Best DJ (Mixtape): A flow as rock steady as the River Jordan
The Bay Area's own hyphy movement went national this year, earning comparisons to crunk in Atlanta and chopped & screwed in Houston, and mixtapes were a big reason. Specifically, the emergence of dedicated mixtape makers -- among them DJ BackSide, the Demolition Men, and Danny D. Their heavy focus on local artists created not only a palpable buzz, but a de facto street-level underground distribution network that didn't exist previously. This was extremely important to hyphy's success, since with the notable exception of E-40, the overwhelming majority of local rappers are on independent labels. However, as serendipitous as it was to be able to hear all-local compilations of freshly minted hot shit equally applicable for the whip, the turf, and the club, the most innovative mixtape cat in the region isn't hyphy at all. That honor would have to go to Oakland's DJ Child (aka Jew Da Hustla), the mastermind behind the Project Groundation Massive series. In the last couple of years, Child has helmed roughly twenty volumes mainly concentrating on conscious lyrics and dancehall and roots reggae -- his Bullets and Ballads series is more hip-hoppish -- hosted by local celebrities like Khai Sharrieff and Rankin' Scroo and international luminaries like Lutan Fyah. His most recent offerings have included a disc of exclusive Sizzla recordings, and Rise Up, hosted by Azeem (rumor has it his next project will focus on group Bambu Station and the Virgin Islands nu-roots reggae scene). In addition to exclusive freestyles and remixes, sampled sound bites, and riddims old and new, Child's efforts -- which flow continuously from beginning to end like the River Jordan -- often feature bright, colorful graphics easily on a par with anything established labels are putting out. They're best-sellers at tape stands (you can cop 'em at the Ashby Flea Market or local reggae shows) and truly sound like nothing else out there.