On Wednesday night Wembley Arena witnessed one of the biggest single day music events of the year, playing host to the 2012 Red Bull Culture Clash. We were sent there courtesy of Nokia and Red Bull, which was an absolute godsend, because it was one of those occasions that will be talked about for a long time to come.
What exactly was this “culture clash” all about though? To put it simply, four competing crews were set up on stage in each corner of Wembley Arena arena, with the sole intention of winning over the hearts of the sold-out London crowd. Each soundsystem were repping their genres through their own musical selections (across four 10-12 minute battle rounds), and this is where the culture clash aspect really came into play. Round winners were decided by the crowd, who were asked to make the most noise for whoever they thought had delivered the best performance. Whoever received the loudest feedback on the decibel meter took the round.
This is the third year that the Culture Clash has taken place, and the event has now reached a whole new level of popularity. This was reflected by the crews that were on show for the 2012 event, which included: Major Lazer (Diplo, Jillionaire, Walshy Fire & Rita Ora), Annie Mac Presents Magnetic Man (Redlight, Rudimental, Disclosure, Ms. Dynamite & P Money), Boy Better Know (JME, Skepta, Frisco, Wiley, Shorty, Jammer, Solo 45, Maximum, Lethal Bizzle & Chip), and the reigning champions from last year, the legendary Channel One. With Radio 1Xtra DJs Tim Westwood and Gemma Cairney hosting proceedings, it was reported that there was a staggering 90 artists in attendance for the event.
We managed to catch up with the Boy Better Know crew before kick-off, and they were in a supremely confident mood:
“What rivals? It’s murder today. Lyrically we’re not scared, we’ve got dubplates all day. We’ve been locked in the studio for the last few days writing stuff, we’ve got a clashing background, it’s not new to us, we’re about this life.”
Round 1 – “No Elimination”
Round one was an initial warm up round, which give each soundsystem the opportunity to introduce themselves to the crowd without the added pressure of point scoring.
Channel One came out and set the marker as reigning champs, but it was Annie Macâ€™s crew who really got the audience fired-up, unleashing her UK chart dream-team of Disclosure, Redlight and Rudimental, who were in possession of some of the biggest dance hits of 2012. Boy Better Know hit back instantly with a selection of grime anthems, but it was Diplo who made his presence felt the most with the crowd as he jumped inside an inflatable rubber ball and surfed around on top of his fully-receptive Major Lazer fanbase.
Round 2 – “The Selector”
This is where the competition started to get serious. The rules stated that this round was 15 minutes of music, with no added help from special guests or custom dubplates (which were supposed to be specifically reserved for Round 4). Sounds were judged purely on track selection.
It seems that certain soundsystems weren’t listening, as Annie Macâ€™s crew immediately utilised the vocal talents of Sam Smith, who linked up with Disclosure to perform their new single “Latch“, whilst Major Lazer brought out Stylo G for an unexpected rendition of “Call Me a Yardie“. With both Jillionaire and Diplo behind the decks Major Lazer were a force to be reckoned with, moving from strength to strength with expertly executed drops of Dead Prezâ€™s “Hip Hop“, House of Painsâ€™ “Jump Around“, and much to Skreamâ€™s annoyance, his anthemic remix of La Roux‘s “In For The Kill“.
Channel One upped the ante by calling out the antics of ‘Sgt. Pokemonâ€™ and â€˜Skream and Bhangraâ€™, whilst BBK retaliated through Wiley, who performed his new singles: “Heatwave” and “Iâ€™m Skanking“. However, their efforts were to no avail, as the crowd voted in force for Major Lazer.
Round 3 – “Sleeping With The Enemy”
This was set to be one of the most potentially interesting rounds of the evening, as the rules stated that each crew had to play another soundsystem’s music. Unfortunately, at this point, the rules had completely gone out the window.
Channel One played a near identical set to what was delivered in Round 2, seemingly forgetting that they had to play someone else’s genre. Thankfully Major Lazer brought the competition back on track by throwing down an impressive showcase of foundation reggae and ska, which included a performance by Johnny Osbourne (who is sampled on Major Lazer and Flux Pavilion‘s brand new single “Jah No Partial“).
