DJ Jeff C

Battling for Excellence

Written by Brett Levine   

Photo by Jerry Siegel


Jeff Cohen is battle tested. DJ Jeff C, as he is known in the scratch DJ and battle world, uses crabs, flares, beat juggling, and a range of other techniques to slay his opponents in six-minute competitions. At least he used to, before he retired from the battle scene after a major victory in Atlanta recently. “I always wanted to go out on top,” he explains. “I promised myself that if I won the Guitar Center Spin Off battle in Atlanta, it would be my last one.” He did, so he turned his attention to new focus areas: his career and community service.

Cohen tells this story at Communicating Vessels, the recording studio, record label, and distribution company founded by Jeff Cain that serves as the home for Cohen’s DJ Lessons and Sessions Institute. “After Atlanta I wanted to find a way to share my love for turntablism with the wider community,” Cohen says. “I decided to offer scratch DJ lessons, weekly, for free. Jeff Cain made the Communicating Vessels space available to me, which was an amazing act of generosity, and the DLS Institute has been going for three months.”

DJ Jeff C’s success comes after a long series of challenges and setbacks. He moved many times, always finding his way back to Birmingham, and always being drawn back to DJing. He was finding success as a battle DJ, but he was not able to leverage that into the commercial success he had expected. “I was one of the most incredible unknown bedroom DJs you could imagine,” he says, laughing. “I had been a finalist in the 2010 DMC USA Championships [a competition to decide who is the best scratch DJ in the world], and I won the Needle to the Record battle the same year, so I just imagined that after that, everything would come easily.”

When it didn’t, Cohen wasn’t quite sure what to do.

This changed when he was invited to join The Green Seed, one of Birmingham’s leading hip-hop acts. Formed by R-Tist, C.O.M.P.L.E.T. and DJFX—Randall Turner, Jason Davidson, and Fred French respectively—The Green Seed is one of the South’s most innovative, productive, and creative acts. Cohen regarded this invitation as a great opportunity, but he also brought his commitment and work ethic to The Green Seed. “Since we’ve added DJ Jeff C, we feel like we’ve been able to take The Green Seed to an even higher level,” Turner says. Cohen himself loves the interplay between himself and DJFX. “It is absolutely amazing to be able to work with another DJ. FX brings a huge range of skills, history, and consistency that I can learn from every day. We play off each other, share techniques, and help to push each other to be better and better DJs,” he says.

studio-twoCohen’s commitment to learning, development, and constant improvement is the main foundation of the DJ school. He shares the teaching responsibilities with DJFX as well as with Michael London, aka DJ Shadow. London, who began DJing in the 1980s for military parties overseas, brings a wealth of production, marketing, and business knowledge to the school. “I’ve always regarded music as a business,” London explains. “So as well as working on my skills as a DJ, I am constantly networking, focusing on how to build my brand, and thinking of ways to innovate.” This emphasis led to major marketing deals for London; he worked with record labels handling major artists, including Prince. It also led to an understanding of both the business of marketing individual artists from a self-promotion perspective and of marketing from a larger company perspective. “One of the most important aspects of the DJ Lessons and Sessions Institute is to try to help people who may see this as their best option to have the best chance to make it work,” Cohen says. “In many ways, I guess I am one of those people. I really believe that DJing is one of the true skills that I have, and that the business of music is one of the careers that I truly love. I’ve always understood the importance of working on my skills, but now, with the help of people like Jeff Cain, Randall Turner, and Michael London, I’ve also really begun to understand the importance of business and of outreach.”

DJ Jeff C is getting more comfortable. He is the most comfortable when he is, as they say, behind the 1s and 2s—standing behind a pair of turntables, showing the skills that have made him one of the premier scratch DJs working today. But he is also becoming more comfortable as a mentor, sharing the knowledge he has as a teacher, showing others how to succeed on a technical and a professional level. “I was 17 when I saw a DJ rocking a party and I knew that he was making it happen. That was the moment I knew what I wanted to do. Now, I get to DJ every day, to share what I love, and to work with really incredible people,” he says. “You have to really love this, and to work hard…but it is really amazing, because as a career, even when it’s bad, it’s good.”

DJ Jeff C’s mixing skills can be heard on his Soundcloud account: You can find him on twitter @Jeffc80 and on Facebook: /jloco80.

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