The cool air may have finally descended upon Dallas, but the heat returned on Friday as nearly 2,100 fans packed the Palladium Ballroom to witness Red Bull Soundclash between two wildly-talented and startlingly different acts – Talib Kweli & the Rhythm Roots Allstars and Ozomatli.
A few years ago, Brooklyn native and Kanye West collaborator Talib Kweli did a brief tour of China. Accompanying him were an eclectic band whose engraving on the plate of their two Grammys reads “Ozomatli.” As close-quarters living often goes, that mangle of musical madness sparked a friendship which culminated in the battle of beats before me, better known as Red Bull Soundclash.
“The event," as the Red Bull Soundclash homepage reads, "is an unparalleled live music conversation and performance between two musical acts with diverse sounds, styles and creativity.” Fitting sure, but for me this event was much more battle à la Thunderdome – two bands enter, one band leaves.
The Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, makes a good stand-in as Barter Town for the night. The set consisted of two stages separated by 1,000+ lovers of all things Latin, reggae, hip-hop and music in general. And it’s these minions who weld the power of the crowd vote to decide the winner. Here’s what went down:
Step 1 – The Cover
Each band is to do its own previously rehearsed version of a song selected in advance, in this case, Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher. Ozo dons some killer 80s hair band wigs. Sold!
Step 2 – The Takeover
Each band starting one of their own songs and then stops mid track and lets the other band finish.
Song 1 – Ozo starts performing Saturday Night and stops mid-track leaving Talib to do the rest.
Song 2 – Talib starts Listen and Ozo finishes.
Song 3 – Ozo starts Cumbia de Los Muertos and Talib finishes.
Song 4 – Talib starts Brown Skin Lady and Ozo finishes.
The crowd was trippin’ on how Talib’s flow was further enhanced by the Latin influences injected by Ozomatli.
Step 3 – The Clash
Each band is to take one of their own tunes and transforms it into a different genre (ie heavy metal, reggae, or a little something spicy for that ass, samba). One would figure Ozo would have had the edge here, but no.
Step 4 – The Wildcard
This final round allows each band to bring a “surprise” guest on stage. Talib surprisingly one-ups Ozomatli here. Ozo seemed to awaken the dead with their introduction of an MJ impersonator during their stunningly self-choreographed version of Thriller, but Talib knows his crowds and the name on the chain around his guest’s neck reads: Bun-B.
The bands ended the night by having all participants join together on a single stage and jam the night away for an extended period of musical improv. I can’t exactly say what went down over the course of those three hours inside the Palladium Ballroom for the noise of the screaming crowd. But for a camera jockey like me, it was more than welcome.
“I think it was the Dallas crowd that put me over the edge tonight,” said Kweli following his win. “Hearing these guys chant my name…WOW! I wish more emcees had the chance to rock with cats like the Rhythm Roots Allstars and Ozomatli. It’s just a wonderful thing.”
“I think shows like this are really beneficial to all of us as artists because it forces you to think outside the box,” said Ulises Bella, saxophone player for Ozomatli. “It makes you think about not only your own music in a new way, but someone else’s music as well; then throws in a competition element to top it off.”
For more competitive pop music, check out this story.