I arrived at Hickory House shortly after 2 AM with camera in hand…King Turbo was jus’ winding up their second round and were getting props for their (Cham) “Lawless” dub – creatively mixed to identify and big up Toronto neighbourhoods and the communities within them. Standing on the side, near the bar, the first thing I noticed was the sound – one could hardly hear the audio and if there were more people in attendance, this would have been a crucial problem. Fortunately, there was enough space to be able to move to the opposite side of the club if one wanted to. After moving, the audio sounded great – one could hear the ‘bass’ throw, the ‘mids’ and ‘highs’ sizzle and the mic was crisp and clear. I also noticed that each Sound had their own station (set up) which made for a quick transition from ‘sound to sound’ – a good look!
The crowd inside Hickory House seemed to be in a cheerful mood and was comprised of approximately 300 – 350 people, most of them being male ‘clash heads’. The line-up consisted of LP International, Richie Poo of Silverhawk and King Turbo with early juggling by Don Rankin – this was the draw! This was a chance for the veteran sounds (LP & Silverhawk) to spar with our local sounds (King Turbo & Don Rankin) and they didn’t disappoint!
By the way, I have never seen so many local soundmen who made it their duty to attend a particular clash (or clash styled event) in years, until this one. I’m not sure which Sounds paid for admission and which ones didn’t, but, big up the following soundmen who were there for their own education, entertainment and growth – Super Fresh, Rootsman, Rebel Tone, Black Reaction, Laza Force, King Klepto, Lexus Superior, Mello Vibes, Outcast, Jr. D, Studio Mixx, Magnum Force, Gideon Sound and anyone else present that I might have forgotten.
From all reports, Don Rankin had played well enough as the early warm-up sound – delivering a balanced mix of new and foundation dubs (they even played dubs featuring Canadian artists), knowing that later, they would be staying out of the war. They may not have pleased everybody, but, they passed the test and could walk through the dance feeling good about their efforts whilst taking in the show. I missed Silverhawk’s first round, but from reports, I heard he struggled a bit in his early rounds, but, would later prove to be more entertaining as he kept getting more confident as the night went on. Besides, he probably had the deepest box of dubs to back him up.
From all reports the dance started off well for Turbo. Some say their first round should’ve been their second, because music wise, it was the best round for all Sounds that night. If they were to be criticized at this point and time, it would be for being over anxious and failing to properly pace themselves throughout the dance. Racing through the tunes in the early round may have seemed like a good tactic, but, it would later backfire on them when the bigger tunes were needed in the armament of war.
King Turbo also tried to take care of Polly Famous (King Klepto) in their earlier round with some speeches designed to elicit a reponse, but other than sparking a few laughs, the tactic didn’t prove to be fruitful. Polly, who was in attendance, wasn’t rattled by the things that King Sharpe had to say. In the end Sharpe’s efforts proved futile. If his antics were supposed to make-up for the damage done by Polly (at a previous event, he spewed forth about King Turbo), guess what, he didn’t cut it. Truth is, King Turbo had enough to deal with that night with Silverhawk and LP in the house.
It’s at this point where I walked into the dance, King Turbo had just wrapped up their round with Cham’s customized “Lawless” dub and there was some excitement in the air as to what was coming next.
Now, onto LP International…Selector Killa D was in complete control and in the ‘zone’ all night. His youth worked in favour with those in attendance and his selections of dubs were solid! Killa, not rattled by his opposition stood firm during the ‘show down’ with Silverhawk and King Turbo. It was clear that he understood the concept of the dance and was there to have fun, even if that meant warring it out. He delivered classic LP dubs featuring new and foundation artists such as Buju Banton, Garnett Silk, Bounty Killer and Dennis Brown.
My most memorable moment from LP International took place in their second round. I had missed some previous King Turbo antics where they tried to draw out LP International into clashing. Apparently, King Sharpe had insulted Killa D and all LP International fans by stating, in his opinion, that LP stood for “lick pussy”. This proved to be an error on King Turbo’s part as Killa D’s response to this insult would give LP International their best forward for the night.
Killa D spoke boldly and boastfully in the dance – he looked into the eyes of King Sharpe and said, “In America, LP International is known as the “King of New York”, whereas, here in Canada, King Sharpe is known as the “King of eating pussy!”. Seems he had done his research…Killa D backed up his statement by calling out famed Gunz’n’Rozez selector Tasha Rozez’s name (King Sharpe’s ex-girlfriend) and was talking about a certain ‘sexual’ thing that Sharpe was rumored to have done to her private part using his teeth! This card had been drawn upon many times by local sounds and MC’s, but, the Canadian massive had never heard him targeted by an International sound. Big Up Killa D for holding it down throughout the rest of the night!
