Four groups of DJs, representing four distinct sounds, gathered at the Roseland Ballroom to battle it out for the Red Bull Music Academy’s “Culture Clash.” The objective of the event was simple — win the crowd and destroy the competition.
Max Glazer’s Federation Sound took Stage One with trumpets blaring. The whole crew was outfitted in military gear, letting everyone know they were ready for war. Bumping Damian Marley’s, “Welcome To Jamrock,” Glazer let it be known that they had every intention of murdering the competition.
A-Trak’s label, Fool’s Gold, was originally scheduled to perform at Culture Clash, but bowed out from the event at the last minute. Fellow Brooklyn-based label, Trouble & Bass, took their place (with only 9 days to prepare) on Stage Two. With Telli from Ninjasonik as their hype-man, the team had no problem getting their crowd of rowdy ravers turned up.
Just Blaze & Young Guru were given the task of holding it down for Hip Hop, and believe me when I say, THEY HELD IT DOWN! Just Blaze strutted onto the stage dressed as a preacher and quickly silenced the crowd before praying for the eternal rest of the deceased — his opponents.
Que Bajo?! took the fourth and final stage. With their signature blend of cumbia, salsa and electronic-fueled party music, the crew has quietly amassed a large following. Judging by the ruckus that took place when they hit the stage, it’s safe to assume a lot of Que Bajo’s supporters were in attendance.
Here’s how groups were judged:
1st Round: “Temperature’s Rising”
15 minutes each. Groups can play whatever they want.
2nd Round: “The Selector”
12 minutes each. The group that gets the most love from the crowd wins the round.
3rd Round: “Sleeping With The Enemy”
12 minutes each. Each group has to play an opponents style of music. Win the crowd, win the round
4th Round: “The Decider”
10 minutes each. The groups are only allowed to play dubplate specials or have live performances of their records. Win the crowd, win double the points.
The winner of the event gets the final set of the night, in true sound clash fashion.
Federation Sound kicked things off with their signature mixture of dancehall, dub and reggae fusion. The crew definitely won a lot of points for originality, dropping various custom dub plates dissing their competition . Over the course of the night they brought out reggae artists like Tifa, Ricky Blaze, Kardinall Offishall, and some dancers that we were pretty fond of. Max Glazer’s beard was definitely in the building as well.
Although the first round wasn’t scored, Just Blaze and Young Guru wasted no time reaching into their arsenal of special guests, and brought out Freeway to perform “Roc the Mic” and his verse on “What We Do.” Before Freeway had even finished his last bar, Memphis Bleek joined him on stage performing verses from “Like That” and “Is That Your Chick.”
Throughout the night, the dynamic duo treated the crowd to even more surprises by bringing out Pharoahe Monch, Wale, Styles P, Jadakiss, Bun B, and 2 Chainz! Pharoahe even performed a trap-inspired remix of his Hip Hop classic “Simon Says.”
Que Bajo?! admitted to having less star power than the other groups, but still earned major points with the crowd for their unique recreations of popular Hip Hop songs with a Latin twist. At one point they even brought out a female mc to perform her own twist on “Look At Me Now,” the crowd absolutely lost it after she killed Busta Rhymes verse.
Trouble & Bass let it be known early on that they were taking no prisoners. Beckoning the partygoers to put their middle fingers in the air, the Brooklyn-based crew showed the competition they literally did not give a fuck they were the underdogs, and dropped a track from The Misfits in the middle of their set for emphasis. It was hard to tell that they had the least amount of time to prepare, the group came sporting custom signs like “Fart-Eration, Young Du-Du, and Que Crappo.” At one point, a member of their crew hopped on to Just Blaze & Guru’s stage, waving the signs in their face!
The Flatbush Zombies hit the stage for Trouble & Bass in the 2nd round performing “SCOSA,” and got the crowd hype while they rocked out to Nirvana. Nina Sky hit the stage in the 3rd Round representing for T&B, and performed their classic cuts “Oye Mi Canto” and “Move Ya Body.” According to the crowd, this was enough for Trouble & Bass to win the two rounds, giving them a commanding lead in the competition.
However, the 4th and final round was the most important, as it was worth double the points. With T&B in the lead by only two points, it was any crew’s competition to win. Leaving nothing to chance, Trouble and Bass brought out Robyn S. to perform her international club anthem, “Show Me Love,” and left the entire building speechless.
As if that wasn’t enough, they took things even further and brought out Cam’ron to perform “I Really Mean It,” a track that Just Blaze had played early in the night. The members of the crowd looked at each other like, “Is this really happening right now?” Technically, playing the same track as an opponent should have meant disqualification for Trouble & Bass, but Just Blaze gave them a pass and showed them love for being able to pull of the surprise.
Culture Clash felt like 200 concerts packed in to one four-hour, sweat-drenching and heart-pounding event. We had an amazing time, and would like to thank the Red Bull Music Academy for having us! Check out the rest of the photos below to see which other special guests hit the stage.
All photos by John Dwyer.