Culture Clash feat:
Soul ll Soul, Metalheadz, Trojan and DMZ at RBMA London 2010
Review by: Redbull Academy (Taken from www.redbullmusicacademy.com)
17th February 2010
Any competition relies fundamentally on a certain set of rules. Based on that: if the ref calls it, he calls it. Period. Fairplay and all. Still, the beauty of football is that everybody is allowed to have an opinion. You could always argue that Arsenal should have won at least six out of the last five championships, simply due to the beauty, the pureness of the game, and Arsène's insight. But if, after all, Malcolm and Roman are the ones to pour all the champagne, you can either wave your scarf or cuss the ref. It is and remains what it is, simple as that.
The sold-out Camden venue is the scene of London's first high-profile soundclash in years: a special one as well. Competing on four stages will be Trojan Sound System, Metalheadz, Digital Mystikz (= DMZ minus Loefah), and Jazzie B's Soul II Soul Soundsystem. While most of their rivals take it slow, the Goldie gang goes all-in straight away, with some ruthless stompers courtesy of one of the original Metalheadz selectors, DJ Storm, and half of London on stage, from mixmaster Andy C to dubstep party king Caspa to MCs Justyce, GQ and Rod Azlan. After only one hour of what-was-supposed-to-be-a-warm-up-round the heat is already on: Trojan keep it nice and smooth with some classics from the Trojan vaults like Ken Boothe's Everything I Own, three vocalists on stage, and Ashley Beedle stepping in for regular selector Earl Gateshead. Jazzie B invites punters on a ride through 25 years of club classics, backed by MC Chickaboo who makes up for her lack of clash experience with superhuman energy. Digital Mystikz' Sgt Pokes is in full war mode: look him up on Myspace, he might look for friends there, but definitely not in the clash arena. And the Metalcamp scores big with the first proper verbal counteraction of the day: 'You disrespect Trojan Sound? If it wasn't for Trojan, there would be no dubstep.'
The stage is clearly set.
Around midnight it's time for the 'Entertainment Round', and if there's ever been a man to take entertainment serious it's London's answer to the Original Front Tooth Gold Tooth Gun Pon Tooth Don Gorgon, Goldie. Letting Andy C do what he does best (i.e. neatly cutting up anti-social big room bangers with impressive precision, and without missing a single rave filter effect along the way), he represents at the edge of stage, cutting imaginary throats and disparagingly waving his hands towards the DMZ basscamp. Bigtime energy.
Round 4 has all the sounds mixing up styles and playing tunes from beyond their main genres: an easy one for the original Funki Dred Jazzie B who's never been shy to cross over barriers within a cross fade. He starts out with some mash-up version of Seven Nation Army and Bring The Noise, and gets even greater response than Goldie with his Nirvana opening move. Metalheadz later prove great versatility, playing everything from rave über-classic Total Confusion to man of the moment, Joy Orbison. But by now the massive is clearly divided into avid supporters and those who just won't ignore the slight smell of gimmickry. Finally, Digital Mystikz get solid forwards with Cham's Ghetto Story and Witness (1 Hope): Rodney had to pull out last-minute due to understandable reasons but London clearly feels his presence when the wonky, wobbling hook line of his everlasting big tune comes in.
Speaking of presence: Mala, Coki and Pokes command what is the most powerful soundsystem by light years in this clash, bringing incredible bass weight to the storied Roundhouse. They are even asked to turn the volume down due to safety reasons (!) during sound check, but a lot of revellers still claim to have never heard such bass power in their lives before. It's this sheer physical potency that soon makes the Mystikz a favourite amongst a big chunk of the crowd, along with their stylistic consistency, super-serious approach, huge arsenal of homemade hits, and Pokes' sometimes aggressive, sometimes witty speeches. Twitter version for the ADHD mafia: @Jazzie B You claim to play original dubplates and then you have the guts to play CDs @Trojan @Don Letts You are old @Goldie You don't even play records yourself, and you roll with the most commercial DJ in the dubstep business. Line of the night: 'Next time you're on Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, are you going to call Caspa when you need to call a friend?'; After a little outburst (and the accordant apology) from Metalheadz' Bailey, it's straight back to music when Soul II Soul kick off the final round.
Jazzie pulls out some custom-made mash-up of Soul II Soul's Fairplay (his mantra for the night, in a way) over a James Brown backing before hitting a home run with a Cutty Ranks special of his timeless classic Back To Life. Unfortunately it's truncated down to just a few bars for time, but it still does the job, reminding listeners who exactly it is standing behind the decks. Trojan Sound System stick to their guns as well: solid selection of reggae cuts. Solid interaction (given the fact that they've probably never played in this constellation before). Solid overall presentation. Culture, lots. But clearly no clash.
The clash is happening somewhere else. It's between Digital Mystikz and Metalheadz, and when Mala kicks off his last set, there are few crowd members who haven't chosen their side. It's all gun fingers, rag-waving, ear plugs, and bass in around 1,800 people's faces during these 15 minutes, with hits pon top of hits blaring out of DIRT's intimidating system, from Anti-War Dub (turned into a soundbwoy death song by Pokes) to Coki's Mavado refix. The vibe is super-intense, and it's on Metalheadz to strike back now: keeping up the insane energy level but mysteriously skipping almost all of the classics from their tremendous catalogue. Yes yes, Alex Reece. But, no disrespect, what's Pulp Fiction if you could play Inner City Life as a last tune, easily bring out Skream for an In For The Kill VIP, or reunite Fabio and the Rider for some proper Rage tribute? Close, but no cigar.
Who are we to judge though, it's on Don Letts to decide, and so he does. "Goldie, you have it." And he has it.
One could argue that Goldie could have had a closer look through his phonebook: playing the regular version of Fix Up, Look Sharp when you're one of the most powerful players in the business (and friends with Dizzee) is probably not a great look in a soundclash. One could also argue that none of the MCs could really keep up with Pokes fast-paced insults, as great as an MC e.g. Justyce might be when it comes to spitting out 16 bars on a d&b roller. And maybe one could argue that witnessing Digital Mystikz that night was an experience of sorts, physical, spiritual and plainly entertaining all at once.
But then again, one could also argue that that ball was not in, back in '66. And who would care really, unless he is a grumpy German who hasn't heard of this wonderful German word, Tatsachenentscheidung. And don't even start boring us with "the hand of god" again.