On the 17th of June, four different unique sounds battled it out for the Culture Clash trophy at the O2 Arena. Hosting the event was none other than BBC Radio 1 radio presenter Annie Mac.
The first group to gain the audience attention for round one was Eskimo Dance. Godfather of Grime Wiley opened with his classic banger “Wot Do U Call It?” following cameos from Chip, Stormzy and Solo 45 who performed “Can’t Run Out Of Bars”, “Know Me From”, “Shut Up” and “Feed Em To The Lions” respectively.
Their second round was more energetic of mic-passing between legends including D Double E, Kano & Ghetts, but Culture Clash is won with dubs (exclusively re-recorded versions of hits that pour scorn on your rivals), and a combination of a lacklustre Ed Sheeran, an ersatz Adele, and a toothless Jess Glynne didn’t win the audience.
Wiz Khalifa was always going to have a tough night, and there’s a wonderfully conflicted energy in the crowd who aren’t sure whether to cheer or boo as he delivers a hugely accomplished set. His own dubs are impressively A-list – Big Sean, Fat Joe, Rae Sremmurd and Travis Scott all feature, with Ty Dolla $ign and Joey Badass backing them up in person – and, in a round where teams ape each other’s styles, secures a grime defector in Ice Kid. His one-time sparring partner Chip looks gobsmacked. Even surprising video appearances from Amber Rose & DJ Khaled came up to support the Taylor Gang crew.
UKG All Stars were mostly impressive, bringing East London energy capped with a video appearance from Danny Dyer in the Queen Vic comparing Wiley to Ian Beale. Their tip into junglism is derided by the other teams but lapped up by the crowd, with Ella Eyre providing a surprising hammer blow of a dub. But their fake dubs of Sia and Major Lazer are a little cringeworthy, especially when Mixpak, the eventual winners, reply with a real version from the latter.
The future-facing New York dancehall label are jeered at by every team for their relative obscurity, but, with soundclashes in their bones, triumph through sheer mastery of the format. Star turn Popcaan is upstaged by a bewigged Big Narstie and female MC Spice, who launches into some airborn splits before reworking Section Boyz’ UK anthem Lock Arff with even more malevolence, and requesting Wiz Khalifa “eat mi pum pum”. Their final dub is unstoppable too. A verse Popcaan recorded for Drake was recently left off the latter’s album, and this fact is often mocked by the other teams – but their taunts are euphorically extinguished as Drake offers up a dub of his global smash One Dance, slaying Mixpak’s rivals with the hatchet he buries.