As reported here last week, nearly half of the finalists competing for the US DMC title in New York City this past weekend hail from Colorado. Unfortunately, none of the five local contestants, who battled it out in front of a celebrity crowd against some of the most talented and well-seasoned DJs in the country, emerged victorious. We spoke with Cysko Rokwel this morning about the competition, performing alongside his fellow Coloradans, playing to the judges and the possibility of producing his very own battle record in the near future.
Westword (Rachel Romero): As we discussed previously, Colorado sent close to half of the DMC US Finals contestants to New York City on Saturday. What were your general thoughts on the battle?
Cysko Rokwel: First off, Christie Z has done a great job with the event. It was packed. There were tons of important hip-hop icons there just to watch, including Busta Rhymes and Grand Wizard Theodore. The prizes and sponsors were amazing. The judging panel was legitimate, and the performances were awesome and included DJ Shiftee, DJ Rockin Rob, Mysterio, and DJ Jazzy J.
All of the contestants were caliber, and most pulled their sets off clean. Notch's set was better than the one he threw down in Denver. Skip's set was way better, too. B*Money dissed almost every DJ in the battle. Jeff C killed it. That guy has gotten a lot better. Personally, I nailed my set, with the exception of a skip at the end, but I pulled it off without totally fucking up. All in all, good things with a good DVD to come.
Ww: Were there any highlights to the evening? Any lowlights?
CR: The highlights definitely were the showcases. Shiftee smashed it, and Rockin Rob's 45 set was butter. The low of the evening, for me, was not placing in the battle. A DJ named Concept One out of Florida and I were, in my opinion, the most seasoned, cleanest and best-scratching DJs there. But it seemed we did not have what they were looking for.
I think the judges were looking for custom record styles. First-place DJ Etronik and second-place DJ Steel had custom records pressed for the battle, and that seems to be the standard. For the last six years, five of the US champs had custom records made.
Third place, on the other hand, was Grand Master Supreme from New York. The man is a member of the legendary Zulu Nation and definitely had the crowd with his old-school style. He basically did the same set that got him second place in the NY regional, with different theatrical tricks inserted. In my opinion, [it was a] great show -- no technical prowess.
Ww: Do you have any advice for fellow turntablists who may compete in future DMCs?
CR: Really work on technique, as well as the sound of your sets. Study up on the game. Pay attention to all the comps, and look and listen to what the best are doing; basically research. Most important, have fun. If it's not fun anymore, you are wasting your time.
Ww: Do you plan on battling in the future?
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CR: I thought Concept and I deserved to place, at least, and I thought that both of our sets came off well. At first I was upset, but I know now that I have to play their game and not try to do it the old-fashioned way -- [using] vinyl that you buy from a store. Instead, [I need to] produce an album designed to win it. So, yes, indeed! I will be back. I will not stop until I get what I am after. I have plenty of work in the next year. I will make it happen. I have come too close to hang it up.
Ww: What's next for Cysko Rokwel?
CR: I am going to be busy this year with the group [3 the Hardway]. We have a lot of projects and big plans for this year; check for us. Also, I am certainly producing a battle record. I am also now working on a video routine that coincides with my mixing and scratching, as well as mix CDs and starting to produce beats -- basically tons of work. But that's the idea, right? Stay tuned, 'cause Colorado will be in the building again next year at DMC!