When I was in school, in music class, I used to make ringtones for Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones and it actually paid for lunches for a couple of months. One of most requested songs was a tune that had been out for some time, but when sampled on Oxide & Neutrino’s ‘Bound For The Reload’, the theme to Casualty was transformed into heavy basslines and a dark video. Musically, the duo had always been forward thinking and that was also the case for the collective they were a part of – the infamous So Solid Crew.
But lets take it back a bit. Back when music was a lot more fun. When the aim of music was not to initiate a screwface from the mandem, but to encourage the mandem to find a girl to dance with. In the UK underground, Garage was a sound of the new generation. With skippy beats and singalong melodies, Garage music spread from the underground pirate radio to mainstream broadcasts quickly. One of the most famous songs to come out of the Garage scene was created by DJ Luck & MC Neat. ‘A Little Bit Of Luck’ is a classic song that would make any party fill with energy. A song that kicked off 3 top ten hits for the group in the millennial year. Their success sparked the thoughts in the minds of a generation of young people. This music thing, this thing that we created, it could actually be a way out of our current situation. This brings us back to So Solid.
With a more raw approach, So Solid Crew entered the music world representing the streets. With darker beats and bolder lyrics, they came to take the game by force. Following on from the success of the Garage scene, they had 3 top ten singles in 2001. From driving trucks down back roads to dodging missiles whilst reversing a TT in their music videos, the creativity was on another level. This creativity will be called upon during what will undoubtedly be the biggest live event this year. Red Bull Culture Clash.
I attended the previous Culture Clash in 2014 with the intention of getting a few pictures. After I saw Trevor McDonald on the big screen talking about how BBK and ASAP Mob are going to get destroyed by the collective Rebel Sound, I made what turned out to be a wise decision to put my camera away and fully emerge myself into the madness of the evening. Myself and about 20,000 people lost their collective minds when Beanie Man, Emeli, Krept & Konan custom made dubs blasted through the speakers.
That was the first Culture Clash that was based on the traditional format of clashing — Megaman, So Solid Crew
When Red Bull announced that there was to be a 2016 Culture Clash, I was totally amped. Memories flooded my mind and I was instantly transported back to Earls Court, running around between 4 stages going crazy. The line-up took a while to come out but when it did, it definitely peaked my interest. I got the chance to speak to the musical collective that has been formed specifically for the Culture Clash, UKG All-Stars, who consists of So Solid Crew, DJ Luck & MC Neat, Majestic, Foundation and Oxide & Neutrino.
“You’ve got to say Oxide & Neutrino separately because they have done their own ting. Created their own music and videos on a high level.” — Harvey, So Solid Crew
When I walked into the room I had to stop myself from going into fan mode. I looked around saw the people who created a scene that I’d grown up in. Lisa Maffia was in the corner speaking with Harvey, Swiss was on his phone and Megaman was finding a charger. For them, this was another normal day of making music. For me, it was different. I clocked Neutrino talking with MC Neat and the twins were laughing with Oxide. You could see that everyone knew each other well.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a room together.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
The personal relationships are a core factor to the collective coming together. Many interactions over the last 16 years have resulted in the comradery that will be a driving force in the clash.
“The most amazing thing about us being together now is getting to hear about everyones journey thus far and how thier musical influences have changed. Everyone provides pieces to the puzzle. It’s mind blowing. Everyone has had their own individual journey even though we are part of the same scene.” — Lisa Maffia, So Solid Crew
“I’m used to dealing with 20+ people in the studio so it’s familiar to me. It can get stressfull but I find it challenging. Dealing with different personalities and driving toward a common goal. I look forward to it.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
The group often break communication with me to share memories about previous encounters with each other – and it’s great to bear witness to this.
I must admit, when I saw the line-up and I read that Eskimo Dance were going to have their own stage, I’d already handed them the trophy. Grime has taken over everything in the last 2 years so it was an easy decision for me to make without much thought. Then when I read that a collective had formed under the banner UKG All-Stars, I had to readjust my preconceptions. Before Grime, it was Garage that I use to rave to. It was artists like Maxwell D, Romeo and Asher D that had me memorising lyrics. Artists creating music in the first couple of years from the millennium had the country on smash.
“When you read that, it made you think harder didn’t it.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
“When you think about it, we’re actually clashing our children. We’re like the sensei sparring with our student.” — Swiss, So Solid Crew
“I tell you whats it’s like. You know when you stay out too late and you come home to see your dad waiting at the door. We have to give them some discipline.” — Dr Psycho, Foundation
Whilst everyone was laughing and cracking jokes on their seniority in the game, Neutrino gave an explanation that will be a very important factor to winning this clash. “The Grime guys already know who we are, now it’s time to show the crowd and demonstrate to them what time it is. A lot of the history has been lost with Garage because the internet as we know it now wasn’t around when we were doing our thing. So this is a chance to show the Grime fans, look, this is where it all came from. This is where it started. Thier going to get a history lesson.”
