Three Times Dope 

The Many Styles of DJs Apollo, Vin Roc, and Shortkut.

Triple Threat DJs are no ordinary wax-slingers. They're more like martial-arts heroes, three deadly venoms on the decks equipped with the illest techniques. Straight outta Jersey and now residing in El Cerrito, Vin Roc holds two ITF (International Turntablist Federation) championship belts. Shortkut can claim affiliation with two of the most respected DJ clans ever -- the Beat Junkies and the Invisibl Skratch Picklz. Last but not least, Apollo is the wise old kung-fu master of the group, a former DMC world champion whose roots go back to the beginnings of Bay Area hip-hop. After starting out with Daly City's famed mobile crew Unlimited Sounds, Apollo was an original West Coast Rocksteady DJ and Skratch Pickl (alongside Mixmaster Mike and Q-Bert); he's also toured with Branford Marsalis and Souls of Mischief. With credentials like that, it's clear that 3T is down by law, no diggity.

According to Apollo, to be a member of 3T means you don't just do one thing well. It means you do many things well: cutting, scratching, beat-juggling, and party-rocking. "Having an equal love for all the aspects of DJing, being an all-around DJ, that's basically what it is," he explains. "We try to bring as many aspects of DJing together as possible."

Anyone who's ever caught one of their legendary jams at Storyville, Rico's, School, Future Primitive, or Deco can attest to 3T's onstage abilities. A typical club set by the trio might touch on classic hip-hop, current rap, blistering dancehall, chill-out roots reggae, or even cardiac-accelerating drum 'n' bass, depending on where they're playing and what mood they're in. "We really cater to the crowd, that's what we do," Apollo says nonchalantly. "That goes back to being a Triple Threat DJ, all that's in your arsenal. We're very versatile."

They're also very well-traveled. Apollo relates his most memorable DJ experience came in Finland, jamming with Marsalis during the North Sea Jazz Festival, although he admits being the first American hip-hop group to play in the Philippines was huge, too. "Hip-hop's just getting there," he says of his homeland. "As an American Filipino, [performing there] just kinda makes it official."

It may be hard to believe, given the trio's veteran status, but its new album, Many Styles, is its first -- and sounds like it was worth the wait. Collaborations with Mystic, Talib Kweli, Black Thought, Souls of Mischief, Planet Asia, Main Flow, Roc Roo, and Zion-I add serious hip-hop credibility. Red-hot neo-soul diva Goapele makes a cameo on "How U Talkin'?," and the raggamuffin-flavored "Move Down Pressa," featuring Ridgi Gong, stands up to anything coming from Jamaica.

Scratch music fans aren't forgotten, either. A full-tilt turntablist track, "Tha Cipha," matches 3T with NYC legends Rob Swift and Roc Raida. What's more, many songs were made using nothing but turntables, including several "rap" tracks pieced together with other people's lyrics. Humorous skits complete the package without slowing down the momentum. "As far as breakdowns and knowing what works," Apollo explains, "a lot of the skills that come from DJing help in the studio. We brought the live show to the studio," he adds.

You can expect 3T to be fired up for the official record release party at the Downlow (2284 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) this Saturday at 10 p.m. Crowd participation is encouraged. "When you see people out there, really into the dancing part of it, b-boys getting down, I love that. Especially when you see fools breaking in the circle, it's like, "Damn, I wanna go back out there and do some shit,'" exclaims Apollo, ever a b-boy at heart.

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