Popcaan-Red-Bull-Culture-Clash

RED BULL Culture Clash 2016 @ The London 02 Arena

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“The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom”
(Bird Johnson)

After a brief hiatus, Red Bull Culture Clash returned to the stage in the now familiar 4-4-1 format: 4 stages, 4 sounds, 1 winner in London’s state of the art O2 Arena.
The event which has been dubbed by the Guardian newspaper as: “the most exciting music on the planet” drew a maximum capacity crowd of 20,000 to witness the musical showdown between rapper Wiley’s Grime squad – Eskimo Dance and UKG All Stars (the ‘G’ represents the music genre ‘garage’ – pronounced ‘garrij’), Producer Dre Skull’s Brooklyn based indie record label Mixpak brought current dancehall titans to clash against Pittsburgh’s finest – Wiz Khalifa and his Taylor Gang. The winner is chosen by the audience according to highest decibel recording after each crew is announced. It is not cumulative, so only the last round counts.

Now, like everybody else in Jamaica – I grew up around sound systems and understand the concept of a clash in the context of Dancehall music and culture. So I was intrigued to see how the concept would be played out in such a large venue, with a young British crowd and such a mixed pack (see what I did there) of musical styles battling against each other for the coveted trophy.

Armed with my camera gear and my Jamaican flag draped over my shoulders (no surprise which crew I was supporting right?), I jostled with several other photographers in the press pit for the prime positions to hopefully get those ‘money shots’, those pictures that can tell the story without a need for words and convey in some small part the incredible energy that pulsated from the stage and the crowd. Here are some of the highlights. I gave up trying to keep track of the rounds as I was too busy trying to get photos!

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No stranger to the RBCC stage and repping for Eskimo Dance – Grimes King of Bants, Stormzy asks his competitors: “If Grime’s dead / den how am I here? howwwww”) Shame about the yawn inducing dubious dubs from Adele and Ed Sheeran #merky IG: @stormzyofficial

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Wiz Khalifa aka Sebastian’s Dad ‘came to kill everybody who ain’t in the gang.’ Not only did he recruit Ty Dolla Sign and Joey Badass for the clash – Wiz served up some prime beef with dubs by Major Lazer, Black Chiney Sound (intro’d by DJ Khaled) featuring Busy Signal, Beenie Man, Rae Stremmurd AND a pre-recorded video message from his baby mama Amber Rose telling just about everybody to suck her dick. Jurys still out as to whether that counted as a diss or an invitation. IG:@mistercap

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Megaman of East End crew So Solid and repping UKG All Stars kept the energy levels up through the rounds but flopped big time when his team served up some nasty bogus (splice) Major Lazer dubs. Ouch.

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So you know earlier Muvva told all the crews to suck her dick? Well not to be outdone, Spice – “the baddest bitch in the game” leaps on to the stage and drops into a tear inducing split and then asks/tells??? Wiz Khalifa to “eat mi pum pum” and THEN (this is in the Sleeping with the Enemy Round) she only goes and remixes Stormzy’s ‘Lack Arf’. It’s safe to say Spice duppied every crew with that. IG: @spiceofficial

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This was Popcaan’s first appearance in the UK and at the iconic O2 no less. Expectations were way up and the pressure to deliver was higher than Pappi and his ‘best friend’ on a hot Kingston afternoon. But I knew that after Wiz styled him as ‘Poptart’ and Fekky’s relentless roasting about ‘Controlla’, the Unruly Boss and the Mixpak team would not take that diss lightly. There was only one move left they could play in this game. Drakes ‘One Dance’ dub (more like a drop still but anyway…) in the final round killed every crew and sound dead.
“Streets not safe/Pappi never run away/even when he’s away”

This clash really could have been anyone’s victory. Wiz & the Gang came prepared for war and went hard as did Eskimo Dance and UKG. But you’re only as good as you’re last song and the audience made their choice very loud and very clear that it was Dre Skull’s Mixpak team that were the titans at this clash.

I really gained a better perspective on the whole culture clash concept. Yes, the foundation is in the dancehall soundclash – but this is not meant to be an imitation of Sting. It is a real study in how differences encourage competition and creativity and that the pen can really be mightier than the sword. This is a war of wits and words which while bodies any team unprepared for the battle, the only casualties are bruised egos and damaged reps.
So congratulations to the Mixpak team for being this year’s Red Bull Culture Clash champions. I look forward to 2017’s event to see what crew can better Dre Skull and his team’s performance.

*Special thanks goes out to the Redbull team* – don’t say a word…
lizzy brown.
©lizzy brown aka eyeani

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