January 5, 2006 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me reach out to my new girlfriend. She's really into reggae, dub, dancehall and ragga. I am a relative neophyte when it comes to this area of music.

I have the obvious Bob Marley compilations, and a decent Trojan box set, but can you help me pick out some more credible choices? (she calls my stuff 'pop'). Bonus points if it's accessible too.
posted by viama to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lee "Scratch" Perry/the Upsetters/the Congos, maybe? I think they'd at least be considered less pop, but they're all pretty ancient (and I have no idea about any newer stuff). There are also some sweet compilations called 100% Dynamite, 200% Dynamite, etc (I think they're up to no. 7 now) that collect rare and classic reggae/dub that might be worth checking out. But if she doesn't like your stuff, why don't you ask her to make YOU a mix cd or something? Bloodclot!
posted by sluggo at 3:54 AM on January 5, 2006

That depends if you mean the original stuff or the new crappy stuff (what she's into, that is).

An execellent primer is the Studio One Story. It will give you a lot of insight into how this type of music began, and will introduce you to some of the better (and less glorified than Marley) artists.
posted by Brittanie at 4:01 AM on January 5, 2006

King Tubby
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:13 AM on January 5, 2006

First of all, don't be fake. If you do not naturally like reggae (dub, dancehall, ragga, etc.), that's cool for you. Be yourself. She became your girlfriend despite your unfamiliarity with Sir Coxsone.

Second, don't be defensive about what you like. Her stuff is also pop -- pop is popular -- and gets no magic points for being authentic or "credible" or whatever. They're all mongrel styles. Some people get together and play some fun music with a strong beat and a bunch of other people get up and dance some fun dances to it.

But if you want to educate yourself on what she listens to, borrow her music, copy it, and listen to it. And loan her some stuff to learn.
posted by pracowity at 4:19 AM on January 5, 2006

Dub primer.

The Souljazz label is worth investigating - Jackie Mittoo and the '100%-700% Dynamite' series would be a good place to start.

My favourite Jamaican act has to be Toots and the Maytals.
posted by the cuban at 4:35 AM on January 5, 2006

Seconding The Congos - try to find 'The Heart of...' And then everything else on the Blood & Fire Label.
posted by punilux at 4:44 AM on January 5, 2006

Second the Souljazz compilations. That's one serious group of people dedicated to searching out roots/reggae gems.
posted by davehat at 4:50 AM on January 5, 2006

I'm more into dub than other reggae to be honest - I find a lot of lovers' rock etc. to be pretty cheesy. I also find myself underwhelmed by King Tubby and the original dubbers. My stone cold favourites are Scientist and the Mad Professor. Particular favourites are Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires (contender for most sampled album of all time), and Mad Professor's Psychedelic Dub Dub. Avoid Jah Shaka unless your relationship revolves around getting too stoned to get up and change the music on the stereo.

It's definitely worth your while checking out anything on Blood and Fire, a british reissue label that has painfully good taste (despite being improbably co-owned by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red). You can barely put a foot wrong with their catalogue though. I particularly like a Yabby You compilation they released a few years ago called Jesus Dread.

For something slightly more modern / crossover, they don't seem to have done anything for a while but the On-U Sound label was always pretty good quality, particularly Dub Syndicate and African Headcharge. Stoned Immaculate is the best-known Dub Syndicate LP, and I still listen to it every now and then. Dub Syndicate included Style Scott from the Roots Radics (legendary 70s / 80s reggae outfit), as well as Keith LeBlanc from Tackhead (which spun off from the Sugarhill Gang).

You can't go too far wrong with Lee "Scratch" Perry either - the back-catalogue is embarassing large, but most of it is still good.

For general namedropping cred, you could do worse than checking out U-Roy's Dread Inna Babylon (which is slightly cheesy, but a legendary toker's album), or Tapper Zukie. If you're trying to impress her, then don't do it by invoking Marley and Burning Spear, else expect much eye rolling.

