The prize could have been for “America’s Shortest DJ.” Qbert poked fun at his own vertically challenged stature when he accepted the 2010 DJ Times America’s Best DJ award Saturday night at Ghostbar, a well-earned recognition of his considerable talents.
“It feels like I’m kinda here for the scratch DJs. I’m representing the underground scratch culture, and it feels pretty cool,” said the DJ who manipulates the ones and twos so well he’s been referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of turntables. As a repeat DMC World DJ Championships winner in the ’90s and a top three finisher in the ABDJ poll the last two years, Qbert earned the top spot this year with skills impossible to ignore. His YouTube guerilla marketing during the voting—with shout-outs and support from Ludacris, Flavor Flav, Chuck D and Cee Lo—didn’t hurt, either.
So what do the awards mean, besides a chance to take home the coveted gold-plated Pioneer mixer? “I think it gives a lot of attention to the American DJ community,” said DJ Times editor-in-chief Jim Tremayne. “We all know how big the Europeans are, how well they’ve done and how big the DJ culture is in Europe. In the United States, we’ve been really, really pushing that for the longest time, so we think this contest really enforces the strength of the American DJs.”
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Qbert took control of Rain at 12:30 a.m. for a post-ceremony set, his fingers dancing across the turntables and mixer shown on the club’s big screens. “Tonight at Rain I’m pretty much just going to be myself,” Qbert told the Weekly before his set. “I’m not a DJ that plays commercial music or stuff that’s mainstream. I just keep it kind of raw and underground, and I like to play funky stuff.”
Qbert juggled beats solo, before the party’s opener and top 10 ABDJ finisher, Scotty Boy, joined him for an impromptu tag team set. Even ABDJ 2009 winner and Friday night Rain resident Z-Trip was on hand to give the award and jump on the tables as well.
“The mere fact that [Qbert is] being recognized in 2010 is amazing because, to me, he’s definitely one of the greats,” said Z-Trip. “He’s been doing this forever, and those who know recognize, and he’s a true pioneer.”
“I’m just here to show people [a] world a lot of people don’t really see,” said Qbert, who laughed that he still wasn’t sure how he won. “I’m just trying to bring the underground to the forefront.”