The 2001 RFT Slammies

Homeboy superstar Nelly tops the list of readers' favorite local musicians

It was a genius move. No longer was the station the outsider; it was now the new station with Charlie Chan, the man with the fastest fingers in town, the DJ who can seamlessly drop Whodini next to BDP next to Kraftwerk next to Master P and make it sound smooth and totally logical. Charlie Chan, who's been spinning in St. Louis since the late '80s, the man who seems to know not only everyone in the thriving St. Louis hip-hop scene but everyone who's ever been in the scene. Charlie Chan, who was able to help create a mix team to compete head-on with The Beat's incredible talent.

Charlie Chan's a busy guy. Not only does he throw down every weekday on the Q, he's out spinning five nights a week; in these sets, he's dropping the old and the new back to back; he builds bridges between beats that, on paper, don't seem to work together. Because of his incredible knowledge of hip-hop, he can play a new cut and follow it with an old cut that the new one ripped off, follow that with one with the same breakbeat and then throw in something that bridges the gap. He's all over the place but makes it seem simple.

"People do get tired of listening to the redundancy of radio," he says of the challenges of mixing over the airwaves. "There's a lot of listeners who like that [redundancy], because that's the way radio has always been. But there's a lot of people who don't. So the thing is to try and keep it fresh, so when you check out the mix that hour, you can hear some songs that you probably haven't heard in a while that you used to love, you hear stuff that's out now that you love and you can hear something new that you potentially will love, or might love when you hear it. The thing with the radio is, I have the freedom. They allow me to do this. If you want somebody that's going to play from a playlist, you hire somebody else, because I'm not the person -- not that I can't meet the demands, but too much music comes out, and there's a lot of good songs. I told them I could hold the attention of the listener, and I've proved it, because everybody's listening."
-- Randall Roberts

Best Club DJ -- Steve-O
Steve Franks stands perched above the crowd at Z, where he's the resident DJ, as though he's the king of England, addressing the masses from the castle balcony; when the house music's rolling and he's peering down on his people, there's nearly always a smile on his face, a twinkle of satisfaction that seems to say: "I'm in charge here, and it feels good." And at this point, after spinning house music for the better part of the '90s and beyond, Steve should feel as if he's in charge. Controlling a crowd is second nature to him; watching him judge it, gently nudge it with a quicker beat, slow it down when the time's right, then pop it wide open with a burst of bass, you can witness the way a veteran DJ is able to manipulate a feeling and a mass of people.

He moves the Z crowd two, sometimes three times a week; on Saturday nights, after he's finished at Z, he heads east to Oz, where he pounds out beats until 6 a.m. Add to this his heavenly work as part of the Deeper Pitch crew, which holds court twice a month at the Upstairs Lounge, and that occasional slot at Velvet, and you've got a pretty good idea of Steve-O's passion for house music.

It makes sense that Steve-O would win the DJ category, because St. Louis is a house town -- not techno, like Detroit -- and we like our house music deep and percussive. The big clubs rely on house to move the crowds, seldom straying into techno or jungle territory. The music Steve-O is playing these days fills the bill: rich, velvety house, deep with rhythms and thick with texture. As with the best spinners, he constructs his set track by track -- brick by brick -- building on an accumulated feeling while gradually increasing the momentum and sense of danger. When he's at the very peak of a set, it's almost as though you're on the ledge of a skyscraper, peering down; your heart races at the possibilities: Maybe I could fly. Don't be silly; you can't. But on good nights, Steve-O makes you feel as if it's at least possible.
-- RR

Best Hard-/Modern-Rock Band -- Colony
Colony writes radio hits. They're hard, clever, totally catchy and built the way a hit is supposed to be: The hook is nearly always surprising -- though, in hindsight, inevitable -- and the sentiment seldom panders but hits close to home without being clichéd. The overall feel of Colony's best songs makes them seem perfect for a summer-day cruise with the windows rolled down. And when singer/guitarist Ted Bruner describes the sound the band worked toward on their forthcoming album, Who I Wanted to Be, you can almost hear a hit in the making.

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