Muhammad Ali is considered a great heavy weight champion not just because of his record but because of the opponents he beat. Joe Frazier and George Foreman and Sonny Liston just to name a few. All excellent boxers in their prime who threatened Ali's title.
If you apply that logic to this year's DJ of the Year competition, which took place on the closing night of the International DJ Expo, the winner will surely go down as one of the best ever. Consider that competing for the coveted award this year was two team winner Marcello Pedalino, 1998's DJ of the Year, Gerry Siracusa, three-time runner up KC Kokoruz and three-time Female Enterainer of the Year Lisa Kasberg. Joining this illustrious group were seasoned entertainers from all parts of the country. Every DJ had rehearsed their routine and honed their skills. It was obvious even during rehearsal that this would a night to remember.
The crowd that filled the ballroom understood that their reaction to each act could determine the winner. The seven official judges of the competition all monitored the crowd, noting how much they got involved and then how loudly they cheered after each routine. And when Sean "Big Daddy" McKee finished his opening dance, it was obvious the DJ Expo attendees understood their role. Sean's high energy version of the Cha Cha Slide was met with thunderous applause. The night was barely under way and the bar was already set pretty high. The next routine was a game called "Mission Impossible." It was performed by a newcomer to the Atlantic City stage next Ross Akselrod. His game was fun and unique and it scored very high with the judges. After one more routine, KC and his Spinnin' Discs crew from Chicago hit the stage.
KC had competed in this contest for four straight years and never won. He had placed second three times, prompting the joke "KC is the Susan Lucci of the DJ industry." Following those disappointments he had moved across the ballroom to the judge's seat where he has watched Marcello win the last two DJ of the Year awards. But the desire to compete has never waned in this consummate overachiever and this year he threw his hat back up on the stage to compete. Along with his crew, KC had come up with a high energy and easy to learn dance to "Walk this Way." But for KC that wasn't enough. He wanted something more to impress the attendees and the judges. Listening to the song and realizing that the reason it became a hit in the first place is that infectious drum beat, KC recruited a live drummer to enhance the performance. Also, knowing that the crowd's reaction to the end of his routine could make the difference between first and second place, KC tapped his friend Bernie Howard to provide the "big ending."
As the Spinnin' Discs dancers took the stage in hip hop attire, KC grabbed the microphone and began teaching the dance. He too was decked out to match his crew, even down to the do-rag on his head. As he taught the steps to the packed dance floor, it became clear that KC was a man on a mission. "Walk This Way" was one of the true highlights of the night and everyone in the room seemed to be pumping their fists along with the Spinnin' Discs dancers. And then, just at the precise moment, the song ended with a bang and the pyrotechnics went off on the stage. The crowd erupted. Had they just witnessed the winning routine? Eight more DJs would have something to say about that.
The first routine to really challenge KC came just one act later as Marcello Pedalino hit the stage. You don't win this thing two years in a row just on luck, and Marcello showed once again that he is one of the most polished and dynamic entertainers our industry has to offer. Marcello and his dancers from MMP Entertainment taught and performed a dance called "Bootie Drop." Those that know Marcello know he has been working on this routine for over a year. Producing the introduction music, honing his own teaching skills and perfecting his dancer's synchronization. As "The Bootie Drop" ended and the International DJ Expo attendees exploded in cheers, it became clear that the judges had their work cut out for them. Could this be a tie? Anyone who had witnessed both KC and Marcello perform had to be thinking that.
The great routines just kept on coming. Another newcomer to the Atlantic City stage, Marz from Chicago showed two dances. His high energy warm up to "Minnie the Moocher" got the crowd going and then his line dance to "Baby I'm a Star" left the dance floor exhausted. Marz had other members from his company, Charizma, with him but he performed alone, saying afterwards, "I wanted to show everyone that one entertainer can spark a crowd." And spark he did. The judges scored Marz very highly and to anyone in attendance it was now too close to call. KC? Marcello? Marz? Could it get any tighter?
The answer is "yes." One more routine stood out and that was Gerry and his gang from New Jersey's Golden Note Entertainment. Gerry lead a dance called "Bust This" which combined old school steps to Young MC's "Busta Move." His dancers were tight and on point and Gerry, a veteran emcee and previous award winner, showed all of the attendees just why he is one of New Jersey's top talents. Now the drama was even higher. How could anyone easily discern between these top four routines? Nobody in the room envied the judges position.
Following the final performance the twelve competitors were invited back on stage for a final bow and a well deserved ovation. From the reaction of the crowd, everyone in attendance appreciated the hard work and effort that went into the evening. And though only one person would be named a winner, it was clear this stage held no losers.
The awards began. Ross Akselrod was given "Best Game." Marcello was given "Best Dance" and his MMP entertainers were named best in Choreography. Then it was time to name the runner up. It was announced that three points separated first and second place. With a potential score of seven hundred, the runner up had received 631. It was Marcello Pedalino. The DJ of the Year for the previous two years had fallen three points shy of three-peating. But to who? Which of the other awesome acts had beaten Marcello?
As KC's name was read the DJs and attendees erupted again in applause and appreciation. This was truly a deserving winner. His routine had been high energy yet easy enough to teach and learn. It had been entertaining but not too flashy. And KC had topped it all off with that explosive ending. KC was mobbed on stage by his dancers and in the ultimate show of respect and great sportsmanship, by the other competitors as well. Here was a leader in the industry who never had to compete again and he'd still be a respected name and face among all DJs. Yet he'd laid it all on the line and put together a well rehearsed and dynamic routine. Then he'd gotten on stage in front of hundreds of fellow DJs and performed impeccably. And just like Ali, he'd beaten the best of the best. The highest level of talent that this industry has to offer. KC Kokoruz is DJ Times DJ of the Year and quite possibility its best ever.
You can reach KC and his Spinnin' Discs crew by phone at (847) 818-8330 or
drop them an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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