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Arts and Entertainment

Spin '05 Finals: "The DJ is the Foundation"

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Photo by Anna Martino.

DMC would re-iterate that throughout the night as he hosted Guitar Center's Spin '05 Finals at the Wiltern this past Saturday. "The DJ is the foundation of hip hop. Without the DJ we wouldn't be here." The Fantastik 4 and Power 106's Mr. Choc tried to give him his own shine, "Without Run DMC, we wouldn't be here," he said but this godfather of rap wasn't having it. "It is all about the DJ!"

We're not sure if Jeremy Piven, Efren Ramirez and Andy Milonakis understood those nuances of the roots of hip hop but the crowd sure did. As the eight finalists took the stage one by one, the crowd oohed and aahed at the intrictate scratch techniques and beat manipulation. DJs Illtrax (of San Jose) and Spare Change (of Dayton, Ohio) stood well ahead of the pack. Spare Change was the true scratch master using his mouth, his feet and the decks themselves to cut the records back and forth. Illtrax, though, is a beat conductor. His was the only finalist set that brought both turntable skills and simple record mastery. While wowing the judges, he cold rocked the party and thus made it to the ultimate battle with last year's champion, I-Emerge.

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And then the favored son from San Jose (who had a huge fan base in the audience) got eaten alive. I-Emerge regularly wins DJ battles and it was obvious on this night why. He went through more records than any of the other DJs and was a true showman, smashing his final record on the Technics deck.

The only question after the battle was why so many DJs used Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl as the signature beat in their sets?

The sold out Wiltern was then treated to an amazing concert of G.O.O.D. music. Talib Kweli, Common and special guest Kanye West took to the stage for nearly two hours to the delight of the amped audience. With fists in the air, the crowd bounced and swayed to the best Talib Kweli set we've ever seen (we've been to many a Talib Kweli show over the years and have been regularly underwhelmed) and an outstanding performance from Common, whose Be is easily one of the best albums of the year.

SoCal is regularly treated to shows from Common, he did a show at the House of Blues over the summer, appeared with Kweli and Mos Def at Coachella this past Spring, seems to always join De La Soul when they do local shows and recently had the kickoff event for his own personal foundation. His headlining gig at the Wiltern was actually his 2nd show of the night. He shared the stage with Kanye West for his $2 Bill mtv2 performance just a few hours earlier. If he had had a low energy performance, it could've been forgiven. He didn't. It was animated and powerful featuring live percussion and keyboards.

And Kanye West.

Unlike the football fans of Boston, This crowd erupted with cheers when Kanyeezy hit the stage. He jumped right into Gold Digger and then shared the stage for the rest of the night with Common and Kweli, never giving us a chance to catch our breath.

Just after 1am, the three closed the show with an uproarious rendition of Jesus Walks. The lights went up in the Wiltern with each of the artists respective DJs standing behind their decks and their laptops and their records.

Even as the curtains went down, it was still all about the DJ.