Main content

Culture Clash: Radio 1 and 1Xtra bring you the UK's biggest musical throwdown

17 June 2016

What’s a sound clash? Mistajam explains…

‘Four crews representing four parts of the musical spectrum’ – Mistajam chats to Grimmy about Culture Clash

Mistajam drops by to talk about the sound system battle event, Red Bull Culture Clash.

What is a sound clash?

Red Bull Culture Clash is one of the biggest sound clashes in the world, bringing together four crews for an all-out sound fight.

The winners are judged solely by the crowd reaction to the music played and the strategic way it is played.

We asked Mistajam to tell us more about sound clashes:

"Starting out in Jamaica in the 1950’s, a Sound Clash is essentially a musical competition between 2 or more different musical crews, teams or Sound Systems battling it out for supremacy. The winners are judged solely by the crowd reaction to the music played and the strategic way it is played. Dubplates are key tools used to defeat your opponent.

A Dubplate specifically used to be an actual acetate vinyl record made specifically for that sound system (or even sometimes specifically for that sound clash) but these days are more likely to be digital files. They usually are specially re-recorded versions of already popular songs. If it gets a good reaction from the crowd, you’re said to have received a forward as that reaction allows you to move forward in the clash."

In theory, any music could run at a sound clash. But everything about its history as an event is firmly rooted in Jamaican music.

It’s very musically diverse. However, the homage is always paid to its Jamaican roots.

The first sound clashes happened in Kingston in the 1950s, with legendary fights breaking out between sound systems. Whoever could get the most people involved emerged the winner.

A sound system is essentially a set up of speakers, DJs and MCs, working together as a crew with a united style. Each system at a clash will come with their own style - from grime to dubstep to dance to reggae.

We asked Mistajam about the sounds that clash on the UK scene- "It’s very musically diverse. However, the homage is always paid to its Jamaican roots."

We spoke to 1Xtra's own David Rodigan - winner of Culture Clash 2014 - about what it takes to win a sound clash:

And in order to win, for the crowd to say 'ok, you took the crown' that night, you had to have the most exclusive recordings.

"It all started down in Jamaica in the late 50s, when enormous sound systems would set up on lawns. One at one end of the street and the other at the other end of the street and they'd try to out-play each other with volume. The idea was to draw as many people as you could to your sound because you were selling liquor and making money and having fun and you're bigger and badder and better than the other sound system.

That's where it started, on the quality of the sound system. And then it developed in the 60s whereby the sound systems actually go into direct competition with each other and you would want to have a more exclusive set of recordings than your competitors. And there could be up to four competitors, playing in a big, open air space somewhere in Jamaica. Island-wide, these clashes used to happen.

And of course they started happening in the 60s in the UK because Jamaicans came here, they brought their culture and their music with them and they built their own sound systems. Because the only place they could hear their music was on their own sound systems, in church halls and places that they hired. And Acton Town Hall, Tottenham Town Hall, that's where these events took place. And that's what it was all about so you had some massive clashes, in the 70s, with Jah Shaka, Fat Man, King Tubbies, all playing in contest with each other.

So how do you win?

And in order to win, for the crowd to say 'ok, you took the crown' that night, you had to have the most exclusive recordings. And ideally, you'd have to have an artist calling your name, your sound system's name, in the record.

That's where this whole thing started and now it's developed into Culture Clash, here in the UK, where it isn't just about reggae music it's about various forms of music but the idea is, of course, that you outdo your competitor.

One of the most interesting rounds will be 'sleeping with the enemy' where a sound system has to play against their format. Where if you're known as a drum'n'bass sound you gotta go and play reggae, you gotta play outside of your box, outside of the field in which you normally operate. It's going to be very interesting."

So why's Culture Clash such a big deal?

Last year's winners, Rebel Sound

Culture Clash brings you the toughest sets from the biggest acts in UK, US and Jamaican sound systems. An international play-off, each crew bring their own brand of fire for the crowd to choose from.

Annie Mac with last year's winners, Rebel Sound

Bringing such huge names together, Culture Clash has the hottest dubplates - like the Rihanna re-record that Rebel Sound dropped last year. With each crew at the top of their game, their attempts to outdo each other are off the charts fire.

It's a straight-up fight, with crews dragging each other as they face off. It gets so hot there's no videos we can put in a daytime article - but prepare f after 9pm.

Annie Mac will be hosting the event, with Mistajam backstage and DJ Target bringing you radio coverage across 1Xtra from 7pm and Radio 1 from 9pm. Get ready for the highest energy throwdown in the UK.

So who's there?

Sorry, this clip is not currently available

Elf Kid and AJ Tracey perform a freestyle for Radio 1's Headliners

Up and coming grime acts Elf Kid and AJ Tracey collaborate live at Maida Vale.

The four crews in Culture Clash 2016 are-

Eskimo Dance - Wiley's own crew, including AJ Tracey and DJ Logan Sama (in the clip above, performing on Annie Mac's Headliners) and bringing all the grime you can handle. Grime has won in the past and it's a stellar line-up, can they do it again?

Mixpak - Representing Jamaica, Mixpak are going all-in on dub. Led by Dre Skull, they'll have Popcaan's first UK performance - expect the finest dancehall from the US & Caribbean. They're taking it back to sound clash's roots, so expect some serious fight.

UKG All Stars - These guys do what they say on the tin, with So Solid Crew, Oxide & Neutrino, DJ Luck and MC Neat and Majestic Foundation bringing heavyweight UK Garage all night. These guys changed the landscape of mainstream UK music not so long ago, can they blow away the Culture Clash?

Wiz Khalifa and Taylor Gang - Bringing a US flavour to the fight, Wiz Khalifa and Taylor Gang are huge celebrities as well as massive MCs. Expect extremely special guests and maybe, just maybe, the first US victory?

The four crews in Culture Clash 2016 are-

Eskimo Dance - Wiley's own crew, including AJ Tracey and DJ Logan Sama (in the clip above, performing on Annie Mac's Headliners) and bringing all the grime you can handle. Grime has won in the past and it's a stellar line-up, can they do it again?

Mixpak - Representing Jamaica, Mixpak are going all-in on dub. Led by Dre Skull, they'll have Popcaan's first UK performance - expect the finest dancehall from the US & Caribbean. They're taking it back to sound clash's roots, so expect some serious fight.

UKG All Stars - These guys do what they say on the tin, with So Solid Crew, Oxide & Neutrino, DJ Luck and MC Neat and Majestic Foundation bringing heavyweight UK Garage all night. These guys changed the landscape of mainstream UK music not so long ago, can they blow away the Culture Clash?

Wiz Khalifa and Taylor Gang - Bringing a US flavour to the fight, Wiz Khalifa and Taylor Gang are huge celebrities as well as massive MCs. Expect extremely special guests and maybe, just maybe, the first US victory?

Amplify Dot reckons dancehall will get it

Twin B's going all-in on grime

And Yasmin's backing reggae too

You are gonna need more speakers