PS I hope you really genuinely get into some of this stuff - it's some of my favourite music, and life's too short for listening to crap that you don't like...
posted by bifter at 4:56 AM on January 5, 2006

Yay! Punilux is right. I've never been the same man since my "Heart of the Congos" CD was stolen in a housebreak.
posted by bifter at 4:58 AM on January 5, 2006

I, too, am a lot more into dub (and roots, and nyabinghi) than I am, say, dancehall or ragga.

Auralux is another reissue label that's worth looking at. ROIR, probably, too. Also, here are some credible albums: Lee Perry's 'Blackboard Jungle Dub' (least credible: 'Jamaican E.T.'), Sly and Robbie's Revolutionaries' 'Black Ash Dub' (least credible: probably 'Rhythm Killers,' or perhaps 'Strip 2 The Bone').

Avoid dub versions of non-dub artists (Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation, Gorillaz, Tosca, etc.)--some of these are very, very good, but unless you're also a fan of the purist stuff, it probably won't win you any points w/ol' girl.

Twilight Circus Sound System might gain you a few points--ditto Phase Selector sound and Dubblestandart. These are all modern, non-Jamaican artists--don't get it twisted.

There's a lot of Jamaican music--have fun with it.
posted by box at 5:12 AM on January 5, 2006

Thirding the 100% Dynamite series - there's some excellent stuff on there.
posted by blag at 5:28 AM on January 5, 2006

The "Dub Chillout" compilation normally retails for £5-6 here in the uk and is in my mind the ultimate dub compilation. I've had it for 6 odd years and its one of the few cds I always come back to. Classic
posted by cgfoz at 5:36 AM on January 5, 2006

Hijacking this thread a bit, what would people say are the biggest changes in Jamaican music since, say, the late 80's? My last exposure was in the era of "Tiny Winy" and "Hurricane Gilbert", when my parents lived in Kingston. (those are the only 2 examples I can think of right now)
posted by smcniven at 6:13 AM on January 5, 2006

Get any King Tubby cd recorded in the 70's. If you don't like that, forget it.
posted by ernie at 6:19 AM on January 5, 2006

Since nobody's mentioned them yet:
Prince Buster (get "Fabulous: Greatest Hits", and work backwards from there).
Dr Alimantado (Best Dressed Chicken in Town and Born For A Purpose are both brilliant).
Frontline Records, set up by Virgin as a rival to Island in the late 1970s, with, among others, John Lydon acting as A&R, has loads of great stuff: Mighty Diamonds, Big Youth, Prince Far I, and a whole load of others (ace box set here).

And Sly and Robbie's Taxi Sound compilation is well worth shelling out for.

Also: like others have said, Trojan Box Sets are your friend (you can probably pick most of them up for under a tenner if you're anywhere near a decent record shop), Heart Of The Congos is an album that everyone should own, and Soul Jazz compilations are almost always very good.
posted by Len at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2006

As the cuban said, Toots & the Maytals.
posted by poppo at 7:00 AM on January 5, 2006

Let her lead the way.
posted by caddis at 7:26 AM on January 5, 2006

For something on the accessible end though still awesome dub, check out Salmonella Dub from NZ; they'd have to be my favourite band & are definitely all of dub, dancehall & ragga. Inside the Dubplates is a good album to start with and if you're in AU, NZ and sometimes the UK, you can see them live. See also Dub Conspiracy which is Salmonella Dub and a bunch of their friends / tour-buddies. It's more towards the ragga / skank end of things but I love it.

After that, have a look at the Quango Dub Selector Compilations. Dorfmeister's Different Drummer Selection is also a nice intro to modern electronic dub.

If you want old-school Jamaican dub that's not Bob f*ing Marley or King Tubby, check out Big Youth. I know a lot of purists are into Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, etc, but it's definitely not for everyone. I listen to dub & reggae more than any other style but I still don't really like those original guys much; I'm much more into the newer, smoother sounds and definitely no caterwauling.

Then there's a bit of rockin' African reggae from Alpha Blondy. Do not miss that.

