Venturing out on Thursday night, with the long bank holiday weekend ahead of us, we were presented with the exciting prospect of attending the biggest ever Jungle/Drum and Bass sound clashes to be held in the capital since the inception of the genre back in the nineties. As we made our way down to Printworks, we reminisced about the Jungle nights we could remember as we passed under underneath the Thames through Rotherhithe tunnel and into Surry Quays. A fitting environment for a Jungle Drum and Bass night due to the built-up industrial landscape.
Security was efficient and friendly when we arrived, as we found ourselves inside Printworks in no time. The layout was uncomplicated and comprised of 2 stages at either side of the Presshalls, with each stage hosting 2 Drum and Bass crews ready to go "dub to dub", fighting for the biggest reaction from the excited masses. Additional production had been commissioned for the night, with two mammoth speaker sets specially installed at either side of the venue, face to face and eager for battle, all in true Dancehall spirit.
Energy levels were already high as we arrived, greeted by some familiar faces from the scene who had turned out to witness this "one-off" event. The event was over 3 rounds, and it was clear from the onset that 2 sounds were emerging as favourites based on the reaction from the crowd. Each round was 80 minutes, giving each crew 20 minutes to unleash their best sonic blows whilst rallying for the crowd's support. Logistically it was quite weird having to turn around every 20 minutes and shuffle down the Press Halls as each crew passed the soundclash baton. Dub Shota was tearing up the stage nicely during Round 2 with Sweetie Irie and MC Fearless on mic duties, providing the vocal shots to the opposition. They brought their "A" game, as they drew out fresh dubs including a naughty little dubplate of Remarc's R.I.P, effectively using his rivals own tune against him with devastating effect.
Video credit: Sound In Motion @sound_in_motion
Shadow Demon Coalition came through next giving us 20 mins of high octane, energetic Jungle Drum and Bass that had the crowd erupting. SDC dropped a few weapons which hyped the crowd, whilst Bassman and Trigga did their thing to a darker more weightier set. The crowd were in rave mode at this point but it seemed that SDC was just rolling out a quick fire set, as Bassman and Trigga provided some fiery bars on the mic. Before we knew it, MC Det stepped in, mustering noise from the people for the next crew who were eager to take over the controls.
Jungle Warriors took over next, with the fierce and ferocious Ragga Twins on mic duties. These guys were vexed, and I mean really enraged. Think the incredible hulk with dreads, then double that. These guys brought the authentic ragga soundclash vibes to the place as they cussed off all the other 3 teams, helped along with fresh dubplates from two of the most respected Jungle DnB soundclash deejays in the game, Remarc and Kenny Ken. Jungle Warriors were clear professionals at this, each with a founding history in the scene, with Kenny Ken being a Jungle Soundclash winner back in 1994 and Ragga Twins haling from the powerful "Unity" sound system before Jungle was even around. These lot knew their shit and the crowd loved them for it as they got "schooled" by Jungle's finest. Waves of "gun finger" salutes adorned the Presshalls as Kenny and Remarc drew out the heavy dubplate artillery. Remarc came with a few specials up his sleeve unleashing dub after dub, showing off their vast array of "one away" tunes readily at their disposal. Each record selected was a blow to the opposition with its heavy bass helped along with Ragga twins telling their rivals what to do to their mum's private parts. I lost count as to how many "yellow cards" host MC Det handed out after the 20 minutes of shelling Jungle Warriors gave during round 2.
Instead of swapping stages again, we decided to venture out to the smoking area speaking to some of the characters having a puff. It seemed like a lot of people had travelled far and wide for their beloved "Born on Road" sound system which I was informed was the "peoples" sound. I didn't know too much about these guys admittedly, but it was evident that their supporters are fiercely loyal and supportive. They had travelled from Bristol, Birmingham and beyond to be here tonight and trust me, they wanted everyone to know. Coincidentally, as we trudged back, we were sonically greeted by the full Born on Road crew on stage. These guys were absolutely having it and had a healthy turnout, arriving on their own team bus loaded with deejays and dancers. They brought out confetti cannons and batty riders and were hell-bent on having a party giving the crowd a good ole time in the process. Born on Road were definitely the "peoples choice", no denying that, as they delivered firing sets throughout all of the last 2 rounds. These guys won me round, Gardna MC was on point, providing heaps of vibes and excitement as the Born on Road selectors delivered dub after dub, slewing the crowd senseless. The last one on the night from Born on Road had to be the best dubplate of the clash which took the roof off. A special one away special dubplate that had to be heard to comprehend the damage it inflicted. These lot had it sewn up, or so we thought.
Photo credit: Sophie Harbinson
The three rounds quickly came to a head and each crew had given their all. The hosts took over and MC Det eventually announced it was too close, and required the crowd to decide. It was going to be a hard decision between Born on Road and Jungle Warriors. Throughout the three rounds, these two sounds had mustered up the most crowd reaction with participation. and no one wanted to choose between the two. The hosts didn't want to take the responsibility of deciding the champion alone so they took it to the audience asking them to make the most noise for the crew they thought were at their best tonight. Now, this is where it got a little confusing, as out of the two favourites, both Jungle Warriors and Born on Road had masses of support inside the venue and it inadvertently turned out to be a battle between North and South. When the crowd were asked to make noise for Jungle Warriors, it was loud and sharp and well deserved, as they brought some true dancehall culture to the clash with legendary mic controllers and deejays at the helm. The crowd continued to cheer for a while but eventually died down giving MC Det the chance to take the mic and ask them to do the same for Born on Road. The travelling supporters weren't having any of it and made themselves gloriously heard, as they took to their air horns and whistles amongst whales of cheering and chatting. The cheering went on for a while and seemed longer than what the Jungle Warriors had just received, and to many, an early indication as to who might be crowned Clash in the Capital winners for 2019. As everything eventually settled, there was a short break and MC Det proceeded to ask the hosts for the evening, Fabio and Grooverider, who the champs should be for their 1st ever clash. Admittedly it took a short while as the hosts and MC's muddled amongst themselves, deciding who the winner would be. This left the crowd standing a little lost and probably a little frustrated due to the fact that they had to wait a little while longer to find out who won. It started to become tense as some in the crowd began to jeer, but finally, Grooverider took up the Mic and hastily announced that Jungle Warriors had sealed victory and beaten off the oppositions to be crowned Clash in the Capital winners for 2019. Some in the crowd reacted by chanting Born on Road and began voicing their disapproval, all in true dancehall spirit of course. Another clear sign that Born on Road had masses of support and unquestionably the sound of the people.
Photo credit: Sophie Harbinson
Things eventually settled, and Jungle Warriors made a short speech and gladly accepted their trophy, with Grooverider playing out the last set before closing. Even though Jungle Warriors pipped all to the post and undoubtedly had dubs, vibes and energy to ride it home, all the four crews and those that worked behind the scenes had pulled off a memorable night. Clash In The Capital set the tone for a great start to a long Easter bank holiday weekend and cementing the first of many clashes the capital gets to see in years to come.