Red Bull’s SoundClash event featuring Bay Area rapper Larry June and Detroit rapper Babyface Ray made us wonder why the Midwest and the Bay have such similar sounds in rap music. Read more about the unique experience and how these two artists mesh so perfectly.
What’s Red Bull SoundClash?
For the first time ever, Red Bull’s SoundClash event featured a dynamic pair of touring classes, with Detroit’s finest, Babyface Ray, going head-to-head with The Bay’s Larry June in both Detroit and San Francisco. We were able to catch the sold-out show at San Francisco’s The Regency Ballroom and both artists put on unbelievable performances.
Inspired by the culture of competing sound systems originating in Kingston, Jamaica, Red Bull’s SoundClash is set over multiple rounds as artists musically duke it out with the recipeient of the biggest crowd reaction (captured with an onscreen decibel meter) to be crowned champion.
There were four special rounds during the 2022 SoundClash show.
The Warmup: each MC performed an eight-song set of some of their most popular hits. For Larry, he gave the crowd some of his local anthems like “6AM in Sausalito” and “Smoothies in 1991.” While Babyface Ray responded with his hits “Paperwork Party” and “#1 Fan.”
The Feature: this round challenged each artist to bring out surprise special guests. Larry brought out notable collaborator Jay Worthy for “Dear Winter” and P-Lo for “Good.” Babyface Ray introduced Hendrix for “Velvet” and Sam for “Hall of Fame.”
Live and Direct: the rappers were now accompanied by live musicians for a special live performance of their classics. Larry’s band performed Bay Area classics like Mac Dre’s “Feeling Myself.” Babyface Ray decided on a solo piano accompaniment that sounded absolutely amazing.
The Take Over: this round challenged each rapper to learn each other’s songs in advance and finish each other’s sentences. Babyface Ray started the round with “If You Know You Know,” and Larry June finished it the song like he recorded it himself. Babyface Ray came back in to finish out Larry’s “Don’t Check Me.”
Special Moments from the Show:
Other highlights included surprise performances from Bay Area legend Goapele, DaBoii, 22nd Jim, and Lil Kayla. Towards the end of the show, Babyface Ray asked the crowd to hold up their lights to honor the late Atlanta rapper Takeoff, who was killed days earlier.
The two offered the crowd something even more special when they ended the Sound Clash by performing their single “Extra of Um,” which appears on Larry June’s newest album “Spaceships on the Blade.”
This special Red Bull SoundClash was definitely one for the books, but it left us with a greater question.
Why do the Midwest and the Bay have such a similar sound in rap music?
After speaking with Larry and Babyface’s label Empire during our visit, we learned just how deep the ties of these two cities run. While sitting in an Empire boardroom filled with dancers from Sacramento, journalists from all over the states and the core Empire staff, we discussed the cities’ similarities. Some argued that while the Midwest and the Bay have similar production styles, they are still quite different sonically. Others offered the comparison that both are industrial cities, which created independent powerhouses amongst its entrepreneurs and creatives. The two cities have a consistent work ethic that they share, which is like no other place.
Upon doing our own research, we discovered that the relationship dates back to MC Breed, who often traveled to the Bay creating strong ties between the two cities. Breed worked with the likes of Tupac and Too $hort, and his single “Gotta Get Mine” featuring Pac reached No. 6 on the Hot Rap Singles chart in 1993.
Another key component to the cities’ musical relationship is its use of samples. Both the Bay and Detroit have a history of flipping the classic hits we know and love. From Babyface Ray’s “My Thoughts 3/Pop’s Prayer,” sampling Timbaland’s Apologize to Larry June’s countless flips, there is a clear and deeply rooted history in their use of sampling which makes the music sound timeless and nostalgic.
The biggest factor in the connection to the Bay and the Midwest is obviously the Great Migration. Fans can see that in the musical similarities of Memphis and New Orleans music. The same goes for those coming from Detroit to Oakland. They are “Black cousin cities” and the love runs deep.
Be sure to check out photos from the epic 2022 Red Bull SoundClash show below. Follow Larry June and Babyface Ray to keep up with their music and upcoming performances.