If you want to know where hip-hop came from, you can't ignore dub. If you want to check out early rap, you better be aware of toasting. All of those genres are products of the ghetto, inseparably tagged to the African diaspora. (Like most inventions of American popular music, as this blues/jazz/funk/hip-hop lover can readily attest.)
If you want to properly dig this music, go for the roots. A large number of those tentacles lie in the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean, the celebrated home of the fruit called ackee, the world's epicenter of ganja (no excuses, Morocco), the source of Appleton Estate Rum (established 1655). Funny enough, King Tubby (né Osbourne Ruddock) was wearing some downright silly crowns back in 1974 (a Burger King indeed, if you look closely). I guess he hadn't yet established his reputation, which at this point is fundamental, monumental, and utterly essential. Those are the straight-up facts, and I dare you to disagree.
So dig back into the roots, before the Aggrovators collection Foundation of Dub, another '70s Bunny Lee production. Dub was created by subtracting vocals from popular reggae mixes and tweaking all the other instruments in the studio with little black boxes. Dubs started out as the "B" sides of singles.
King Tubby was the Dub Master, the Dub Organizer, the Dub Teacher, and the King. Personally tweaked tools, canny intuition, and divine inspiration all seem to come into play with his music, which is distinct from all the rest because of the utterly forward position of the bass and drums in the mix. You play dub, you play it loud, you want your chest to resonate with the music... it's a no-duh. Who knows how he hooked it all together in the studio, but maybe that's a secret better left untold.
When you take off on The Roots of Dub, you float gently along on reverberant waves of guitar, organ, and bass; reverb, delay, and echo always. All that sonic manipulation sounds restless and detailed, despite its utterly relaxed facade. The three-minute tunes ("compositions") might not be the most interesting at timesit's pop music, you have to rememberbut there's no denying that King Tubby took each part of his starting material and melded them all into a dark, distorted shell of a song. Every time, always relying on texture, turning the purpose of the music into re-inventing the music.
That's King Tubby's story. If you already know him, you'll drown in ecstasy at this reissue of his first two records. (Please excuse the well-deserved hyperbole. Again, I beg you to disagree.) If you don't already know him, well, check The Roots out.
This music is deep to the core. Its kind of heavy meditation comes from deep Africa, like all the music of the diaspora, including flavors from closer to home. Fancy the two coming together to give birth to a new American music. Hip-hoppers everywhere, bow deeply and exhale.
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Personnel: King Tubby with the Aggrovators plus. Mixed by King Tubby; Produced by Bunny Lee.