But like pracowity says, don't be fake. If you don't like it then that's cool, if somewhat sad. Dub & reggae are definitely pop, just not american pop.

Of course, the person you *should* be asking for recommendations is the grilfiend in question... Failing that, go into your local quality music store, find the sales attendant with dreadlocks and demand to hear a good introduction to dub. They'll point you straight to the best stuff they've got in the store and load it all up on the CD player for you. If it's all a bit old & harsh-sounding, drop some of the band names in this post and that might steer them a bit towards sounds that you're more used to.
posted by polyglot at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2006

PS: make sure you have a big fuck-off subwoofer or two and don't be afraid to use them. I'm talking 10-15" cones and at least 100 watts; it has to go down to 20 or 30Hz. Half the fun in dub is a bassline that tickles your spine. If you're listening on a crappy little bookshelf system with 5" speakers, you are missing at least half the detail in the music and you're missing the visceral half.
posted by polyglot at 7:38 AM on January 5, 2006

5th the The Heart of the Congos.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 7:50 AM on January 5, 2006

Buy this one song right now on iTunes.

It's a contemporary dub, and it sounds like it was done on analog gear. It's a great way to check out some live dub.

A couple of other things you want to know about are the Roland Space Echo and spring reverb.

Lastly, dub is best heard high, so call up your dealer and spend a little.

posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:05 AM on January 5, 2006

Read this and/or this
posted by criticalbill at 8:17 AM on January 5, 2006

Dont forget Sizzla
posted by zouhair at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2006

I believe I found the Thinner/Autoplate label through MeFi, and that's got some really nice contemporary electro-dub.
Loads and loads of downloadable tracks/albums too (maybe all of them)

(second The JH - modern dub can get boring when you start if you haven't got something to take your mind off the music: if you code, then crack open a project; if you're a normal human being, light up. It'll all seep in, nice and warm.)
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:30 AM on January 5, 2006

King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
posted by rxrfrx at 9:02 AM on January 5, 2006

A second for Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires. The guy is amazing.
And yeah, Heart of the Congos is great.
Also a second here for Twilight Circus Dub Sound System, particularly Dub Voyage. It's newer stuff, but the guy uses ancient equipment like the masters, and gets nice rich results. Along those same lines, Dub Trio's Exploring the Dangers of is also quite good. African Head Charge's Drastic Season is brilliant experimentation of the genre. And Dub Syndicate's stuff is spotty, but the collection Classic Selection's Vol. 1 is excellent. The selected stuff I've heard by Dub Specialist has also been quite good.

But for my money, the single greatest dub track is "Black Man Get up Tan Pon Foot" by Welton Irie.

Newer stuff like Rhythm & Sound (Self-titled and The Versions are my favorites, but they have others with guest vocalists) and Pole (1 or 3) might be something she hasn't heard before. They're respectful of the older stuff, while taking it to new places. Nonplace Urban Field (Raum Fur Notizen) comes close to fitting in here as well, but might be a little too much outside the genre for you.
The Germans (the three artists listed above for example) do seem to have an excellent grasp on dub - another world altogether. So don't be a purist about it - dub is no longer just Jamaican - it's worldwide and has seeped into virtually every form of modern music.

Newer stuff with a more eastern vibe to it is Sub Dub (Original Masters), Muslimgauze (Lo-Fi India Abuse - not your average chill dub experience, but a masterpiece nonetheless), Rootsman Vs. Muslimgauze (Return to the City of Djinn - I haven't heard this entire release, but the tracks I've heard have been unlike anything I've heard before), and Dub Gabriel (Bass Jihad).

Also, Michigan & Smiley's Rub-A-Dub Style is alot of fun, with extended mixes of each track. Ranking Dread's In Dub is pretty twisted stuff, particularly the first track.

As for dancehall, Mo Wax has a great collection of instrumentals called Now Thing and The Bug's Pressure is crunchy stuff and rather spotty, but at least worth a listen or two. And of course you can't go wrong with Tenor Saw's great "Ring the Alarm".

Also, I recently discovered the Dub Selector site. Kinda fun to poke around there.

