There was a war in Williamsburg last week.
And, aside from a few mosh pits and an airborne milk crate that injured one person, it wasn’t a physical fight. It was the Red Bull-sponsored Culture Clash: a head-to-head music battle of four smack-talking, era-defining New York-based collectives with cult followings and distinct sonic aesthetics.
In the face-off for the coveted Culture Clash trophy, which looked like a bedazzled record on a silver chain, the four crews, CORPUS, Half Moon, Apocalipsis, and Club Cringe, took over separate corners at the Warsaw nightclub in Williamsburg and played for a sold-out room of 1,000 rowdy fans.
The Red Bull Culture Clash was designed as an homage to the traditions of the Jamaican sound system clash, and each crew performed for four sets, including one set in the style of their opponent.
The event was monitored on a decibel tracker to measure exactly how much noise the crowd made for each group. Apocalipsis won the overall soundclash by two decibels, sweeping the win in three rounds.
In one corner, team CORPUS brought it with hard-edged mosh rhythm and swaggering MCs. To their right, Club Cringe had an experimental, glitchy Bushwick warehouse party vibe complete with an avant-garde performance involving a sword.
Behind them, Apocalipsis dropped hot reggaeton and soca dubplates and flew flags from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and a flag that said ‘ABOLISH ICE’.
Left of Apocalipsis, Half Moon proudly displayed mock street signs of Flatbush Avenue and Church Avenue and represented the aesthetics of Caribbean Flatbush with dubplates, multiple costume changes and breakdancing.
“It was a war and we held it down,” Surf Allah, founder of Half Moon, an internet radio station and collective of DJs and MCs, said.
“Representing my borough, representing Caribbean culture, representing East Flatbush, it was great even though I’m heartbroken we didn’t win.”
Half Moon came in second place, CORPUS came in third place and Club Cringe, helmed by Jake Sillen who also owns Bushwick nightclub Rash came in last place.
Allah felt that since the Red Bull Culture Clash was designed as an homage to the traditions of the Jamaican sound system clash, his team should have won.
“If you really looking at what a soundclash is and what a soundclash is supposed to be, we would have won it because we have the upper hand—we had the better dub plays, we had MCing on lock,” Allah said. “We come from that culture.”
Leading up to the event, members from opposing crews made shady comments on Instagram, and throughout the night, the battling crews were encouraged to get dirty and trash talk each other over loudspeakers. They certainly delivered—copious expletives and general haughtiness produced tension, chanting and heady performances.
Even in the bathroom, the competition was felt as patrons were encouraged to choose from one of the four teams, printed on toilet paper rolls, to wipe with.
However, at the end of the night, it was clear how much respect the performers, and their dedicated followings, had for one another. Any attempts to keep the smack-talk going were shut down by Apocalipsis performer Dana Lu. And talk of hosting a joint party is even proliferating online.
“Truly became a fan of everyone last night!” Dos Flackos, who was part of the Apocalipsis crew, tweeted. “Wow such great sets, such great energy from all the crews. Still geeking. BIG UPS TO CORPUS, HALFMOON & CLUB CRINGE!!”
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