"A DJ nowadays brings their laptop and shows up at the club and they're ready to go," says Miami bass veteran Juan Basshead. "But back in the day, DJs had to have everything -- all the gear, all the decks, all the way down to the sound."
The rise of digital technology and EDM has seen a shift in DJ culture, from a more do-it-yourself, grassroots sensibility to full-blown mainstream stage theatrics, where pressing play and pumping up a crowd in front of a swirling LED vortex is enough to earn the world's biggest DJ-producers hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single night.
As a longtime supporter of the underground EDM scene, Red Bull wants to bring back some of that DIY flavor of yore for today's bass-hungry masses.
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Inspired by the traditional Jamaican sound clash, where opposing crews would set up their own systems, guerilla style, in fields and battle it out, the Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash celebrates the ongoing influence of this tradition on dance music by adapting it to fit a modern-day, multi-genre club.
Hosted by local pop-culture icon and puppet badass, Pepe Billete, Red Bull's Culture Clash is set to make its Miami debut this week at Grand Central, where four established music collectives -- including the 305's own Black Chiney and Eccentrix Sound, Slow Roast, Basshead -- will face off over four rounds, with a winner named by the crowd and its audible reaction, as measured by a decibel meter.
Here's a quick breakdown of what to expect from each of the four crews battling it out at the clash.
Black Chiney and Eccentrix Sound. What's a Black Chiney? It's a Jamaican sound system based in Miami, made up of six black Chinese Jamaicans. You got Supa Dups (who just co-produced a track for Juicy J), Bobby Chin, Willy Chin, Walshy Killa (AKA Walshy Fire of Major Lazer), Special K, and Brandon Lee. For the Clash, this crew has teamed up with fellow Miami reggae/dancehall buffs Eccentrix Sound.
While these two collectives are known for their Caribbean flavors, they plan to mix in hip-hop and house to make for a totally fresh sound. "We're gonna have heavy, heavy sound," says Black Chiney's Willy Chin. "A lot of bass, a lot of speakers, a lot of vibes. We've been in a couple of these situations already, where we're challenging sound systems, and we've been victorious at the majority of them."
"For me, it's all a challenge," said DJ Craze, the world-renowned DJ, producer, and Slow Roast Records co-founder, when he started up his monthly label night at the Garrett. "I stay on my toes when it comes to knowing all genres and all types of crowds."
While the six-time DMC champion recognizes that "everybody's looking for the next new thing faster and faster," for this battle, we can still bank on that signature Slow Roasted blend of house, trap, and moombahton. And don't be surprised if the turntable master and his crew throw in some serious technical moves and a few surprises too.
Label boss Juan Basshead thinks his crew will be the underdogs of the night, but that's by no means a bad thing. Born and raised in the so-called "City of Bass," BassHead, Jumanji, Otto Von Schrirach and the rest of the crew have been on the scene since 2001. So they know a thing or two about getting locals to show out and shake ass.
"We really thought out of the box," Basshead says. "It's not just a sound clash. A culture clash is more than just music." And that's why artist Ahol Sniffs Glue will be doing live art on the Basshead stage, and word on the street is the crew's special headliner is something of a Miami legend. "I respect these other guys, and I'm excited to see what they do. If and when we do beat them, we'll be just that much more satisfied."
"Bass music with a Latin flair." That's how Dave Nada, one half of Nadastrom, describes the mid-tempo global bass sound -- moombahton -- that he helped invent.
Together with Sabo and a couple yet-to-be-confirmed surprise headliners, Nada and the Moombahton Massive crew will make their way from across the country, L.A. and D.C., to Miami. They might be the only out-of-towners coming in for the clash, but a quarterly DJ residency at Grand Central makes them feel right at home.
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The collective has some secret weapons up its sleeve, including a custom sound system from renowned D.C. venue and Moombahton Massive affiliate, U Street Music Hall. Plus, warm, flaky sustenance in the form of "Mama Nada's Empanadas." Yes, Dave Nada's mother will feed the crowd her delicious pastries, and at no cost to those bass lovers who arrive repping in a Moombahton Massive tee.
"This is a whole family crew thing, it's how we do it," Nada says. "I've heard a couple rumors [about the others' surprise headliners], but nothing really confirmed. If it is who I think it is, then yeah, this is gonna be a big, big, big clash. It's gonna be like a sibling rivalry."
Red Bull Culture Clash. With Black Chiney and Eccentrix Sound, Slow Roast, Basshead Music, and Moombahton Massive. Thursday, October 24. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.