Infamous Scratches Out Victory In U.S. DJ Competition

Actual winner DJ Develop, already entered in world championship, forfeits after turntablist spin-off.

SAN FRANCISCO -- No sooner did DJ Develop learn that he had won the crown as the new U.S. turntable champion here Sunday night than he gave it up.

The nimble-fingered New York DJ (born Bigram Zayas), who was chosen as the best by judges with the International Turntablist Federation at the conclusion of the competition, forfeited the title, saying he couldn't handle the responsibility because he had already won a trip to the international championships to compete in a different event.

Instead, Florida's DJ Infamous, who, ironically, was incorrectly announced as the 1998 U.S. champ earlier that night, ultimately took home the coveted title. Infamous will be the American representative of the "advancement class" going to Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Oct. 24 to battle for the ITF world title.

Shortly after the audience filed out of the Maritime Hall, following a three-hour display of turntable manipulations, DJ Develop knew that he was the real winner, but he chose to forfeit his U.S. title, ITF CEO Alex Aquino said.

"We sat down with [Develop] ... and he said he just couldn't do it," the 28-year-old Aquino said.

Earlier in the year, Develop, 22, had won the ITF U.S. "beat juggling" competition in New York, during which DJs are asked to use two or more records with an existing beat to make a new composition. It's one of the four contests that make up the ITF DJ battles, which also feature a team competition, scratching and Sunday's "advancement class"-style battles.

"[Develop] wanted to come out and participate in this competition," Aquino said. "But he didn't feel like he could do both [events] at the world's, and he didn't want to do one half-assed."

The competition on Sunday was fierce, with L.A.'s DJ Goose, DJ Nando and P-Trix, and New York's IXL and J Storm eliciting roars from the crowd. Aquino said the judges were evaluating the competitors' technical skills -- scratch-mixing records and creating musical compositions by shifting from one track to another -- with attention to precision, accuracy and versatility.

Among the well-known DJs to have emerged from the advancement-class competition is DJ Total Eclipse (born Keith Bailey) of the New York-based crew the X-Ecutioners (formerly known as the X-Men), who won the U.S. competition in 1996. The group released their full-length debut, X-Pressions, a year later. Although the renowned San Francisco Bay Area DJ crew the Invisibl Skratch Piklz have never participated in the ITF championships, its members have served as judges for the competitions and helped found the organization in 1996.

This year's Maritime Hall spin-off was judged by the Invisibl Skratch Piklz's DJ Shortkut, ex-Pikl DJ Apollo, Flare and San Francisco DJs Cue and TomKat. Aquino said that the judges quickly conferred after Infamous was incorrectly announced as winner. They informed Develop of his victory, but it was too late to alert the exiting audience, who left believing that Infamous had actually won.

It was only later many learned that Infamous, whose first name is Marco, had won, but only by default.

Infamous will be flown to Amsterdam to compete against 10 other DJs from around the world in the advancement-class section of the ITF competition, while Develop will represent the U.S. in beat-juggling.

Up-and-coming DJ Karim Rahman said he felt like these sorts of competitions were about preserving hip-hop culture. "Before there were MCs, there were DJs," Rahman said, adding, "I'll be up there soon."

Aquino said he was impressed with the entrants. "Every one of those guys was pretty hype," Aquino said. "These are the newer kids out there ... and they were really incredible."