For Red Bull Reporter
RBMA Culture Clash 2010

Camden heard the sound go ‘boom’ as egos clashed at the Roundhouse.

An air of anticipation built on a cold, crisp night in North London, as four monster squads with only vinyl and CDs in their armoury, assembled to battle for the title of undisputed champion selectas at the second Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash.

The winners last time round – Metalheadz, fronted by Goldie and joined by other drum and bass heavyweights Shy FX and Andy C, had three new challengers to face off: Soul Jazz Records, men of the moment Skream + Benga Presents and legendary Jamaican clashers Channel One Sound System.

Some may have looked on the event as a bit of fun, but once the first throb of bass reverberated around Camden’s Roundhouse it was evident to all that things were about to get serious.

“We come down to functions like this because it’s the only venue where you can really open up your system,” said ‘Alf’ Garnett Alexander, Managing Director of Ligwa Ltd, who was part of the team setting up the Soul Jazz system, and whose company slogan is ‘We Are Bass’.

“People come at their own risk - this is one of a kind.”

The teams represented four generations of dub – genres of music that rely, depend and exist because of ground-shaking bassline induced vibrations.

Funktion One systems are renowned across the world for pushing the boundaries of sound and delivering it to dance music fanatics everywhere. Without Funktion One the product of producers’ imaginations couldn’t be truly realised.

Its designer Tony Andrews was also part of the 20-strong Soul Jazz team. “To win the Culture Clash title is a combination of the music and the crowd reaction and not purely the quality of the rig. Making a lot of noise is easy – making it loud and sweet is another thing.”

I asked for this to be put into terms which were more familiar to me, in decibels, but I was immediately engulfed by laughter: “We never really think about it like that,” Tony smiled, “it is either loud enough or it isn’t.

“There is such a thing as too loud, we aren’t here to try and cause pain.” But my Lord, the volume was still high.

Very, very high.

The stage was set, battle commenced and it was obvious from the start that Metalheadz viewed Skream and Benga across the room as their biggest rivals, and the feeling was clearly mutual.

Each round demanded the sound systems to meet different criteria in a limited amount of time. Each team had to outdo their opponents and force them into bass-driven submission.

Trained ears from all teams circulated the arena to ensure their systems were performing at optimum capacity, and give their DJs the best chance of winning.

The animosity intensified, particularly coming from MC Sgt. Pokes, part of Skream + Benga Presents, as friendly rivalry turned to bitterness. They were in a killing mood.

After Metalheadz frontman Goldie lost out to the likes of Anne Widdercombe and Paul Daniels in Strictly Come Dancing it seemed inevitable a reworking of the theme tune would come out: “I can tell you from right now, we have that. I have it in my bag,” said Benga with a glowing grin stretching across his face.

“But I don’t think we should be drawing that. We aren’t here to draw gimmicks; we are here to draw riddims.”

But in desperate times...

Shy FX dropped an incredible dubplate that saw Katy B turn her back on two-thirds of Magnetic Man, who has helped propel her career to near mega stardom. This forced a full blown retaliation with all the ammunition Skream + Benga had left.

Out came Strictly, but then more seriously a bomb of their own: an original from undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest names, Snoop Dogg.

Wow - war was in session.

Sparks were flying, the energy was electric and the sound grabbed the soul in the very depths of the stomach.

Confidence and cockiness flowed from Metalheadz and Skream + Benga Presents as it seemed as though the Clash was becoming a two horse race - the champions against the young pretenders.

But foolish are the inexperienced and ignorant are those who dismiss age, as refraining from the verbal jousting was Channel One Sound System.

With just two trusty turntables and without the CDJs and MacBooks that illuminated the other stages, the Jamaican sound-clash kings showed their class.

They played riddim after riddim, tune after tune, to keep the crowd moving and snatched victory from the shocked Croydon kids to take the title back to Kingston.


Words by Will Gilgrass


View an accompanying photo gallery from the event HERE.

Review and images given to us exclusively by Red Bull Reporter, a project that gives aspiring writers, photographers, filmmakers and presenters the chance to report exclusively on music, culture and sports events and get their stories showcased. To find out more, visit

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