Are you up to scratch?

Roc Raida's `Gong Show'-inspired DJ battle travels in search of fresh talent

April 05, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun reporter

Roc Raida remembers being a young DJ in the early '90s. The Harlem-raised musician made a name for himself by entering New York City DJ battles, where competitors try to one-up each other by scratching on turntables.

Now, Raida, who won the renowned DMC World DJ Championship in 1995, is sponsoring his own touring contest. The event, called the Gong DJ Battle, spotlights local talent in cities across the globe. It comes to Sonar tonight.

"It's good because I remember I was just like that," Raida said. "I was just trying to find battles to enter. It feels good to give DJ battles back to guys."

Raida came up with the idea for the Gong DJ show about five or six years ago, but didn't have the time to pull it together until a couple years back, he said. It's a cross between a normal DJ battle and The Gong Show from the '70s. He started with a date in New York City, then did a show in London and a couple other American cities.

Each DJ who enters the contest gets one minute to show off his or her scratching skills and stage presence. A team of judges decides whether to gong the person off stage or let them go to the next round of eight contestants. From there, the pool is narrowed down to four, then to two, and a winner is picked.

In Baltimore, Raida will be one of three judges. He hopes to draw about a dozen DJs to tonight's show.

The winner gets a mixer, turntables, a branded Gong Battle Jacket, plaque and trip to the Gong DJ finals. In the finals -- a date and location have not been set yet -- the pot will be sweeter, Raida said.

Each show is filmed and released as a DVD. The winner also gets a copy of the DVD from his city.

Raida said the crop of DJs he sees at his battles are noticeably more talented than the DJs he grew up with.

"They get to be influenced by people that have been doing it for a while," Raida said. "Back then, we were just influencing each other."

All kinds of DJs show up for the battles. In a recent New York City Gong DJ Battle, one contestant scratched for a few seconds, then started tap dancing, Raida said.

Did he win?

"No way," Raida said.

In the near future, Raida plans to expand the tour to more American and Canadian cities. One of the benefits of expanding the show is that Raida gets to see some of the best talent on the scene, he said.

"I'm sure I'm meeting some of the next legends -- the next turntable legends," Raida said. "A lot of these guys are really practicing hard."

Roc Raida and Stanton present the Gong DJ Battle tonight at Sonar. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Evidence and the Alchemist open. Entry in the contest is free. Admission is $12. The venue is at 407 E. Saratoga St. For more information, call 410-327-8333 or go to

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