Undoubtedly, the determining factors of dubplate recording have considerably changed over the course of the last couple years. The main factor of this change has certainly been the increased interconnectedness of sounds and dubplate agents, brokers, engineers and studios as well as artistes themselves. The internet and social media, like myspace or now facebook in particular, elevated the availability of artistes to a basically unlimited level. Since every sound man could therefore voice any artist at any given time (given that he has the financial assets to do so), I believe creative dub cutting has more or less become a necessity for sounds competing in today’s soundclash arena. Due to the fact that “creative” is a rather simplified term covering a number of different aspects, I will try to untangle the mess for you.
Riddim change: Probably the most basic way of adding your own flavor to a dubplate is to record the artiste(s) on a riddim different from the original recording. Although soundsystem history has produced a crazy amount of fantatsic results, often outclassing the 45 recording, I personally believe that using a new riddim requires at least a basic musical understanding and a sense of tempo.
Maybe the most prominent example of a dub recorded on a new riddim sounding better than the original recording is Beres Hammonds “Groovy Little Thing”.
With no disrespect to konsequence sound, i believe the above mavado dub is a perfect example of how things can go south with a riddim change. While I believe that certain classics should be left on their original riddim (e.g. john holt’s stealing), riddim switching has certainly become more difficult with modern songs because of more complex production arrangements.
Combinations: Without a doubt a combination featuring multiple artists on dubplate can be a creative strategy to enhance a dub’s value. I don’t want to touch the neverending discussion about “real” and “fake” combinations (voiced together or seperately) here, because in my opinion there are more interesting aspects involved in creative combination cutting.
Number one of course being the actual chemistry between the artists voiced in combination:
Choosing songs that topically fit together is a next option (e.g. Anthony B “Fire pon rome” & Capleton (Light up the) “chalice”)
Last, a similarity between artists can be the foundation for the selection of artists:
In my personal view, combinations have been sucked dry by sounds over the last years, mainly because they did not make sense, did not sound good and/or were simply sequences of tunes and artists without any meaning or musical concept. When I’m going to a dance or clash nowerdays, most combinations really don’t impress me anymore, for
the above reasons. Voicing two or more regular songs in combination does not per se make a creative dub.
Lyrics: In the last 5-6 years, and especially in Europe, sounds have really developed a passion for customized lyrics with dubplates (note: i’m not talking about one night specials
aka custom mades here specifically). While I have always been a big supporter of this movement, listening to recent clash audios has changed my mind a bit here. In my opinion, rewritten lyrics have the potential to be the greatest tool for creative dub cutting, however not everyone was born with the gift of songwritting. Problems arise when artists don’t “feel” the changes to their lyrics and many artists are not interested in or able to deal with rewritten lyrics. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of european sounds are not really able to speak (or in this case rather to write) english or patois in a sufficient manner. But there are other reasons: a) not every song is designed to be rewritten by default. b) pages of lyrics don’t necessarily amount to a better result, a creative punchline can be more than enough. c) You will actually need a recording engineer who understands your idea, or even better, you will have to be present in person.
Other options of course include creative song selection, samples, covers and more. I left out a couple of these aspects here, but rest assured these will be subject of future rants.
Feel free to leave comments, critique, additions or whatever you want.