The Beat Surrender

Luckily for Craze, once he reached age eighteen and graduated from West Dade's Braddock Senior High School, his mother gave him two years to get his act together. "I'd wake up, practice all day, go out all night," he explains. "I started making a little money and my mom was cool with that, so I didn't have to get a job." In the years that ensued he began racking up wins in competitions such as the Zulu Nationals, the East Coast Rap Sheet, and the East Coast Technics DMC Champion. Since 1996 he has held the title of Winter Music Conference Scratch-Off Champion. But as he approached his mother's two-year deadline, the major honors still eluded him. "I was pretty stressed," he says jokingly. "I thought, Oh shit, I better blow up soon!"

He did. In March 1998 URB magazine, the bible of hip-hop culture, featured Craze in its "Next 100," a list of who and what to watch out for in the coming year. Five months later the young DJ embarked on the road to hip-hop history. At the Technics DMC US Championships held at New York City's Irving Plaza, he was widely praised for the highly musical six-minute routine he delivered. Hunched over his turntables, he spun close to ten records, metamorphosing their sounds while performing spectacular stunts such as scratching with both hands at once and lifting his leg up and sticking his arm underneath to spin. The flawless set ensured his victory over ten other competitors, including a supremely confident DJ Shortkut from the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and the Beat Junkies.

This victory allowed him to advance to the Technics DMC World Championships, held in October at the Palais des Sports in Paris. There, in front of an audience of more than 5000, he won again, taking home two gold Technics SLK 1200 turntables, a matching gold mixer, a gold cartridge with a diamond needle, and a $2000 microphone as prizes. This time he vied against DJs from more than 30 countries, including 1997's champ, sixteen-year-old A-Trak from Canada. Proving the adage that if you can't beat them, join them, A-Trak recently became a part of Craze's crew. "I'm scared of him," Craze says. "He's really young, and he's really good."

It's fortunate that Craze has youth on his side as well. In the past few months his exhausting schedule has taken him to Amsterdam to compete in the ITF World Scratching Championship (he took the title), and he's been on the road nonstop, performing shows in England, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia. "It's more mentally exhausting than physically," he notes. "You have to memorize all these routines. And where to drop the needle, how to drop the needle, where to throw the song in, what speed to have it in."

During his days off Craze still has the energy to perform in his hometown and collaborate in the studio. In Miami he's opened shows for the Fugees, Biggie Smalls, Busta Rhymes, Wu-Tang Clan, KRS-One, Afrika Bambaataa, and others. He was featured on DJ Faust's album Man or Myth? and with Faust and DJ Shortee on the EP Fathomless, both released on the San Francisco-based Bomb Hip-Hop Records. He and his friend Edgar Farinas, a.k.a. Pushbutton Object, have teamed up as Ko-Wreck Technique and are working on a three-song EP for Miami-based experimental label Chocolate Industries. Future projects include an EP with Ani from Deee-Lite, and a solo album for Bomb Hip-Hop.

Somehow after winning numerous competitions, traversing the world, and garnering acclaim, Craze has remained unaffected and grounded enough to perform for a few hours in a local club. "His attitude is special," says fellow music scenester Seven, cofounder of Chocolate Industries. "He approaches many types of music with an open mind, and he breaks barriers with the way he cuts them up. He's very experimental and extremely humble about it."

Whether working in the studio or spinning in a nightclub full of distracted patrons, Craze continues the tradition of elevating turntablism into an art. "There's so many things you can do with a turntable," he notes. "I try to combine all the technical stuff and have as much showmanship as I can. I try not to let the crowds get bored."

To those who consider turntabling a derivative art, Craze offers an impassioned defense: "We take other people's sounds and turn them into different sounds. We take a record and flip it completely differently just with our hands. It's not like we're pushing a button. It's completely human. It's about music, it's about soul, and it's about having fun.

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