DJ Skillz - freshly crowned DMC World Champ

DJ ND had the chance to meet DJ Skillz, freshly crowned DMC World Champ for the 2nd year in a row. Short talk with the man behind the title aka Jimmy.
Close up on his background, achievements and plans for his future career. 

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DJ ND: How did you get in touch with the scratch world?
- Good question. It’s a mix of circumstances. First of all, as a teenager in the 90s, I got influenced by DJ Cutkiller. Cutkiller was (and still is) one of the biggest DJs of the French hip hop scene, well known all over Europe for being one of the first DJs to produce official mixtapes with crazy intros full of cuts, backspins and fast mixing. Besides that, I was into skating, and DJs often came to skate parks to perform hip hop sets or just scratch on dope beats. Because of all this, I got interested in scratching and entered my first DMC Championship back in 2007.

After that of course, we know your amazing journey: 8 French DMC titles in a row, multiple DMC World Finalist until that final in 2018 where you took the World title for the first time. Perseverance is definitely one of your qualities, isn’t it?
- People describe me often as an obstinate, headstrong person. I think I am. If I fixed myself a goal, I don’t quit that easily. And that’s what happened in my DMC journey as well.

DJ ND: Winning the world finals last year didn’t really stop you. You came back for more…
- Yes. Due to some circumstances, I had a little bit of time this summer to work on a new show. I told myself, let’s take 10 days to create as much cool stuff as possible, and if I think it’s worth it, l’ll defend the title… I took the challenge and after 10 days my 6 minutes was as good as ready. And so I decided to defend the title.

Of course, it was not an easy decision. Turntablists are very critical towards each other. I know that I took the risk of being criticized, especially if I didn’t take the title again. But I don’t fear critics, as long as the feedback is constructive. I knew that with the set I put together, I had a chance to win. So I just went for it.

I had some technical issues with the turntables and I didn’t really feel comfortable during my set. But still, I did what I came for and that’s the most important for me.

 

DJ ND: What’s your secret of managing all that pressure?
- I don’t know. Every battle is so different. Last year, at the DMC World Finals, I finished 2nd after the qualification round. I was the challenger. I felt no pressure, I had nothing to lose and it gave me a big boost. This year it was different. When you defend your title, you’ve got all the attention. The pressure is way bigger. A few days before the competition, I was doubting a bit. But at the same time I stayed confident and believed in my chances.

How does your preparation schedule look like?
- Usually, I like to take my time to find patterns, enhance them and find new placements. I like to work with real loops without editing too much my stuff. My construction is pretty basic from that point of view compared to other DJs'. This year that was different. I worked in 1 big sprint like I already explained.

DJ ND: You’ve been in the game since Serato was introduced and allowed for competitions. How do you see the evolution of the DJ gear and the possibilities they are bringing? Is it an asset or a down point?

- Technology gave us opportunities to find new ideas, new technics. That’s important for the evolution of turntablism. In the 90s and the early 2000s, the previous generation of turntablists took the art to another level. They really pushed the technical skills and possibilities to the limit. So in a way, the evolution of the DJ gear, helped DJs to come with new ideas and find their own style. But I have to admit that I see less pure technical skills nowadays than a few years ago. Some say technology makes it all easier. In a way it does, but for me a real turntablist is capable to master the old and the new technics to create something innovative with the heritage of the past.

DJ ND: Djing is really diversified nowadays. Portablism, turntablism, scratch battles, party battles. The movement is huge and at the same time still a niche. Did turntablism miss its chance to become main stream?
- I don’t think so. Guys like C2C made scratch music become mainstream. They brought their music, fully created on turntables, to the top of the charts. Turntablism is the most hardcore form of DJing. It’s for nerds. Not everyone will understand that art form. It’s complicated to make it be a trend.

Over the past years, more and more young DJs have arrived on the turntablist scene and they are performing pretty well at battles. How do you explain that?
- I noticed that and investigated a bit. It’s interesting to see that most of these young DJs are children or relatives to the DJs who, by themselves, were turntablists for 15-20 years ago. Most of the new generation DJs got inspired or influenced by a dad, an uncle or a brother who entered the scratch game at some point during the last 2 decades. It’s also interesting to notice that these younger DJs brought a lot of older patterns and technics back to life. It’s a part of the turntablism heritage that is coming back.

DJ ND: Tell us about your plans. What’s next now after you have won 2 world titles? Production? Parties? More battles?

- I don’t think it’s worth continuing to battle. After I've got my second title, people started saying to me that I should go for a 3rd title in a row, just like Craze. To be honest, it’s not necessary for me. There’s only one DJ Craze… Running after titles makes no sense. If I continue to battle, I will for sure be categorized as a pure technician, only focused on turntablism in it purest form, and it will be difficult to reorient my career.
My next goals are production and performance at the festivals, and I will continue to live my passion.
I’m working on an album together with SAYAN who helped me to produce the routines over the past years. Concerning battles, I have 4 world titles now. Time has come to focus on something else. A new chapter is starting.

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Short questions:

DJ ND: Best routine of all time?
- The performance of Mix Master Mike in the movie “Scratch” has really impressed me. Besides that, the ITF competition of 2005, especially the round between Rafik and Unkut was one of the most amazing battles I’ve ever seen.
Tell us about your influences... 
- Netik, Troubl, Unkut, D-Styles, Ligone, LL Cool DJ, Rafik, Craze, I-emerge - to name a few.
One of your dedicated scratch move?
- I have some personal combo’s of course. It’s difficult to explain but maybe one day, I’ll do some tutorials.
Favorite Concorde Model? 
Concorde Scratch MkII.

Thanks a lot, Jimmy, for this interview and congratulations again for this 2nd DMC World title, the 3rd one if you count the online DMC.