Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash
Feat. Friends of Friends, Smog, Dim Mak, Jeffree's
It was beatmakers vs. beatmakers as a bunch of dudes in flat brimmed hats competed for bragging rights at last night's Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash. The L.A. incarnation of the international event pitted four local music collectives — Smog, Dim Mak, Friends of Friends and Jeffree's — against each other in a high-energy four round face-off at downtown's Exchange L.A. It went like this:
Round 1: Introduction: Each crew got ten minutes to familiarize the audience with their respective sound.
10:00PM: Introduced as the crew responsible for introducing dub and trap to L.A., Smog wastes no time getting into an aggressive dub and trap heavy set. It's shepherded by charismatic crew member MC Kemst, with 12th Planet taking charge on the decks. Nasty in all the right ways, the mini-set is a tough act to follow and sets the night's bar high.
10:15PM: Jeffree's, the new Mad Decent offshoot focused on presenting up and coming producers, features a crew including Astronomar, Paul Devro, and Djemba Djemba. They all seem slightly nervous and look hella young. Their primary tactic is blasting Diplo's “Express Yourself” while holding a bunch of vuvuzelas up in the air.
10:25PM: Friends of Friends immediately scores points for cockiness when they announce that they “took over L.A. this year.” The collective's loud, ominous and sophisticated set makes it clear that these guys are indeed a force, with Salva, Shlohmo, Groundislava and Daedelus all representing.
10:35PM: L.A. mainstay Dim Mak goes very Aoki out the gate with a club-ready set drenched in synth sirens that pulses along at 134 BPM and includes Knife Party samples and some legit scratching from neck tattooed turntablist Klever, along with Dim Mak's Fashen.
10:57PM: The round one winner is a judged via a decibel level reading. Based on the screams, it seems Smog or Friends of Friends has taken this one.
Round 2: In this round each collective takes on the sound of another collective.
10:55PM: Jeffree's does Smog, although with the continued presence of the dancing girls and vuvuzelas, they seem to just be doing Mad Decent. It was only a matter of time before someone did a dub remix of the “Macarena” but what the hell, it's pretty fun.
11:06PM: Friends of Friends does Jeffree's better than Jeffree's does, with a set that's a harder, meaner, bigger version of the loose booty pop sound.
11:10PM: Dim Mak does Friends of Friends. The crowd is getting thick as respective posses fill in and assemble around each stage. The men vastly outnumber the women, which might be why it smells like a guys locker room in here.
11:15PM: Dim Mak drops a Kendrick Lamar sample. The crowd loves it. Hell, the other crews love it.
11:20PM: Smog goofs on Dim Mak by throwing an inflatable raft into the crowd and having a dude wearing an Aoki-style black wig crowd surf in it, replicating the Dim Mak creator's signature move. Then they sample the Aoki/Lil Jon collab “Turbulence” and look kind of pleased with themselves. The sound is housier. Clubbier. More Ibiza than Vegas.
Round 3:This round is an opportunity to bring out a surprise guest.
11:30PM: Holy shit it's Pusha T on the Friends of Friends stage!
11:35PM: Oh wait, holy SHIT. It's DMX at the Dim Mak stage. He jumps up on an amp and does “Ruff Ryders Anthem” as we all lose our minds. The dudes at Friends of Friends are all taking pictures from across the room. If he does “Party Up” this thing is over.
11:38PM: He does not do “Party Up.” He doesn't seem to want to leave the stage either.
11:43PM: Smog introduces a hella tight drum corps before B Real and Cypress Hill take over the stage with “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”
11:49PM: B Real finishes the jam and lights a blunt. Obviously.
11:54PM: Jeffree's bring out George Clinton, who looks ever-fly in yellow pants and a fedora and does snippets of Parliament classics including “Flashlight,” etc.
Round 4:The final round and last opportunity to impress.
12:07PM: Dim Mak brings out their own Clockwork, who goes hard as the slew of hype people onstage throw vinyl records out into the crowd, which maybe seems like a good idea until you are the one with a bunch of vinyl records being thrown at your head at a high rate of speed.
12:15PM: Smog goes hard one last time and brings out Too $hort to help shut down their set. “Everyone say be-yotch!” he demands. Everyone says “be-yotch.”
12:22PM: The Jeffree's crew drops a recorded message from label daddy Diplo, who spits various disses — “Friends of Friends, I don't even know what that is” — while B Real looks down from the balcony like, “whatever.”
12:25PM: The most applause a female gets for anything all night happens when a pretty chick dance humps an amp on the Jeffree's stage. Their whole situation feels fairly fratty.
12:35PM: Friends of Friends closes down the round with a massive set that features a bunch of guys doing some legit breakdancing at the front of the stage.
12:50PM: The winner will be determined by the decibel meter. Dim Mak and Jeffree's are voted out first, and then Smog narrowly beats Friends of Friends. The crew goes crazy as 12th Planet takes the mic to accept the prize, reminding the crowd that despite the night's competition, “it's all in the fuckin' family” when it comes to inter-crew camaraderie.
12:55PM: Smog does a victory lap closing set as the crowd exits the venue, revealing a floor littered with Dim Mak stickers and vuvuzelas.
Personal Bias: Strong showings from all parties involved, although the real winner is the Hudson Mohawke x
Sinden Lunice single “Higher Ground,” which every crew dropped at least once.
Overheard in the Crowd: Where do all these guys get these sick flat-brimmed hats?” one chick asks another. “Fairfax. We've gotta go to FAIRFAX.”
Random Notebook Dump: Sharks vs. the jets vs. all the cool kids