Music Beat battle

Donnie D and Kico represent San Antonio at a national DJ championship

In 1986, American DJ Cheese won the first ever DMC World DJ Mixing Championship with a historic performance that introduced scratching to the nascent competition. Although the masses were formally exposed to the concept of the DJ battle courtesy of Ernest Dickerson's 1992 film Juice, the DMCs (DJ Mixing Championships) quietly persevered in the underground.

Sponsored internationally by Technics, the competition has spread to more than 30 countries and branched out into sub-categories that include team battles and in-your-face supremacy bouts. On August 26, for the first time in the history of the competition, two Texans will compete for the national crown, and both call San Antonio home.

Gonzalo Ultreras, aka DJ Kico, has been spinning records since he was 10 years old. Born and raised in Chicago, he was motivated by house music and hip-hop and after several attempts he eventually won consecutive regional battles launching him into the national contest three years in row. Along the way, he also collected the head-to-head World Supremacy DJ Battle title for 2002 and the prestigious International Turntable Federation Western Hemisphere Beat Juggling Championship crown.

DJ Donnie D (left) and DJ Kico before a recent show at the Sky Lounge on Babcock Road. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

Two years ago, the 28-year-old turntablist relocated to San Antonio, where he purchased his first home. On April 28, after not participating in competitions for three years, Kico made a notable return trip to Chicago, winning the Midwest regional battle, and vaulting himself back into the national challenge.

San Antonio native DJ Donnie D is a bright and omnipresent fixture in the local hip-hop community. On July 1, in only his fourth competition, the 25-year-old delivered a stunning six-minute set in front of a packed Austin crowd at Emo's to take the Southwest regional. The win guaranteed him a spot in the nationals. For those who have come across the humble and always optimistic figure, this recent accomplishment is but the latest confirmation of his continually evolving musical potential.

The fact that Kico and Donnie D competed in different regions allowed for a highly unusual scenario: Two San Antonio DJs, friends and peers on the local scene, competing against each other on the biggest possible national stage. The Current recently sat down with them as they prepare for the challenge awaiting them at New York's Webster Hall, and if successful, the world championships in London.

How did you feel going into the regional competitions and what was your reaction afterward?

Kico: I took the drive. I wanted to take the drive to get that feeling back to the point when I was living in Chicago and winning titles. I wanted to take that drive just to make it hard on myself. I have a fan base in Chicago so a lot people came out just to see me. I have a lot of friends and family there so that was kind of cool. I was from Chicago, but I live in San Antonio now, so San Antonio is what I'm representing. It felt great.

Donnie D: I didn't really think that I was going to win because I never do. Some cats go every single year and they never place. To win is an honor because a lot of people came from spots like Arizona and Louisiana. There were a lot of dope DJs from all around. I'm just fortunate, that's all it is. It was a clean, good six-minute set. I think I just took everybody by surprise by doing what I did. I just kind of overlooked that whole feuding thing. When I did my thing I didn't dis anybody. It was perfect.

How would you describe the competition and the preparations you have to make?

Kico: The one thing is that it gets stressful and frustrating, but it's just like anything. It takes practice. You have to dedicate yourself and you have to really want to do it. Just like basketball players, they'll shoot hoops for like 10 hours just to make sure that they have that right jump-shot. As far as being in that level of competition it feels great, but at the same time you can't forget how you got there because that was the problem with a lot of good people. They got to that point but it's just like they forgot what brought them here. I mean once you get to that point, you still have to practice so you still have to keep on your toes.

Donnie D: Ever time I DJ, I kind of take a battle mentality because I still have to battle with rocking the crowd. I took it like it was just a big party. That's the only way I looked at it. The majority of the competitors that I talked to beforehand, I was just telling them to go up there and have fun because that's the main thing. If you get all stressed out about battling, you'll crack when you go up there.

"I've run into a lot of DJs out here that do their thing for sure but Donnie D stands out from the rest of them."

- DJ Kico

How important is this for the Texas hip-hop community and San Antonio specifically?

Kico: It's amazing that you have two people that are coming from San Antonio and I do consider myself from San Antonio. I mean, I'm a resident here, I pay taxes here, I bought a home here, so this is my home, this is what I'm representing. Donnie D, when I came down here, the first time I met him I thought he was one of the dopest DJs down here and I still think that to this day. I've run into a lot of DJs out here that do their thing for sure, but Donnie D stands out from the rest of them. This championship pretty much just seals the deal for me and it should for everybody. To let everybody know this is the guy, this is San Antonio.

Donnie D: I think it's very significant because it's a big thing. This never happens, ever. This is the first time that somebody from San Antonio has gone. There's been a lot of cats from Houston and Dallas, but it's very rare for somebody actually from Texas to even get to go up there and represent. So it's a real big thing to me and I wish a lot of cats get this opportunity because it's a fun ride and I'm seriously enjoying it.

Text and interview by M. Solis

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