As long as their have been MC’s, there have been MC clashes. From Jamaican deejay wars through to the early days of Hip Hop out in New York, humbling your rivals through a mix of braggadocio, humour and intimidation has been an integral part of proving your worth as a mic controller. Starting in the 2000’s and drawing from a mix of JA Soundsystem culture, Rap tradition and unmistakable UK flavour, Grime became one of the most visceral forms of music-MC driven or otherwise, to surface in recent times-with clashes the most thrilling example of the genre in action.
Initially a highly localised scene, many of the chart toppers of today endured a baptism of fire back in the turn of the millenium through amped up clashes now immortalised on YouTube for our viewing pleasure. With the sixth edition of Jammer’s legendary Lord of the Mics series set to take place this weekend, we’ve spent the past week getting nostalgic and poring over our favorite clashes to provide you with a tight knit five here today. Watching these back, its impossible not to be somewhat shocked at how much has changed in what feels like a relatively short space of time. Wiley has had number one hits, Bashy is cutting his teeth as an actor and Crazy Titch isn’t likely to see the outside of a cell until his 50’s-with all the varying fortunes of these three Grime megastars serving as a pretty appropriate metaphor for the journey which the scene has taken since its early noughties heyday….
Crazy Titch Vs. Bruza
If anyone ever wanted to know what Crazy was really about, this was it. Bruza, surrounded by a watching cast of crew members spurring him on, stood no chance. From screaming ‘If you can’t mix, don’t mix blud’ at the DJ to taking pop shots at Bruza’s crew, even offering the mic to one who’d been giving him stick during the opening rounds of the clash, Crazy’s performance serves as a perfect motif for his troubled, short-lived career.
At his raw, aggressive best for the majority but always seemingly in danger of loosing control, there were periods in this clash where he looked almost possessed. Screaming ‘You’re not thugs you’re pricks, I’ll buss your head with bricks WOT’ in the direction of Bruza and his crew at one point during the closing rounds, you got the sense that he probably meant everything he was saying.
As a clash, it’s got to rank as one of the most one-sided duels in Grime history but also one that offers the clearest insight into the two side’s of Crazy’s extraordinary talent.
Skepta Vs. Devilman
Part of the second Lord Of The Mics, this is revered as one of the best clashes- not just in the series, but maybe Grime as a whole. A purely lyrical war, its the two hugely contrasting styles on show that make this so absorbing-the Microphone Champion’s imperious flow couldn’t sound more at odds with Devilman’s puerile Brummie twanged barbs. Of course Skepta’s enjoyed a career full of crossover hits and dubious porno themed videos ever since this clash, but whether or not he was actually victorious over his lesser known competitor is anything but certain even more than a decade later.
Opening with the spectacularly offensive/brilliant couplet, ‘You look like you’ve got cancer/So clashing me is not the answer’, Devilman scrapes the barrel of playground insults for his verses – although credit must stil go to him for his focus on slewing his opponent. Skepta for his part has some of the most memorable bars in the game, with his hooks quickly earning him the respect of the crowd here. He does however get caught repeating entire 16’s on more than one occasion-leaving you to question whether his head was fully in the clash. The fact that Skepta’s been heard sending for Devilman as recently as 2012 might let you know that this one got under the Boy Better Know man’s skin.
Wiley Vs. Lethal Bizzle
Two Grime stalwarts go head to head on Young Man Standing on De Ja Vú FM, before the days of interfering record label executives and Pop-star pressure. Both MCs had been sending for each other for while, and it’s evident as the excitement culminates throughout the clash, particularly when Wiley grabs the mic. His notorious but simplistic line ‘You Mum’s got athletes foot’ is a definite highlight. The accusation made by Lethal B that Wiley’s trying to ‘take his flow’ is somewhat ironic, as Lethal decides to perform the ‘Pow’ bars he stole from God’s Gift. Still, that doesn’t take away from the palpable energy and good sportsmanship displayed in the artistically aggressive environment.
Ghetto Vs. Bashy
Considering this clash, which took place in 2006, was arranged by none other than Crazy Titch, it was always going to be heated. On paper most observers would back former N.A.S.T.Y crew member Ghetts’ superior lyricism to take the often derided Bashy nine times out of ten, but as is often the way when two MC’s square off, things don’t exactly go to plan. The leader of The Movement starts off promisingly enough, spraying machine gun speed threats to chase Bashy from ‘here to Whitechapel’-although its Bashy’s reply that puts the clash in Grime infamy. His claim that he heard Ghetts was, ‘in jail getting banged in his cell’ clearly strikes a nerve with the MC-who did actually do jail time when he was 18 years old. A shouting match ensues, with the clash then coming to an end as tempers start to fray (I’d still like to know who ‘Carlos’ is?). Special mention must go to whoever baritones ‘bumbaclart’ off camera around 1.43.
Crazy Titch Vs. Dizzee Rascal
If you have even a passing interest in Grime, it’s likely you’ll know this clash. A romanticised route could lead you to reflect on the pure ambition, single-mindedness and sheer heart of the two personalities on show. Grime fans know what happens next, in both the scene and this clip, but as a single expression of youth, craft, anger, expression and more, these four minutes are almost unbeatable.
The way in which a 17 year old Dylan Mills calmly spits some of his most popular Grime bars, trailing out to the words “dedication we show…” displays a young talent months before winning the Mercury Music Prize for his debut album ‘Boy In Da Corner’. The long incarcerated Crazy Titch can barely be without the mic, breaking into a chicken strut around the two minute mark as he completely and utterly owns the fours small walls within which he’s standing. The likes of Wiley and Demon on the periphery, vibing the fuck out to one of the purest forms of modern music this country has created, and an air unity at a point when MC’s were picking up major label attention, makes for fascinating watching even 11 years on.
Punk parallels are never more fitting than at this point, and ‘Conflict DVD’ has to be one of the most singular reflections of an at times misunderstood genre. The relentlessly expressive energy and focus of these two young men, captured on an East London rooftop in 2003, is still startling after countless Youtube views.