Two turntables, a microphone and fat stacks of speakers: It’s so simple a setup, but one that has near-infinite utility. While hip-hop is naturally identified with rappers, b-boys and street artists, it was and remains the DJ whose beats undergird the movement as a whole. The art of the DJ is its own self-contained discipline, one whose creative boundaries are expanding by the day.
A selection of the present-day vinyl vanguard is on display at Rain Dogs on June 21 for Soundclash 2, the second Haterfree production at the 5 Points venue this month. Since its founding four years ago, Haterfree has maintained a regular presence at ArtWalk and hosted shows at Birdies, Burro Bar, Underbelly and elsewhere, featuring a range of artists including Christina Wagner, Chopp, City Street Breakers, Dub Theorist, Allan “Giz Roc” Oteyza, Heavy Flow, Shank Sinatra and DJ Vendetta.
Soundclash 2 features four of the region’s best-known hip-hop DJs, led by the host, Djmatsmith of New Style Inc. The front room will be held down by Dialectable Beats, a DJ, skateboarder and local fashion icon representing the Big Buck$ crew. DJ Shotgun (of the Bofresco crew), meanwhile, will share the main stage with the mighty DJ Lord, who for the last 15 years has manned the decks for the one and only Public Enemy, and who is today one of the top-ranked DJs on Earth.
Born Lord Aswod in Atlanta, DJ Lord was recruited by Professor Griff to replace the legendary Terminator X, who retired in 1999. Public Enemy holds a special place as one of the few acts ever to achieve mainstream status without compromising their sound or their unflinching politics (see anything off 1990’s Fear of a Black Planet); they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
While working with Public Enemy, DJ Lord carved out a formidable side-hustle on the battle scene, becoming a three-time KoolMixx Atlanta Battle Champion and a two-time U.S. finalist in the prestigious Disco Mix Club contests. Despite compiling one of the most impressive résumés a DJ possibly can, Lord remains humble about his craft, always pushing himself to be a little better. “I still don’t consider myself ‘good,’” he writes in an email from Britain, where Public Enemy is on tour. “I mean, to me it’s a constant climb.”
Though Lord and Shotgun have both competed across the Southeast, there will be no blood shed on Saturday here. “I don’t battle anymore,” Lord writes, “but in a pre-defined ‘soundclash’ setting, I just let it flow with a ‘Take No Prisoners’ vibe, ’cause I got so many sides/styles. The mindset for the PE shows is ‘Kill Em All,’ so they actually link perfectly.”
The show at Rain Dogs marks a return to DJ Lord’s stomping grounds of sorts. Over the last two decades, he’s done about five shows here, he says. “Jacksonville has always had a DoPE Hip Hop music scene to me.”