Have fun - your entering a bottomless pit of music - with new stuff coming out and old stuff constantly getting rediscovered.
posted by hellbient at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2006

The Harder They Come -- both the film are soundtrack are brilliant.

Augustus Pablo -- dub + melodica = utter bliss.

And definitely pick up some Congos, the Blood & Fire re-issue is amazing.
posted by verysleeping at 10:14 AM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all, some great recommendations. I am planning on asking for a compilation from my gf, and investigating the ideas here, too.
posted by viama at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006

Here's another little-known modern-but-classic dub artist which will definitely get you some indie points: Burning Babylon.

The first album (Knives to the Treble) is one of the best dub albums I've heard in a long while - and that's saying something (800+ dub records on file). The second one didn't blow me away quite so much, but I may have been destroyed a bit by the first one. Really, really spectacular and non-derivative stuff!
posted by Aquaman at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2006

Here's a tracklist for a mix I made my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend for Xmas. It's not all classic stuff (I took liberties and was pretty broad about the dub), but it might give you a bit of perspective. Oh, and most ragga and dancehall is pretty damn boring/samey, so don't let her give you any crap.

(Song Artist Album, though I don't have all of the albums tagged)

Mystic Feelings Prince Jammy Jammy's In Lion Dub Style
Cocaine in my Brain Dillinger
Iron Bar Dub Linton Kwesi Johnson Independant Intavenshan
Ghost Town kode 9 + Spaceape
silent street maximum joy 99 records 12"
UFO ESG A South Bronx Story
Revelation Dub The Upsetters Peel Box
Dub The Light Prince Jammy In The Light/In The Light Dub
Black Man Get up Tan Pon Foot Welton Irie
World War III Mikey Dread Beyond World War III
Bucky Skank The Upsetters James Hamilton's Reggae Box
up and above dub P1/E Monogam ep
Rumbledream El Guapo Super/System
Jah Calling Bad Brains Bad Brains
Dub You Know Errol Brown & the Sky Nations Medley Dub
Ital Corner Prince Jazzbo & the Upsetters Ital Corner

You can also check out two shows on WCBN (here), both by DJ Brian Tomsic: Last Train to Skaville on Tuesdays at 7pm (EST), and his Dancehall Reggae show from 7-9pm (EST) on Saturdays. He's a deep crate digger, and plays a lot of stuff that you won't hear outside of Jamaica (and both of the shows have, shall we say, blurry boundaries about what's one and what's the other) that will give you a fairly good place to start looking from. Sometimes I think his Saturday show gets a little bland, but, like I said, I'm not wild about dancehall and ragga.
posted by klangklangston at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2006

Lord God Muzik by Lee Perry. Killer.

But truth be told, reggae just ain't reggae unless you're stoned.
posted by vronsky at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2006

Thanks all, some great recommendations. I am planning on asking for a compilation from my gf, and investigating the ideas here, too.
posted by viama at 10:51 AM PST on January 5 [!]

Dude, take these ideas and make your girlfriend a compilation.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:05 PM on January 5, 2006

oh yeah, Mikey Dread (African Anthem The Mikey Dread Show Dubwise). He's essential.

I also forgot to mention the Japanese (!) group Dry and Heavy. Their "King Jammy (formerly Prince Jammy) Meets Dry and Heavy in the Jaws of the Tiger" is really good shit.
posted by hellbient at 12:13 PM on January 5, 2006

Tenor Saw's great "Ring the Alarm".

Hehehe... was that a "spot the deliberate mistake" Hellbient, or have you been doing some carpentry recently? :-p
posted by bifter at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2006

Nonplace Urban Field (Raum Fur Notizen) comes close to fitting in here as well, but might be a little too much outside the genre for you.

But if you like it, check out Burnt Friedman's later "Nu Dub Players" projects, such as Just Landed.
posted by Dean King at 1:08 PM on January 5, 2006

spot the deliberate mistake

huh, can you give me a hint?
posted by hellbient at 10:08 PM on January 5, 2006

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