Liner Notes

BnG Wax's Version Excursion: The Dubplate Special

BnG Wax's Version Excursion: The Dubplate Special | Bump 'n Grind

This week’s Liner Notes wrap up the final leg of the Bump ‘n Grind Wax Version Excursion to the island of Jamaica. In the last days of the B ‘n G Wax crew’s search for music and sunshine, they were rewarded with the opportunity to cut specialized dubplates by foundational reggae artists, Prince Alla and Ken Boothe. A vital aspect to the development of reggae and dancehall traditions in Jamaica, and later globally, dubplates are unique renditions of hit songs that popular artists sing for requesting deejays, record labels, and radio stations. Dubplates are valuable resources in the Jamaican music industry, one-of-a-kind specials played during dances and mixes that flamboyantly tell the public who the biggest and baddest selectors are in town. 

Dubplates are really just glitter and glam. They sprinkle an extra element of exclusivity into a DJ’s set. They cost money, going up like the price of gas as an artist gets popular. These dubplate sessions provide independent and smaller known Jamaican artists with considerable income, especially as live music performances have been severely limited during the pandemic. David and Brady felt an obligation to secure a couple dubplates to strengthen the BnG Wax catalog, providing some fresh material for the label’s upcoming dj performances and mixes. 

Mitchie and Prince Alla recording the dubplate.

Well-rested after their evening in Hagley Gap, the next day was spent in a cozy home studio with Mitchie from Rockers International. With Blue Mountain scallions and refreshments in tow, we gathered with Mitchie, Jah Fagan, and the jovial Prince Alla. Alla, a bright-eyed Rastaman in his sixties, has managed to find a path for his music to travel from Downtown Kingston to the far corners of the globe. His songs and chants have remained relevant as the sounds around him changed with the landscape of the times. While Mitchie engineered the session, Jah Fagan and Prince Allah both recorded two dubplate specials for Bump ‘n Grind Wax.

Mitchie, Prince Alla, Jah Fagan, David, Brady

Jah Fagan, a reggae singer who splits his time living between New York and Kingston, sang two playful reggae versions of his current songs. One of these, “Stress Free,” calls for a night of good music and positive vibes as David and Brady mash up the dance. Prince Alla showed off his comfort in the studio; voicing not just the lead vocals, but also tracking adlibs and backing vocals for each of the cuts of his classic tunes “Funeral” and “Stone.” These two dubplates are killers, big bassy riddims with lyrics promoting Bump ‘n Grind Wax to the ranks of the highest selectors in the city. 

Prince Alla w/ scallions in hand, David w/ device in hand.

The studio session surpassed any preconceived expectations. The vibes were contagious and a solid connection was built to continue a future musical link with the Rockers crew. On a buzz, everyone left with handfuls of scallions from the Blue Mountains, and B ‘n G Wax ended the day on a relaxed beach near Bull Bay on the other side of town. 

Orange Street served to be a fertile place for connecting, as Gravity from Ibo’s Spice Portal also reached out to suggest a dubplate session with the legendary Ken Boothe. Unfortunately, this would be with Brady alone, as David was scheduled to jetset back to the embrace of his family in Silver Spring. Any Google search will reveal the notoriety of Ken Boothe’s illustrious career. Bob Marley sang his backing vocals, and his first singles were on Ken’s B-sides! Boothe was part of the first ensemble to sing internationally, flown to sing in front of the Queen of England, nevertheless. His career spans the history of not just reggae music, but all contemporary forms, and his soulful voice still shimmers behind a mic despite the chronic physical ailments slowing him down after five decades of performing. 

Ken: Then and Now

Ken welcomed Brady and Gravity into his home like old friends, introducing us to his large family gathered despite the rainy Sunday evening. As he gave a guided tour of his bright-blue castle, murals of biblical scenes in Africa and tropical settings adorned the outer walls. Inside, we toured his living museum displaying the memorable awards, artifacts, posters, and photos of his storied career. “The Golden Voice of Jamaica,” the man would stop his conversation by singing his hit songs, hymns, and lyrics of other notable artists. Ken's stories often talked about the artists who surrounded him during his career, less focused on his own accolades. His most memorable performances and songs were with the singers he admired, revered, and gave credit where due: giants like Bob Marley, Jimmy Riley, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Marcia Griffiths, and John Holt. Ken Boothe is deserving to be etched in the Mt. Rushmore of Reggae, very few would dispute that. He conceded, there will be no more performances. Time has worn his body down, yet his voice still ripples on the surface. 

 

Ken Boothe's home in Kingston
A fraction of Ken Boothe's iconic collection

During the dubplate session, Ken and his engineer Sean, cut a Bump n’ Grind Wax selector special of “You’re No Good.” This was one of Ken’s singles released in 1966, a massive hit on the Ska Beat imprint. The riddim is timeless, the original 45 rpm pressing is highly sought after. The BnG Wax special mashes up the musical arena. 

Ken Boothe cuts a BnG Wax dubplate

David and Brady are still sifting through and cleaning the records they brought back from Jamaica, and excited to play these fantastic dubplates out in the public. Catch the crew Bump ‘n Grind Wax crew at Neptune Room on Georgia Ave monthly! Next gathering is Friday, April 15th. 

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