, electronica, and rock. It was enough to beat local Austin heroes Nicknack, Chorizo Funk, Kid Slyce, and Bird Peterson. In Dallas, Dee took care of the regional champions: DJ Spinstyles (Kansas City), DJ Jive (New Orleans), OG Bobby Trill (Houston), and local favorite DJ A1.

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