Barbados is a small island in the Caribbean that you may have heard of. Thank you, Rihanna. If you haven’t, it is 166 square miles of amazing beaches, good food, an eclectic music scene and now, home to another internationally acclaimed music star. I think it’s safe to say, Barbadians know and love music.
On December 17th that love was displayed once again on the world stage of the Redbull Thre3style World DJ Championship Competition. Andre Parris, commonly known as DJ Puffy, won the prestigious 2016 Redbull Thre3style World DJ Championship and not only did he do it for his love of music, but he did it for his country. Directly after the competition he took some time to speak with me. After our conversation I quickly realized this, his story isn’t just about winning the championship. DJ Puffy's journey to winning is the story of a dreamer.
It all started 2 years ago when he heard about the Redbull Thre3style competition from a fellow DJ who was on vacation in Barbados. This competition in the DJ industry is considered the Olympics for DJ’s, based on the internationally known platform and status it provides. At that time DJ Puffy was a local DJ who had just begun his career with only a few events under his belt. After researching the competition he was told that there was no way for him to enter the because Barbados was not considered a region. Nevertheless, he still kept following the competition in hopes that something might change and in 2016, it did. For the first time ever, Redbull decided to allow a few people enter the competition that weren’t located in a specific region as “wild cards”. To enter, you simply needed to send in a video submission, but they would only be selecting 3 wild cards worldwide to enter the competition.
So, one night after work, DJ Puffy came home and decided to create a submission video and nervously sent it in. Months had passed and he heard nothing. He was convinced that he didn’t make the cut so he decided to forget about it and commenced a global tour with his management. Months later, while he was still on tour, he received an email from one of the judges. It said “Congratulations Andre, you have been selected as a competition finalist to compete in Santiago, Chile!” He was shocked.
Fast forward to December 14th and he is now in Santiago, Chile. He looks out at the crowd and realizes that he doesn't speak their language. To him though, none of that matters because music is a universal language and he knows that once the first beat drops, their bodies will react. So with confidence, he steps on to the stage. His performance is exactly 15 minutes and it is all a blur. He remembers running to the front of the stage and dancing with the crowd, then running back to his turntables. After looking at the videos, he has played 10 different genres seamlessly and the judges are in awe. They realize that a remarkable talent is before them and select him as the winner of the preliminary round. Andre vividly recalls that poignant moment on stage when, still reeling from the shock of winning, he turned around to see the Barbados flag flying proudly in front him.
He wakes up the next morning to a social media frenzy. Everyone is starting to notice this wild card winner and he can barely keep up. Pictures from his first win have been retweeted over a 100 times. Celebrities like DJ Jazzy Jeff (commonly guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) have started to tweet about him and it is overwhelming. Winning the preliminary round is only the first step in this competition, so he puts his phone down and decides to rehearse his music set. It is Friday December 16th and DJ Puffy started to think about the final competition against other DJ’s representing the UK, Australia, Canada and Japan. He started to run through the songs in his head and abruptly decided, the day before the competition, to change his entire set. The very set that he had rehearsed for the past 8 months. Yes, you heard me correctly.
He got busy that Friday. Compiling, mixing, listening and re-listening to his new set. “There was an event that night which every other DJ attended,” he told me “But I skipped it”. Instead, he chose to stay in his room and rehearse.
“I want my music set to tell a story - a story about me - and I needed to hear it over and over to make sure every song fit. I wanted it to express my personality, who I am as an artist, as an entertainer and as a human being.” -DJ Puffy
It is now Saturday December 17th and DJ Puffy is sleepless but enthusiastic. Heart pounding but hands steady, he hears his introduction and steps on to the stage. His set starts with an intense scratching that commands everyone’s attention. People start dancing instantly, intuitively. He mixes popular hip-hop, soca, old reggae, new reggae, pop hits and jazz effortlessly. I even heard the Super Mario theme song, and of course no set would be complete without his fellow Barbadian superstar, Rihanna. Just like that, 15 minutes pass and the crowd is going wild. They start chanting his name after he has finished and it was clear who the winner was that night.
When he was announced as the 2016 Redbull Thre3style World DJ Champion he dropped to his knees in shock and gratitude. Two years ago, this was just a dream for him and now, with determination and hard work DJ Puffy has remixed his way to the top.
Special Thanks to Carlos Richards - Editor: Andi Sharma
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