Impressions: Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash 2013

May 11, 2013

Words by Kieran K. Meadows, Photos by Kevin Ornelasโ€”


Last night, four leading New York soundsโ€”each repping different genres on separate stagesโ€”went head-to-head over three rounds at the 2013 edition of Red Bull Music Academy’s Culture Clash — the first held in New York — and by the end, one sound was crowned the winner.

Many in the sold-out crowd packing the cavernous Roseland Ballroom were likely witnessing their first sound clash ever. Well, they definitely got their money’s worth and, even better, a taste of the absolute MADNESS that is a sound clash. Federation Sound, Que Bajo?!, Trouble & Bass and Just Blaze/Young Guru went back and forth trying to murder each other (musically, of course) and whip their supporters and the crowd-at-large into a frenzy with special remixes, dubplates, special guests and a massive stage and sound presence.

The night saw wild dancersย brukking out on top of speaker boxes, plenty of airhorns, inflatable props, costumed hypemen and air cannons shooting out money and t-shirts into the audience, and a roster of heavy-hitting special guests that would rival any major festival lineup. Ultimately,Trouble & Bassโ€”known for their mash-up of electronic and regional club styles into their own trademark heavy-bass soundโ€”came out on top, sweeping the three competitive rounds judged on audience noise. All four crews did their thing and represented New York very well in this unique cross-genreโ€” and possibly once-in-a-lifetimeโ€”event.

The laundry list of special guests for the night was insaneโ€”when Freeway, Memphis Bleek, and Tifa are brought out in the first competitive round, you know things are going to get serious. Other special guests included: Flatbush Zombies, Telli from Ninjasonik, Ricky Blaze, Wale, Pharoahe Monch, Lady Leshurr (of the UK who killed Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now”), Nina Sky, Dave Nada, Magic Juan (who rocked Elvis Krespo’s “Suavemente”), Mr. Easy and Kardinal Offishall, while the final round saw Bun B (doing the Jay-Z and UGK classic “Big Pimpin'”), Raekwon, Cam’Ron and 2 Chainz take the stage.

In Federation’s final round, Max Glazer and Kenny Meez went all out, bringing out Naturalie and Red Fox to do “Down In Jamaica,” and then Screechy Dan joined them to do “Bashment Party” alongside Red Fox. Amped up off the the constant wail of airhorns filling the air, Mr. Easy came out and killed the Bruk Out riddim as did Spragga Benz, who got a roaring welcome with some sound-killing war versions of some of his big tunes. Federation’s supporters went totally maaaaadddd during this juggling, while the artists played off one another’s energy. Original Federation crew member and HOT 97 personality Cipha Sounds approvingly looked on as he rocked a camo bandana over his face to match Federation’s all-camouflage theme — clearly ready for pure sound warfare.

Having already won the first two competitive rounds, Trouble & Bass sealed the deal by bringing out Robin S to do a live version of her timeless early 90s club dance track, “Show Me Love.” It’s hard to top a diva doing a massive club hit (plus, in general, T&B seemed to capitalize on the current trend of EDM becoming popular music). As Robin S performed, it looked like everyone in the place was feeling it. The vibe largely captured the spirit of the night, which, although fiercely competitive, was all about having a great time celebrating sound system culture.

Obviously here at LargeUp, we’re a little biased in rooting for Federation Sound, but even Que Bajo?! brought up some of our friends to hype up the crowd, including Jahdan Blakkamoore and Bajah. And in the round in which sounds had to compete by playing another sound’s genre, Young Guru played a choice selection-filled reggae/dancehall set, bringing out Jadakiss and Styles P over a slightly refixed Streetsweeper riddim, andย  finishing strong with classics “Buddy Bye” by Johnny Osbourne, “Murderer” by Barrington Levy, and “Slew Dem” by Capleton,. Even folks in the Federation section had to lift their arms in approval.

Our photographer Kevin Ornelas was there and captured the insanity of it all. Scroll through the thumbnails (or click each photo to go the next page) and see all the action.

6-Dust a Sound Boy