The Clash of the Jamaican Deejays

In Jamaica, the 1970s was a time of revolution and change. Music was an important part of this revolution, and the clash of the Jamaican deejays was central to the sound of the era.

This clash was a battle of lyrical prowess, with competing deejays using their powerful rhymes and captivating beats to outdo each other. It was a unique art form, and one that has had a lasting influence on the world of music.

From its roots in the Jamaican sound system culture, the clash of the deejays has evolved into a global phenomenon, with its spirit of competition and creativity inspiring generations of musicians.

Origins of the Jamaican Deejay Clash

Deejays have been a part of Jamaican music culture since the early 1960s. At this time, Jamaican deejays were known as selectors because they chose the music they played.

As sound systems became more popular, deejays were given the task of modifying the records to create a unique beat and rhythm that would set their sound system apart from the others.

This was all done through meticulous experimentation with the turntable, and the deejays would often have to physically modify the vinyl.

This made the deejays sound system operators essential to the culture as they were the ones responsible for creating the music. With the invention of the drum machine in the 1970s, the deejays’ role shifted from that of a sound system operator to that of an artist.

Elements of the Deejay Clash

The clash of the deejays was a competitive contest that took place during sound clashes, which were events held outdoors or in large rooms where deejays would vie for superiority by challenging each other or by playing new or original versions of songs.

The competition was based on the deejays’ verbal skill and ability to create a captivating sound. Each deejay would use their rhymes or flow to outdo their opponent by creating the most compelling or creative flow of words.

The clash of the deejays was not just about the words, however, as the deejays also used their beats to outdo one another. The deejays’ goal was to create the best overall sound that was both engaging and original.

The clash of the deejays was more than just a battle of deejays; it was a social event where people gathered to enjoy the music and watch the competition unfold.

Impact of the Deejay Clash

As the original sound systems competed for crowds and for the best spot in the neighborhood, the clash of the deejays was born. The competition between the systems to outdo one another created a unique and captivating sound that came to define Jamaican music.

Deejays would use their rhymes to mock their opponent, and the rhymes were often offensive and rude. Deejays would also use their rhymes to boast about their sound system, their ability, and their record collection.

These rhymes or toasts were creative and unique, and they are a big part of what made the clash of the deejays so special.

The clash of the deejays is often credited with inspiring rap music, and the two genres share many similarities. Rap music and deejaying were two sides of the same coin, and the competition between the two helped to push each art form to new heights.

Evolution of the Deejay Clash

As the clash of the deejays became more widely known, the competitions between sound systems became more extravagant.

Deejays would use their rhymes and beats to mock their opponent, and the competitions sometimes became violent.

In an attempt to curb the escalation of these clashes, the government of Jamaica introduced a law that prohibited sound system operators from playing amplifiers outdoors after 10 p.m. The law also prohibited deejays from using more than one turntable at a time.

These laws marked a major turning point for the clash of the deejays and for Jamaican music as a whole.

Without the amplifiers, the music could not be heard as easily on the streets and could only be enjoyed by those who were close enough to hear the speakers. This resulted in fewer sound clashes and a less vibrant sound system culture.

Examples of Deejay Clashes

One of the earliest examples of a clash of the deejays took place in 1971, when Sir Lord Comic and Prince Lincoln fought at the Plaza Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.

A few years later, in 1975, Sir Lord Comic and Sir DJ, who had taken over as the prince of the Plaza sound system, battled at the WIRL sound system in the town of Mavic, Jamaica.

These clashes are considered to be two of the most famous clashes in Jamaican music history.

There were also many clashes in the United States, including the 1981 clash between Grandmaster Flash and Uncle Louie in the Bronx and the 1982 clash between Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Kings in Harlem.

Future of the Deejay Clash

The future of the clash of the deejays is uncertain. Sound systems are still active, but they are no longer as prominent in Jamaican society.

However, the popularity of turntablism has seen to it that the art of deejaying and the spirit of competition between the deejays is still alive.

Now, competitions are held on a global scale, and the best deejays from around the world gather to battle each other in the spirit of the clash of the deejays.

The future of deejaying looks bright, and the clash of the deejays will continue to be a part of music culture for many years to come.


The clash of the deejays was one of the most important developments in Jamaican music culture.

Deejays were given more freedom to express themselves artistically when sound system operators were barred from using their amplifiers after 10 p.m.

This shift in the role of the deejays helped to create a unique and creative sound that influenced the evolution of rap music. Big Sound, or sound system culture, is still a thriving part of Jamaican society, and the clash of the deejays is as popular as ever.

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