The different elements to this collective will be joining forces for the first time. The level of excitement in the room is almost tangible.
“This feels groudbreaking. Different parts of the same scene coming together. I was abroad the other week with Stormzy and he told me that when he first heard me, he was 9. It hit me. This kid that was listening to the music scene I was a part of is now at a level where he wants to test man. That’s why I think music can have an amazing journey. It has led us to this point. Thousands of people will be celebrating our culture, in London, that was unheard of when we were coming up.” — Harvey, So Solid Crew
The 2014 Red Bull Culture Clash was awesome. The atmosphere, the dubs, the special performances, everything was great. For me, the most important thing was the custom made dubplates that the sound systems created to destroy their opponents. As good as the BBK sound system was, Rebel Sound won because their dubs were better than everyone else. It held true to the tradition of a sound system clash that originated in the West Indies.
“That was the first sound clash from Red Bull. The others were entertainment clashes, concerts, artists battling to see who can scream loudest on the stage. But that one there, in 2014, was an education of what a clash is. For the world to remember where sound clashes started from as well as how to approach a sound clash. This new generation has forgotten what a sound clash is about.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
“What Rodigan did on that night is convert the kids into fans. They didn’t start out as fans. It was amazing how Rebel Sound performed and won them over.” — Harvey, So Solid Crew
Part of why UKG All-Stars are dangerous in this clash is their history in the music game. When I tried to dig for some info regarding favours they may have called on for dubplates, MC Neat quickly checked me – “Let me tell you something. I had an interview with MistaJam last week and I told him what I’m going to tell you. Bruv, you’re digging, but your shovel is blunt and the ground is hard.”
“You’re talking to the foundation, veterans and people who have a lot of history and a lot of connections that have been built over the last 16 years. Half of these people don’t have that. Don’t underestimate UKG All-Stars and what we can bring to the table. On a worldwide scale.” – Megaman, So Solid Crew
In 2014, ASAP Mob entered the clash and as good of a show they put on, their approach to the clash was ill informed. Even David Rodigan said that their performance was similar to their previous concert in Manchester.
“The US were terribly represented in the Culture Clash. They didn’t know what they were there to do.“ — Harvey, So Solid Crew
Fast forward to this year and Wiz Khalifa & Taylor Gang will be making the trip across the pond to hold it down for the United States.
“Last year was an education on what not to do. Hopefully Wiz has learned from their mistakes. I think they will have done more research to prepare themselves for this clash.” — Lisa Maffia, So Solid
“I watched Rodigan walk across the stage, swinging his t-shirt around his head and with Rebel Sound, they finished off ASAP and everyone else. That’s what made me contact Red Bull. I texted Mega like Yo! We could do this! The next day I tweeted Red Bull like an excited child. They had no choice but to take notice.” — Harvey, So Solid Crew
“We saw that when we used social media to display our excitment about the clash, we were getting good feedback. Then we murdered Heartless Crew with a few dubs at an event at Indigo. In the back of our minds, we knew that we wanted a chance to clash on a big platform like Red Bull Culture Clash.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
So it’s fair to say that UKG All Stars are taking this clash seriously. The fun element is there and collaborating with each other again has brought back a good creative space. Therefore it’s understandable to think that, whatever the result of this clash, the collective may band together and create more opportunities.
“UKG has lasted without crews, without us staying active. It still has a scene. You’ll still hear Garage sets make the crowd hype in loads of raves. After this, it will continue to do so.” — Lisa Maffia, So Solid
“What we are doing now is what we should’ve done time ago. What we are doing with UKG All-Stars is collectively working with key people in the UK music industry and creating a powerhouse unit. If it continues after the Culture Clash, so be it.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
Whatever happens, the Culture Clash is poised to be the event of the year. The energy is at an all time high. Megaman, being the leader that he is, was particularly hyped about the clash. Even though he’s not battling the champions for the crown.
“To be honest with you, I really wanted to battle Rebel Sound for the championship. Forget Eskimo and these other sounds. I want Rebel Sound. They’ve got the trophy. Right now fam, it’s like an open title. If we win this clash, we’re beating losers.” — Megaman, So Solid Crew
The strength within UKG All-Stars is clearly evident. Everyone is sure to bring their best efforts to win. With the success of 2014, everyone will be attending the O2 with the expectation of being entertained. The sound systems are there to entertain, but their primary goal is to work as team to use music to defeat their opposition. With Red Bull providing the wings, this clash is bound to soar to new heights.
“This battle between Grime and UKG has been bubbling for years. Now it’s finally happening on a big platform, in the city that birthed it all.“ — Swiss, So Solid Crew
The UKG All Stars will be performing at Red Bull Culture Clash at the O2 on Friday 17th June. Tickets are on sale now at www.redbullcultureclash.com