Vocalo 2018 DJ Competition: A Quest For The Best
This past June, I had the opportunity to participate in Vocalo Radio’s “Quest for the Best DJ" Competition here in Chicago. Vocalo, Chicago’s reigning independent urban alternative station, has a collective of DJs that champion the unique sounds of the windy city on a monthly basis thru live mixes and events. The “Quest for the Best” is a competition to pick the top local DJ to join the team and help spread the positive vibes across the city and beyond.
Vocalo isn’t about playing the most popular records, it isn’t for people that follow crowds or are easily influenced by others. It’s about celebrating individuality, being eccentric, original, and having a knack for thinking outside the box.
By a random chain of events I entered the competition, grinded on creating two unique sets and am honored to say I won the whole thing!
Looking back I am really proud about making the most of the opportunity and wanted to reflect on the accomplishment as well as post the two winning mixes and a handful of behind the scenes snaps from the competition.
Here’s five things I learned from this experience.
1. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. There is no one else like you.
2. Appreciate the ebb & flow of life. I would never have entered the competition if I my checks didn't come through from other gigs and I missed my chance to visit my Mom. Take a negative and flip it for a positive.
3. Trust your instincts! Records, like people and experiences, come into your life for a reason.
4. Be open & ready for new friendships in your life. You can’t if you close off yourself to the positivity in others and I met some incredible people through this experience.
5. Never compare yourself to others, people aren’t kidding when they say comparison is the thief of all joy. Set your goals and then put on blinders towards others.
Beginning of June I was focused on finishing a few corporate client gigs to afford a trip to see my mom in North Carolina, but when finances fell thru and I didn’t think I could make it, I was really depressed that I couldn’t make it up to her. Since I had requested time off from work, it meant that I had seemingly nothing to fill the space and I decided to channel the negativity into something positive. I had initially been peppering Vocalo’s Radio Producer Jesse De La Pena to get him to play my Chicago Mix Project on air, so we when the chance came up I sent him this demo (which had some repurposed ideas from a previous trip to NYC). He selected it as one of the qualifiers and now there was no turning back. I had to compete.
As part of a two-legged competition the first round was a set of 8 competitors taking place at a venue called Sanctuary in the South Loop. The space was beautiful and since this was my first time ever competing as a DJ, I was super nervous. Luckily, I did a decent job, and qualified for the final. One point I did want to make was a blend in my mix was inspired by a video I saw DJ Herm Guzman from AZ do on the internet. His take on Childish Gambino’s “This is America” inspired some of the political commentary I did in my set. Thanks Herm! Listen to the full set below. Each set was around 12 minutes.
As Part of Logan Square Arts Festival, the final took place during the block party on a Friday. It was exciting to compete on an actual stage, and really focus on performing your set in an effort to connect with spectators in a way that the other DJs may not. I was in the third of five competitors to throw down, which I felt like was the perfect time in terms of attendance and confidence level to give it my all. I came away with the title. Important thing to note is they also picked the homey DJ Archi as a winner to join the collective team. He held it down proper and I am honored to have been in the mix with him at this competition. Check out my championship set, right below.
Live footage taken during the finals by Carlos Feliciano
Photo Gallery by Summer Haris
It was an incredible experience to compete in the 2018 Vocalo "Quest for the Best" DJ Competition. Even if I had not won, it was worth it to simply compress many of the mix ideas I had been floating around in my sets for the past couple months. It also forced me to commit new blends and styles for immediate use in the competition. As DJs, it's easy to get complacent and fall in to a trap of simply updating social media with event flyers or photo shoots, but the real work will always be what you accomplish when you're on the turntables. Prior to this competition I felt a lot of strain due to the false idea of comparing my art and work with those that don't actually back up their efforts with music or mixes for the community.
The accomplishment here was in part recommitting myself to the necessary work of championing this city's music scene with every opportunity. Vocalo is part of that ultimate goal.
Now as a member of the collective, you can expect live mixes from me every second Friday of the month! Live broadcasted on 91.1 FM here in Chicago and globally via the Vocalo App.