It was the night of the 30th October. I was sitting by my computer, ready for the event that was about to take place. The Red Bull Culture Clash 2014 was about to begin, and I could not have been more excited.
For those who are unaware, the Culture Clash is a live event, presented in the classic “clash” format; four teams have individual sets, split into four rounds, and however loud the crowd reacts to the individual teams, judges what team wins. Each crew were encouraged to create their own custom dubplates, and were allowed to bring out special guests at any time.
I must add, for those who are unaware of what “dubplates”, “custom dubplates”, and “dubplate specials” are, I will briefly explain:
Dubplates are essentially the “masters” in a studio. They are the, effectively, the first step in creating a vinyl. They are also exclusive songs, that only that DJ has.
Dubplate Specials are songs recorded by the crew, that only they can play. They usually contain an original song, with alterations to either the beat or lyrics, often referencing the Clash, and/or other crews.
Custom Dubplates are dubplate specials that were recorded exclusively for the Clash. They can reference the Clash, and other groups partaking in it.
In this years Clash, the teams were;
- Reigning champions, Boy Better Know.
- Harlem rap collective, A$AP Mob.
- Jamaican reggae and dancehall movement, Stone Love.
- A collective created especially for the Clash, Rebel Sound.
Boy Better Know are the most well-known grime collective in the UK. Comprising of JME, Skepta, Wiley, Jammer, Frisco, Shorty, Solo 45 and DJ Maximum, they have a good ten years in the game.
A$AP Mob are an American hip-hop collective, who are well-versed in clash culture. The team, led by A$AP Rocky, comprised of A$AP Ferg, A$AP Ant, A$AP Nast, and A$AP Twelvy. The interesting thing about the A$AP Mob is that they are not simply rappers, but have, since the beginning in 2007, been comprised of producers, video directors, and fashion designers.
Stone Love, a Jamaican reggae and dancehall collective, were formed in Kingston, Jamaica, over 40 years ago. They are extremely well-versed in the clash culture, and have been creating their own dub plates for years.
Rebel Sound were created especially for the Culture Clash. Red Bull took Chase & Status, MC Rage, David Rodigan, and MC Rage, and created a DJ super-group. In this, there are three generations of sound, with over 100 years of clash experience behind them as a group.
I was not able to get tickets for the Clash. However, I was able to watch the stream from the events website.
BBK began this round, and what a beginning it was. As a self-confessed lover of grime, this 15 minutes had me on a next hype (every pun intended there – and as Tempa T himself would say, “If you know, you know”). JME began with his song “96 Fuckries”, with Frisco following after, and Solo 45 soon after him. Skepta then slowly walked on stage to the summer-hit “That’s Not Me”, with Wiley coming out soon after him to play “On A Level”. Then, the best part of the event, for me, happened. Jammer, aka Murkle Man, came on stage, in his full Murkle Man get-up. “IT’S THE MURKLE MAN!” was heard through the speakers; the crowd (and my living room) went mad. The grime collective also played their hit “Too Many Man”, with Shorty kicking it off.
Stone Love came up next, with their best performance of the night. They played some classic reggae anthems, such as “Welcome To Jamrock” by Damien Marley. However, there’s not really much to say about them this round (or any other round, for that matter), as their mixing wasn’t too great, nor was their choice of music; it wasn’t really a great choice for the clash-format.
Rebel Sound were up next. They started their set with a recording of Trevor McDonald, firing shots at the other groups (especially Skepta and A$AP Rocky) – well played Rebel Sound. When their music began, it was hard to contain excitement. As to be expected from the lineup of their crew, they had some massive songs played; and it got the crowd very excited.
A$AP Mob ended the round, with a rather concert-like attempt at a rebuttal. They weren’t really understanding what was going on, I feel. However, they tried.
Rebel Sound won this round, but Boy Better Know won it for me. They were intense, on-point, and the sounds were nostalgic. Also, there’s something always so energetic about grime performances, that I couldn’t help be ecstatic when they came on stage.
Here, it is easy to say that Rebel Sound were vastly better than the other teams. The energy and consistency of their performance was at an all time high, whilst the other teams slowly fell. Not only this, but they brought in their heavy artillery; Tempa T. Indeed, “BBK, nah that’s not me” was heard from the speakers, and Tempz himself came on stage to scream it in person. I, and my house, were in a state of shock; as were the BBK stage. Taking “That’s Not Me”, and placing Tempz (a beloved friend of BBK) over it, dissing Boy Better Know… my head was about to implode.
A$AP Mob played the energetic “Hard In The Paint” by Waka Flocka Flame, in addition to playing Lethal B’s own “Pow!”. They even played some of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”, which was definitely slightly more exciting than a lot of their previous time on stage.
In response to Rebel Sound and A$AP Mob, in addition to chanting abuse at Tempa T, BBK brought out the creator of “Dench”, “Leave it yeah” and “Two two’s nah”, Lethal Bizzle, to perform “Pow!”. His performance was very energetic, and definitely brought up the morale of the BBK side after their demoralising ‘par’ from Tempz.
Stone Love played some reggae classics, including Beenie Man’s “Drinking Rum & Redbull”. However, once again, their set was just too boring to really get in to. There wasn’t much ‘clashing’ going on for Stone Love. Their mixing was, also, not too great – I’m not too sure what they were doing the whole night up in the DJ stand.
Of course, Rebel Sound won this round, with ease, and I have to agree with this verdict.
Round 3 and 4
Unfortunately, the first two rounds were the most exciting. Everything pretty much went downhill from here.
Boy Better Know threw many a shot at Rebel Sound, including “Chase & Status can’t fight their own battles, so they called their uncle [Shy FX] and granddad [David Rodigan]” from Skepta, and at Stone Love “Stone Love, more like Stone age” from Jammer (the Murkle Man).
A$AP Mob brought a little more excitement in their fourth round, bringing out Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Now, unfortunately for the crew, Danny was the most exciting part of A$AP’s performance all night; especially as he played “Dip”, from his album “Old”. They also brought out House of Pain’s Everlast, playing their hit “Jump Around”.
Again, Stone Love’s performance was a tad too dull for the clash. Now, don’t get me wrong, if it were a different setting, it would have been good. However, the clash was meant to be exciting and energetic – the complete opposite of how Stone Love performed.
As to be expected, Rebel Sound brought another massive set – winning the whole clash.
Overall, the clash was exciting and fun. It definitely got me feeling lively, even though there were times when it was a little boring (mainly due to Stone Love and A$AP Mob, and even Boy Better Know when they spent a round almost entirely speaking, and not rapping). I have to agree with the final verdict; Rebel Sound deserved to win – however much it pains me to say. I’d also put Boy Better Know in second place, and A$AP Mob in third (simply because of Danny brown and Everlast).
A side note: don’t worry folks, Tempa T has since said the clash was just for entertainment, and he is still cool with Boy Better Know.