Putting the ‘J’ back in DJ: J. Espinosa represents region in ‘Red Bull Presents: The Bay’

Luna Khalil/File

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An electric yet low-key energy dominated the Overlook Lounge patio in Oakland on Sunday night as house lovers and hip-hop fans alike gathered for the Bay, a collective effort organized by Bay Area DJ J. Espinosa to celebrate the authentic talent of the region. 

ClimaxXx, a local female DJ, warmed up the crowd with selections as sensual and bold as her moniker. The hip-hop beats she incorporated in each mix slapped, and many of her set choices featured R&B classics with a heightened bass line. ClimaxXx also played newer hits from artists such as Summer Walker and Doja Cat, but with a trap twist. Her transitions into each song were seamless and punchy, and her aura on stage was equal parts cool and playful.

Deejay Theory came next, wearing a white snapback and with fiery excitement on his face. First he played sleek, urban hip-hop hits reminiscent of city nights before moving on to his modus operandi of rap with reggae inflections. Theory’s set carried a unique island vibe to it with its booming bass and Jamaican flair. The mixture of genres was intriguingly refreshing, with everything from Latin-infused rhythms to dubstep sounds.

Indoors, Red Corvette spun some danceable, pounding hip-hop trap fusion beats with smooth elements and flute-style synth effects. Dancers grooved and shook with the music, jamming out below stage. J Boogie, a seasoned DJ, followed his act with futuristic hip-hop heavy hitters like Travis Scott’s “goosebumps” and old school songs like Modjo’s “Lady Hear Me Tonight.” His infusion of trance elements and banging bass kept the audience on their feet. 

Miles Medina was one of the main stars of the show, whipping up classic R&B overlayed with an eclectic electronic funk. His infectious grooves reverberated through the crowd and everyone couldn’t help but get down. His spins were delightfully original and carried through an active yet focused radiance. House jams and contemporary neo-soul also featured. 

Noodles, a Pilipinx powerhouse of energy from Hayward provided mighty, bouncy beats and brought lightning-fresh liveliness to the house. Masterfully interlacing soul with hip-hop booms, Noodles had the crowd going wild with a sound that popped. She gave shout outs to her East Bay roots, the Pilipinx community and her supportive parents, who were in the audience and, according to Noodles, taught her the art of record spinning.

At 8 p.m. the main headliner of the night, J. Espinosa, swaggered onto the stage embodying all of the hype around his name. As champion of the prestigious Red Bull 3Style DJ world competition in 2019, Espinosa has international recognition and the chops to show it. Espinosa was the spirit of the party with his fun, flashy and loud set. The young prodigy blended Latin flavors, island grooves and club finesse into his distinctive style with 

90s R&B as the common thread through it all. He actively mixed each song, scratching the record player and vibing with the energy of the patio. Midway through J Espinosa’s set, rapper Mistah F.A.B., also known as Mr. Dope Era, hopped onto the stage. He riled up the crowd with his Bay Area pride and encouraged everyone to chant and sing along with him. 

Last but certainly not least, DJ Shortkut came on the scene with a change of tempo. The other DJs partied it up in the crowd and supported their fellow performer. Slower hip-hop and rap signature tracks from the 90s finished off the night of dancing.

More than anything, the festival was an expression of Bay Area originality and artistry. While addressing the audience in between sets, J. Espinosa commented on how proud he was of the Bay Area DJ community, as well as how happy he was to see those he has collaborated with since the beginning of his career all coming together, and rocking on stage. There can’t be anything more Bay Area than that.

Contact Luna Khalil at [email protected].