Red Bull Culture Clash: It’s gonna be lit


Johannesburg - Atlanta, in the US state of Georgia, has played a pivotal role in the development of music – especially hip-hop.

At street level, hip-hop in Atlanta has a bass-heavy sound and nouveau-riche lyrics, and has gone on to define contemporary rap music.

Some of the greatest contributors to this genre are TI, Ludacris, Outkast, Jermaine Dupri, Mike WiLL Made-It and Future. The list is endless and you would’ve heard them shout out “The ATL” in music they release.

When Red Bull invited #Trending to the Red Bull Culture Clash in Atlanta, I immediately decided the winner of the music battle would be Mike WiLL Made-It and his EarDrummers crew ... and, with hip-hop in South Africa at its peak, the clear winner at the Red Bull Culture Clash at Orlando Stadium would be AKA and the Top Boyz sound system. I was proven wrong both times.


So, what is it?

The Red Bull Culture Clash is one of the coolest and most innovative music experiences in the world. To win this ultimate sound battle, four chosen crews on four different stages have to take things to the next level – that is, bring out surprise special guests but also exclusive, one-night-only dubplate specials to charm the crowd.

Inspired by Jamaican sound clashes, the Orlando Stadium event later this month will feature AKA and Top Boyz sound system, Nigerian star Patoranking and Red Hot sound system, DJ Tira and Durban Massacre sound system, and Admiral and Jahseed with African Storm sound system. They’ll all represent some of our biggest sounds: hip-hop, House, Afrobeats and reggae.

Past winners include Channel One, Boy Better Know, Rebel Sound, and Admiral and Jahseed.


What are the rules?

Red Bull Culture Clash is split into four rounds. A crew’s set in each round lasts for between five and 15 minutes. A countdown clock appears on the main screen 10 seconds before the end of each set.

When the time is up, the sound fades out then cuts.

Crews are actively encouraged to play custom-made dubplate specials and to introduce their secret guests any time during the event. However, in the final round, it’s dubs, remixes and live performances only. No regular records whatsoever. Strictly no repeats. If a crew repeats a tune played earlier in the night, they’re disqualified from that round. The only exception is if the record is explicitly announced as “counteraction”.

A round is won by crowd reaction – the audience decides who is the best using criteria such as originality, performance, song selection and energy.

The final call rests with the hosts – in this case, Siyabonga “Scoop Makhathini” Ngwekazi and Thapelo Mokoena. At the end of the night, they will decide who the winner of Red Bull Culture Clash is, based on noise from the audience.

The victor, according to the Red Bull SA website’s noise meter, which measures social-media support for each crew, had DJ Tira and Durban Massacre Sound System in the lead.

DJ Tira and Durban Massacre sound system went on to win the preview of the music battle earlier this month at the Red Bull Culture Clash preview event at City Central in Joburg.


Welcome to the ATL

Red Bull Culture Clash Atlanta had surprises that hip-hop dreams are made of. From Pusha T to Ludacris, some Junior Reid and stacks of dollar bills being shot into the crowd with a Cash Cannon Make it Rain Money Gun. The night was epic.

In the end, it was the crew from Jamaica (birthplace of the sound clash) that pulled out all the stops, including bringing out Jermaine Dupri, to take the trophy. It’s this very crew, this time without their team leader Popcaan, who was part of last year’s winning Culture Clash UK crew, Mixpak.

Popcaan’s Unruly Crew included Squid, Jabba, Jazzy T, Sir DJ Corey, Petro and Kamar Petrekin – who, before the clash during a chat at the swanky W Hotel in Downtown Atlanta, said his absence would not stop them from winning.

“Unlike the others, we had plan A, B, C and D, and this is also the music that we created, so there’s no way that the unfortunate absence of our leader would change the fact that we are about to win,” said Jazzy T.

Earlier that day, Popcaan and his team released a statement on social media, announcing that he would not be allowed to enter the US due to problems getting travel documents.

Popcaan, who lives in Jamaica, has travelled almost everywhere in the world, except the US. For some reason, authorities always block his entrance, according to some of his crew.

Home town hero and Formation producer Mike WiLL Made-It’s crew DJ Cash, DJ Osh, Eearz, Jace of Two-9, Aubz and Bwrightous were beside themselves with glee when I asked what they thought about Popcaan not being allowed to enter the US.

“You heard Popcaan’s not here? This is going to be too easy,” said one.

In the end, not even Rae Sremmurd or Ludacris could help them win, nor could their leaders’ catalogue of hits for everyone from Gucci Mane to Beyoncé.

Mike WiLL excelled in charming the crowd, with nearly every performer holding a wire-wrapped baseball bat. They even brought out a hilarious giant ear mascot, who waved a toilet-plunger-sized Q-tip around.

At one point, they marched down from the stage to stand in the front row and intimidate and heckle the competition with their outlandish bats. But none of that was enough – not even being in the presence of what would be considered his core audience.


How do you say that word?

At the moment, South African hip-hop is receiving recognition around the world, allowing the likes of Nasty C, Cassper Nyovest and AKA to chase their dreams. But Gqom frequently came up when people heard that I’m South African. The rise of Gqom has given life to House music. The sound is not just another element of underground dance – it’s the freshest and most dominating.

“My wish is to take the local sound to the world. Originating from the township, Gqom has helped make more young careers in the industry, such as Distruction Boyz and Rude Boyz,” says DJ Tira.

If the preview of the music battle to come to Orlando Stadium is anything to go by, witnessing this musical magic is a definite yes! Albeit that the crews and hosts represent a male-driven show.

While Tira and his crew will most likely win, big entertainers during the night will include Nigerian reggae-dancehall singer and songwriter Patoranking, and rapper AKA with their gloves-off approach and the reggae influence in their sound.

“My sound has allowed me to perform on big stages the world over, I’m excited for my South African fans to watch me live and decide for themselves,” says Patoranking. All Afrobeats and dancehall lovers need to come out to support me on the night because I’m bringing them fire.”


  • The Red Bull Culture Clash will take place at Orlando Stadium on Saturday. Tickets are R200 to R1 000 at computicket.com
  • Marshall was a guest of Red Bull in Atlanta
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