Scratching their way to the top

By Rich Tupica

Tables keep turning at Capital City DJ Olympics

With the massive success of “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars,” it’s clear millions of Americans enjoy watching contestants fight it out for the top spot.

So Patrick Duke co-founded the Capital City DJ Olympics in June 2010, along with Marcus McKissic of BoxCar Management. The champion DJ takes home a trophy, $1,000 in gear provided by the Lansing Office of Community Media, a gig at Common Ground and other prizes.

“People want to see competition — it’s billed as a competition, but it’s actually an awareness movement. We’re trying to resurrect the DJ,” said Duke, who is getting set to host the Capital City DJ Olympics finals on Saturday at 621 the Spot in Lansing. Finalists include DJ Ruckus, Captain Eman, DJ Cha Chi and DJ Sizl.

Duke, who performs under the DJ Duke moniker, said DJs from across the state show up to compete. Each competitor is judged on four criteria: creativity, mixology, crowd control and “turntablism.” The events are spread across months, with many preliminary events leading up to the finale.

“The bulk of our DJs are nightclub DJs. A lot of their stuff is electronic-based, Top 40-based, house music-based, techno, hip-hop, drum and bass — it’s a lot of high-energy stuff,” Duke said. “But we’re getting a lot of diverse DJs coming in, we have guys like DJ Ruckus, he’s a great example.

“When Ruckus shows up to the DJ Olympics this guy is breaking out some obscure stuff,” he added. “He probably does that because he knows the DJs will see he’s doing off-the-beaten-path stuff. It’s like art: You have more appreciation for artists who do things off the beaten path.”

Steve “DJ Ruckus” Swart, a veteran Lansing-based DJ, said the competitions have encouraged DJs to hone their skills and branch out of their comfort zones.

“To some degree it raises the level of skill amongst DJs in this area,” Swart said. “There isn’t always a lot of incentive to keep learning and develop new skills, especially when most clubgoers don’t really appreciate it. This has created a strong incentive for DJs to take their craft seriously. It has also helped create a lot of camaraderie among local DJs.”

So why did Duke decide to spotlight local nightclub DJs of all genres?

“Part of the problem with people not knowing or respecting the DJs right now is because the focus is not on them. Nobody knows who they are,” he explained. “What we’ve been talking about for the past few years is putting the DJ’s face back with the music.”

Capital City DJ Olympics

8 p.m. Saturday, May 12

621 The Spot

621 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing

$10; 21 and over