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It's the night before St Patrick's Day - the day where Austin bubbles up green, and 6th Street vibrates with music and madness. We've just clicked past 11, right in the thick of SXSW, and East London is running the stage at the Empire Control Room.

"Peng ting called Maddison, I tell her come and jump in my Addison Lee," sings Hackney’s Not3s, looming over a gathering crowd who may (or most likely may not) have a passing knowledge of London private cab companies. Either way, they’re getting a taste of the sound that found the rising MC in the mix of the BBC's prestigious Sound of 2018 longlist. Not3s' irresistible blend of hip-hop and Afropop is one of the big draws of the night at the Clash’s 2018 showcase, which has a proud homegrown flavour this year. Not3s sucks a healthy crowd up to the stage, as he smoothly whips through tracks like ‘100 Degrees’ and ‘My Lover’. It's a strong anchor for an event that presents eight acts over more than five hours.

Drift back a few hours, and Mélat opens the showcase with a captivating performance of tracks from her latest album ‘Move Me II: The Present’ as well as some older fan favourites. The Austin native brings a different rhythm to a rich R&B voice, her smokey vocals weaving with distinctive and inventive beats.

Brooklyn-based singer Anna Wise is a different sound entirely, layering her own vocals into loops that are both haunting and searing. The Grammy winner, who released two acts of a wider project entitled ‘The Feminine’ over the past couple of years, is well known for her work with Kendrick Lamar and gathers the first big crowd of the night with a solo sound that's both ethereal and confident.

Kojo Funds brings the first taste of Britain to the stage, declaring an “East London takeover.” Kojo's been building a strong reputation in the UK, and he spends the next 20 minutes stalking the stage with hits such as ‘Warning’, ‘Dun Talkin’’ and Mabel collaboration ‘Finders Keepers’.

Having got caught up in the bustles that rampage downtown Austin, it's a short set for Zoey Dollaz, the Miami artist behind tracks such as Puff Daddy’s ‘Blow A Check’ and the Chris Brown-assisted ‘Post & Delete’. Running through a tight three-song set up, Zoey gets the crowd warmed up after a short break in the action.

Next up is one of the most anticipated performances of the night, from Compton rapper Buddy. Since breaking through as a Pharrell protege in 2014 he took some time out, returning last year with a pair of stellar EPs - the Kaytranada-produced ‘Ocean & Montana’, and the Mike & Keys-produced ‘Magnolia’ - that have more excitement around his name than ever. With an album on the horizon, his live show really cements Buddy’s ability to connect with fans, and by the time he wraps the set with new single ‘Black’, the lights are off and he’s bathed in the tiny glow of smartphone torches.

We're into the tail end of the evening, and South Central LA’s Duckwrth who draws the biggest crowd of the night in anticipation for his seamless blend of funk and hip-hop. His natural stage presence and the infectious grooves of tracks like ‘MICHUUL.’, ‘Lowridr’ and ‘I’m Dead’ have the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout his stunning half-hour set, which leaves Clash hungry for more.

To finish the night, we’re joined by 19-year-old Atlanta rapper Kodie Shane, the first lady of Lil Yachty’s Yacht Club. Kodie's been doing this for a while, and is totally assured on stage as she mashes R&B and trap styles on tracks such as the staccato ‘Drip On My Walk’.

Another successful showcase later, and Clash walks out into the cool early morning air having once again smashed SXSW in style, presenting a handpicked bill of talents absolutely worth your attention. And now to bed!

Words: John Hill
Photography: Katherine Squier / Thomas Jackson

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