Dubs are the ammunition used to fight for domination in the clash. Every clash fan has a favorite dub, and every sound has dubs they know will surely receive big forwards. Walshy Fire, former host of the televised Guinness Sounds of Greatness sound clash (also of Black Chiney sound system as well as Major Lazer), certainly has his favorite: Garnett Silk’s “Hard Nut to Crack.”
“This was the first time a dub drew energy out of me that wasn’t hype,” he says. “It was a serious song about a sound being unstoppable and I wanted to be that after I heard it! I wanted to build a sound to be unstoppable. And to have dubs like that one – dubs that took people into a whole new place and attachment to the sound they are listening to.”
In the clash, there are essentially two kinds of dubs: fillers, and those that take you into a whole new place. Bass Odyssey’s Yanique Walford, for instance, further distinguishes between dubs: “If you have to play a dubplate in a medley of dubplates to get a good crowd response, and there are such ones, then it’s an OK dubplate – a filler – with a likely very short lifespan,” she says. “The significance of a dubplate is best judged by the impact it makes when played ‘by itself.’ These are the dubplates that can turn things around in a clash or annihilate a sound.”
The following sound clash dons offer personal insight to the making and meaning of some of the most potent dubs.
King Jammy (Jammy’s Super Power)
Dub: “What a La La” by Johnny Osbourne
Dub Made for: Jammy’s Hi Powa
[singing] “Oh what a la la, Papa Jammys in the area.” That was a popular dub. The record throw the words. You don’t have to talk. Just the lyrics the man sings speaks volumes more than you would talk on the mic. If you play that record with that lyrics it means more when you play it in a clash than if you talk it. People requested it. A lot of people. Not sound system people. People away from sound system. They say, “Oh Jammys, can we get that record?” I had to release it on a disco 45.
Yaniq Walford (Bass Odyssey)
“Three The Hard Way Combo” by Garnett Silk, Charlie Chaplin and Cocoa Tea
There is so much controversy around Silk’s last dubs before he passed [in 1994]. This combo was in fact written and cut as a special before it was converted into a 45, making the dubplate the original version. This is personally special to me because it’s something my father created with Bobby Digital.
Jack Scorpio (Black Scorpio)
“Pick Up the Pieces,” “Stealing” and “Up Park Camp” by John Holt
I was the first to voice John Holt on dub. [John Holt and I] wanted it better than the song. Steely & Clevie remade the riddim for me. Those riddims made hits and these three John Holt dubs helped build Black Scorpio. [singing] “Pick up the pieces of your sound and throw them away!” When we draw these songs up until last Saturday against Metro Media they dominate the whole place.
Rory (Stone Love)
“Ice Cream Sound” by Johnny Osbourne
Originally “Ice Cream Sound” was on the Joe Frazer riddim. Then I recorded it on Real Rock riddim, Studio One Real Rock with Shabba [Ranks]. When it came out every sound went and voiced it. It was such a hit that King Jammys put it back on 45. It was that good. It’s really hard to get Shabba. The combination is hard. Without being biased, when you make a dubplate and that producer has to make it into a 45, it must be that good.
Tony Myers (Jam One Sound/Jamaica Sound System Federation)
“Quarter to Twelve” by Simpleton
It was ‘95. Portmore Entertainment Center. Jaro and selector Ricky Trooper vs Addies and its selector Tony Matterhorn. One of the biggest clash in Jamaica. One of the most amazing tunes played that night was recorded by Simpleton, something called “Quarter to Twelve.” Simpleton was one of the young top artist coming up at that time with about four hot tunes in the dancehall. Addies play [the dub] before: “Dis ya one called quarter to twelve – Dis Addies sound and your soul gone a hell.” And Jaro played it in a counteraction style. That one particular tune change the whole thing in dancehall because of the way Jaro draw it on Addies, that counteraction. [singing] “Boy talking about quarter to 12, after 1, past 2, past 3, Kill you any time any way, Dis a ya one called we nah watch no clock, Sound a go dead just like dat.”
It’s not the right dubplate and the wrong dubplate. It’s the right dubplate at the right time.
Ricky Trooper (Sound Trooper/Killamanjaro)
“Wrigley’s dub” by Black Rat
One time we have clash, me and [David] Rodigan, and he played the dubplate from Red Rat, “Trooper chew pon me name like Wrigleys.” At that time there was a new DJ called Black Rat. He was an unknown artist. Nobody really knew him. Black Rat say, “Me nah chew pon your name like Wrigleys.” David Rodigan played the regular song and get a huge applause for it. When me say to the people dem. “Yo I’m going to play the DJ Black Rat!,” nobody had heard of Black Rat but me use the Black Rat and counteract the Red Rat. It get a bigger forward than the Red Rat song. And that song make Black Rat get famous. So the thing is that it’s not the right dubplate and the wrong dubplate. It’s the right dubplate at the right time.