What a night.
Red Bull Culture Clash is only a few hours away and returning champion Popcaan has just announced that due to unforeseen circumstances he will not be joining his crew Unruly onstage as they battle it out with three other contenders.
Naturally, one’s first instinct to is to give it to EarDrummers as the cards are now officially in their favor. With Culture Clash staged in label head and producer Mike Will Made It’s stomping grounds of Atlanta for a competition dictated by crowd response, and his fiercest competition missing its pertinent leader, this can only go one way.
The other competition present come in the forms of Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London squadron and producer-prodigy WondaGurl’s EnjoyLife Crew.
There’s no doubt that the talent is definitely there. These teams are headed up by the Hip-Hop artist with the most No. 1 singles in the UK and the mastermind behind standouts like Jay-Z’s “Crown” and Travis Scott’s “Antidote”, respectively, after all.
But the harsh reality of either team’s namesakes permeating conversation in the Southern capital to the extent that Popcaan and Mike Will have creates an obvious barrier that while dislodged, proved to be insurmountable in the end.
For those unfamiliar with the setting, Red Bull Culture Clash is a competition drawing its inspiration from traditional Jamaican sound clashes. The four crews mentioned were pitted against one another at Atlanta’s fitting 787 Windsor venue, occupying four seperate corners as they worked to claim the throne of Culture Clash Royalty.
“It’s a culture that’s always been around, but the way that’s it’s put together by Red Bull, it’s a new thing. It’s happening in a new time. It’s going to be something that’s going to stick around,” Tinie Tempah told us a few hours before the show kicked off.
“These events are very important because they’ve got a sound system from London, Canada, Jamaica, and Atlanta,” the UK heavyweight noted. “How many events in the world can you go to and experience something like that?”
As expected, the spotlight ultimately fell on a heated battle between EarDrummers and Unruly, and as the title indicates, the latter eventually reigned supreme.
The crew did the missing Popcaan proud as they energized a crowd that awaited the unrealized arrival of the Jamaican hitmaker’s first stateside performance.
Notably taking over the task of ringleader was Unruly’s DJ Jabba, easily assuming a massive personality as he maintained control of a crowd who came prepared to represent with plenty of Jamaican flags, and the signature Unruly hand signal in abundance.
But the competition certainly remained stiff until the very end.
So much so that the decibel meter that determines who gains the most support from the audience presented only a difference of .2 points between Unruly and EarDrummers by the final count.
So much so that a crowd of hundreds split right down the middle as EarDrummers’ fans cries of “ATL” competed with equal shouts of “Unruly.”
So much so that Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri, the ultimate duo, were divided between stages as Unruly viciously followed up EarDrummers and Ludacris’ wild performance of “Move B*tch” with Dupri’s shattering “Welcome to Atlanta.”
The tactics are different.
EarDrummers’ succeeded at exuded hometown pride as they brought out an arsenal of Atlanta’s finest. This included appearances from Rae Sremmurd, OJ da Juiceman, the aforementioned Luda, Crime Mob, and even Pusha T just to name a few.
Unruly captivated the crowd with a combination of dubs of dancehall favorites including Beenie Man’s “Who Am I,” and Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” while putting playful twists on current smashes like Young M.A’s “Ooh,” where the Brooklyn emcee lent her vocals to switch up a few lyrics, “They hate Unruly, but they broke though/ And when it’s time to battle, they a no show.”
Some jabs are hilariously callous and they’re all far from covert. Pride was the name of Culture Clash’s game, something that ATLiens and island natives & descendants have plenty of.
Disturbing London and EnjoyLife weren’t going down without a fight either.
As the former brought out three coffins sporting the competition’s names for all to see and recruited the likes of the Ying Yang Twins, Pastor Troy, and Sonny Digital, the latter’s Jamaican bloodline decidedly challenged the authenticity of Unruly’s camp, while both squads and EarDrummers all exploited Popcaan’s absence, throwing bags of Popcorn into the crowd as a clever replacement.
— Red Bull Music (@RedBull_Music) August 26, 2017
Despite a playfully divisive energy, Unruly’s end goal was achieved, proof that Dancehall’s evergrowing presence, similar to its Hip-Hop counterpart, has achieved the undeniable feat of translating virtually anywhere.
“Dancehall, Reggae, Hip-Hop is black culture,” was Unruly’s message before they took to the stage Friday night (August 25). “It’s just black people unifying and creating music. It’s about sounds. It’s about us enjoying our own individual sounds.
“The same way Dancehall culture is sometimes influenced by Hip-Hop, it’s vice versa. Music is for all of us. None of us own it. Even a different platform–you might say a white platform, it’s exposure of the culture.”
— Red Bull Music (@RedBull_Music) August 26, 2017