Kranium Defeats Atlanta's Trap Godfather Zaytoven At Red Bull Music's 2018 Culture Clash [Recap]
“Four stages. Four crews. One winner.”
This is the motto of Red Bull Music’s Culture Clash. Inspired by the Jamaican music battles of the 1950s, as well as sound system culture, the event finds four teams battling each other through music. The teams can also taunt one another and bring out special guests throughout the competition’s four round, seven-minute performances, where the crowd gets to crown the winner for each one. The top team gets to talk their shit and take cultural supremacy over the other ones until the next clash occurs.
This year’s event was hosted by The Breakfast Club‘s Angela Yee and held in a warehouse in Atlanta, the city that has defined and redefined contemporary rap music for the past several years. Representing the city during the battle were two teams: Zaytoven and Zaytown Global and Don’t Think. What was fascinating about the pairing was the generational shift it reflected: Zaytoven, the man whose virtuosic piano-playing shifted the sound of Atlanta trap rap throughout the 2000s, and Kenny Beats and Mija, the former of which has transformed that sound further by producing for Rico Nasty and Atlanta rapper Key!.
The remaining teams — Kranium with Frequent Flyers and Fuego with Fireboy Sound — represented Jamaica and the Latin diaspora, respectively. As an event based on their culture, Kranium and Frequent Flyers had the upper hand. But Atlanta was ready to ride for Zaytoven.
Zay and Zaytown Global kicked off the event. Accompanied by a choir, the acclaimed producer baptized the crowd in his trademark sound while raising his middle fingers to the sky for his opponents to see. He then brought out Christian rapper Lecrae, only adding to the church service-esque feel of the performance.
The first two rounds ended up going to Zay and his crew, with the producer riling up the crowd thanks to guest appearances from D4L‘s Fabo, OJ Da Juiceman, and Paul Wall.
Don’t Think and Fireboy Sound had their moments before the competition became a faceoff between Kranium and Zaytoven. The latter team had a notable guest appearance from social media star Pio “Not A Baby” La Ditingancia, as well as a very memorable remix of Lil Pump‘s “Gucci Gang.” But Fireboy Sound couldn’t maintain the same support as the other teams present, the group’s fiery introduction quickly burning out.
Don’t Think felt like they maybe had a chance. With comedian Zack Fox as their hypeman, the team was covered in regards to jokes and shit-talking. At one point Fox — looking like a customizable character from a fighting game — threw a baby stroller into the crowd and beckoning them to send it to Pio. Along with Kenny Beats and Mija dropping everything from Waka Flocka Flame and Lil B to guest appearances from Rico Nasty, Key!, Gorilla Zoe, and Trillville, Don’t Think was arguably the most underrated group of the night. Their youthful exuberance a reflection of the generational change taking place in hip-hop not only in Atlanta but across the country.
But Kranium wasn’t even concerned with Don’t Think, let alone any of the other teams. The group moved with such a confidence and precision, treating the culture clash like the art form it is. Throughout the night Zay teased Kranium and Frequent Flyers about their lack of dub and, well, he probably shouldn’t have. From that point on, the team was merciless, rapidly firing off bits and pieces of popular reggae and dancehall tracks. Then, the group brought out a guest that trumped any of the other team’s surprise appearances — Mavado. The Jamaican artist could barely be heard over the crowd’s cheers and applause as he took the stage, helping the team overpower Zaytoven and take the win.
Kranium and Frequent Flyers were crowned the champions of the culture clash, defeating Zaytoven and Zaytown Global on his home turf. As fans left the warehouse they continued to debate with each other about the competition. Who got robbed during one round; who deserved to win during another. But there was a beauty to the clash aside from the competitive nature of it all — seeing people immersing themselves in a culture that they might not be unfamiliar with.