At this point, BBK verbalised their frustrations with the flagrant rule-breaking from the Major Lazer and Annie Mac camps by hitting both crews right where it hurts. They first dished out some heavy lines to Ms. Dynamite and P Money for representing the wrong soundsystem, before dealing a harsh low blow to Major Lazer by unveiling that Diplo had been keeping Usher waiting in the wings for Round 4 when he was set to come out and perform “Climax“. They even rubbed salt into the wounds by playing “Climax” themselves, ensuring that no-one else could drop it later in the night.
Annie Macâ€™s seemed impervious to the criticism, as she invited Maverick Sabre on stage for a performance, before unveiling a remastered version of Diplo‘s recent BlackBerry advert, cleverly editing the video to replace the Torch handset with a larger-than-life pink dildo. If that wasn’t enough, the video was accompanied by three very camp men in unflattering gold hot pants, twerking to Diploâ€™s single “Express Yourself“.
The sudden injection of humour meant that the crowd was fully backing Annie Macâ€™s stage to take Round 3, however, Tim Westwood immediately announced that he was discounting all of the round wins so far due to excessive rule breaking.
Round 4 – “The Decider”
Round 4 was up for anyones taking due to the discounted wins, which meant things were about to get nasty. This was the round where special guests and dubplates were allowed.
BBK started off proceedings by delivering their best round of the night. Chipmunk came out to perform to an already hyped crowd, but it was BBK‘s much hyped dubplates that really got the arena rocking. Reworked versions of Wacka Flocka‘s “Hard in the Paint” and G.O.O.D Music‘s “Donâ€™t Like” got rapturous receptions, whilst a grime style remix of PSY‘s universal hit “Gangnam Style” made the arena shake. However, it was a specially commissioned dub of “Talkinâ€™ da â€˜Ardest” by Giggs which received the biggest crowd reaction. Giggs had reworked the lyrics to reference Skream and Bengaâ€™s coke habits, plus shots were fired at the other soundsystems too. To round the performance off their other special guest, Lethal Bizzle, arrived on-stage for performances of “Leave It Yeah” and grime anthem “Pow“.
Annie Mac called in massive favours from her Radio 1 regulars, in the form of: Ms. Dynamite, who rocked “Wile Out“, Katy B who sung her debut single “Katy On A Mission“, Example with his Skream collaboration “Shot Yourself In The Foot Again“, Baby Sol and Lottie Tricity who performed Redlightâ€™s “Lost in Your Love“, and finally Rudimental & vocalist John Newman who delivered their recent #1 single “Feel the Love“. Big performances indeed.
With Channel One‘s final performance, they chose bring out roots reggae singer Luciano, but as was the story throughout the night with this soundsystem, they just seemed to be totally overshadowed and outgunned.
Major Lazer were granted the closing performance of the night, and although early predictions favoured them to take the title, this round failed to reach the high standards they had previously set themselves. Calling on the immensely popular Rita Ora (to perform at her second gig of the night), as well as Usher (whose appearance had been spoilt by BBKâ€™s earlier announcement), the final delivery didn’t pack as much punch as it probably should have done. No-doubt they would have received a bigger crowd reaction if the Usher unveiling had been kept under wraps, but deservedly they paid the price for their earlier misdemeanors.
As the music came to a close and the crowd were ordered to decide the winner by Tim Westwood, the interactive decibel meter declared Boy Better Know as the undeniable winners of the 2012 Red Bull Culture Clash competition. Although I was initially surprised with the decision, the fact remained that the competition was going to be decided on that final round alone, and there was no denying that BBK went harder than anyone else. Ultimately it was the right result.
All in all it was an absolutely incredible night, and with BBK set to defend their title at next year’s Culture Clash, the only question that remains is how it could possibly get any better in 2013.
Thanks again go out to Red Bull and Nokia for giving us the privilege to cover the event. All the pictures included this post were taken with a Lumia 920, and you can get more information on Nokiaâ€™s exclusive World of Red Bull app through the links provided.