This Friday, Wiley’s Eskimo Dance will be battling it out with So Solid’s UK Garage All Stars at Red Bull Culture Clash. Much like a pillow-fight with your little brother, this altercation is between genres that share a lot in terms of DNA and history.
Garage is the big brother – a people pleasing, popular dude. He loves a dance, particularly a casual late-night two step, but always had an edge.
DJ Luck & MC Neat, who will star in UKG’s set, in many ways encapsulate the heyday of the genre. Their hits had super-catchy hooks, like that certified rave igniter ‘Holler with the rinsin’ sound’ (times eleven) from “A Little Bit Of Luck”. It has been misquoted as anything from ‘I don’t want to rinse with soap’ to ‘Alan with his green jeans on’ by skankers all over the nation’s dancefloors.
The tune featured about five lyrics and thirty words, but no-one cared. It had that groove that made you want to dance all night, all weekend even. Garage represented carefree fun, Sambuca shots and Artful Dodger bum-whoopin’ sound effects.
Things soon changed though. With the introduction of artists like Megaman’s electrifying So Solid Crew, who shot to stardom with their generation defining “21 Seconds”, garage got darker. It was no longer just about the two-step, but about the lyrics too. It was no longer about fun, but about urban identity.
From there, grime was born. Sharing traits in terms of culture and melodies, there were some clear similarities. However, building on the So Solid aesthetic and sound, grime was rougher round the edges..
Grime is the little brother with a big personality. Confident, brash, a little aggro at times, he’s a bit of a shape-shifter, but ambitious if nothing else.
It is fitting that Eskimo Dance is representing grime this year. Its founder, the legendary Wiley, was the guy rubbing his head at people labeling the new genre garage on “Wot Do You Call It”. He is one of a select few to stand at the forefront of the scene from those early days through to now.
On Friday, the sound he owes so much to will be his opponent.
Grime has competition in its DNA. Rooted in pirate radio sets, one of the elements that makes the genre so different from US hip hop is how close the battling scene is to the mainstream. Whereas in the states, battle rappers are battle rappers and rarely successful commercially, while in the UK, clashing has played a part in the ascent of many of the scene’s major players. For that reason, you can expect Eskimo Dance to come hard at UKG, irrespective of family ties.
Both crews are showcasing some of the best talent their scene has to offer when they hit Culture Clash. With So Solid, Oxide & Neutrino, and DJ Luck & MC Neat on one side, and Wiley, Chip, Newham Generals and a host of special guests on the other, there will undoubtedly be mutual respect, but more than that, a whole timber-yard worth of competitive fire.
You have probably heard Wiley’s “Where’s My Brother”. On it, he spits, “Where’s my brother? Fam your time’s done, cos I’m the new boss.” Tonight, at Culture Clash, those lyrics will carry extra significance.