Next up, the older and wiser Richie Poo of Silverhawk – a true veteran in the business. On this night, he seemed twenty years younger as he proudly stood behind his sound. It was a pleasure for me to listen and watch the mighty HAWK in action – a great learning experience too!
Unlike traditional Dancehall Sounds of today, Richie Poo is one of the only selectors I’ve seen play out entire anthems and dubs when playing for a live audience. I’m not sure which Lecturer tune it was, but, at one point, he just stood there holding the mic, watching his fans dance up a storm whilst singing every note and chorus of this exclusive dub he had pulled from his box!
Richie Poo was ageless, educational, entertaining, fearless, fun, informative and very interactive with the crowd. Blessed with a crisp, golden MC voice, he used it to his advantage and thrived in the clashmosphere by delivering dubs, one after another with solid intros – it was obvious he knew them like they were his own children. He had fun “jabbing” with the other sounds, especially in the ‘chune fi chune’ showcase – this was not an ‘official’ clash with rules and trophies. When all was said and done, Richie Poo delivered bombs from Super Cat, Jr. Reid, Bunny Wailer, Dennis Brown, Early B., Garnett Silk, Billy Ocean and the list goes on…there was a big Jr. Reid/Lecturer dub called “Silverhawk Charge Fi Murder” that also created waves in the dance.
Richie Poo plays with a Rodigan style – intros before every tune is played and not focussing on mixing. Later on in the ‘chune fi chune’ showdown, the HAWK got a little roughed up by Killa D (at this point, Turbo was out) who had previously drawn three straight Dennis Brown dubs and had only gotten semi-decent forwards from each. Up until this point, Killa D hadn’t tried to ‘kill’ Silverhawk, more than likely out of respect – respect for his elder – a humbling move. All the sounds in the dance knew, that compared to Silverhawk, they were babies. There was a moment when Killa D stepped up and strayed off course during ‘chune fi tune’ – he stated to the audience that he was going to “show Silverhawk how to play Dennis Brown!”. He then got one of his best forwards when he followed up his speech with the LP International Dennis Brown classic, “She Brought Me Love”.
I’ll end this review with a few personal comments as the audio will speak for itself (when it comes out). I remember seeing a videographer there too, so hopefully it’ll surface soon. First off, this wasn’t King Turbo’s night. With a new MC/Selector (King Sharpe) at the controls, they need to take a step back and think critically – how does King Sharpe fit into the Turbo family and what role(s) should he play. I see them as a ‘prototype’ sound right now – untested and unproven until they start clashing it out – winning and losing. When the clash vibes started inside Hickory House and the pressure increased, King Sharpe as well as King Turbo’s weaknesses were exposed. Sharpe didn’t know the box well enough after being with the sound for five months. He lacked the talk and ferocity of a good MC – his intros were shallow, not to mention self-centred and his voice was not commanding enough on the mic (compared to his MC counterparts). He wasn’t confident and it showed throughout the night.
King Turbo fans left disappointed, knowing that their sound (despite having one of the deepest and most expensive dub boxes in Canada) had essentially come in third place at their own event – REAL STEEL. It’s fair to say, that throughout the latter part of the evening, when things started to go south the old adage ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ didn’t apply to them. The sound – represented by Spex, Fatal, King Sharpe and Jahmin – MC for the night (former King Turbo MC) seemed disorganized and confused, making me wonder…why wasn’t Slingshot behind the controls and when they were getting booed (a lot of the local soundmen were doing it that night), was it because King Turbo had gone on record as saying those sounds were “not worth clashing”?
Final thoughts…Is Spex MC’ing a sign of King Turbo’s game plan falling apart? Could it be a reflection of a lack of confidence in King Sharpe and his ability to come back as an MC with respectability that night? Again, King Turbo needs to go back to the drawing board, re-group and figure things out quick – that’s what good sounds do. Maybe it’s time for them to chose their destiny…Kings of the jiggy world, Kings of the radio world or Kings of the clash world? Obviously trying to encompass ALL isn’t working for them. Humble yourselves King Turbo, accept constructive criticism and move on – ‘kill’ sounds the next opportunity you get.
Thank-you King Turbo for bringing REAL STEEL to Hickory House. It will go down as one of the best ‘unofficial’ clashes Toronto has seen to date!