Monday, June 22, 2009


It is hilarious how many pussyhole soundboys call themselves SELECTOR or say they have a sound system. It’s a big joke. Maybe it’s unfair to judge them, but to be so boldly ignorant invites inevitable comment. So few of you clowns know what any of this means, that it seems like time to spell it out plainly and give you a dancehall education.

The name for reggae music evolved into Dancehall because even since the ska days, there were no pretty nightclubs or trendy hangouts to house the ghetto crowd. Entertainment was taken into the people’s own hands, and dances were held in yards or halls. It’s hard or impossible for a little rich kid who started clubbing last summer to understand this. There were no clubs until years later, and homemade food was sold alongside hot Guinness and Red Stripe to an enthusiastic crowd.

It is admittedly very confusing that a Jamaican artiste who chats lyrics and is not a singer is known as a DJ, and the American counterpart who blends records is described with the same term. Here is the breakdown of how a classic dancehall dance was structured:

The SOUND SYSTEM is literally that: amps, crossovers, speakers, mics and other gear that make up an audio setup for entertaining people with music. Each sound system boasts of size and power, and the ultimate goal is loud and clean sound that dominates other systems. Obviously this much gear requires security to protect it, and a truck with helpers to transport it. So two little pencilneck DJs can’t really be a SOUND SYSTEM.

Classically, the SELECTOR is the one who knows the records and dubplates in the collection, and organizes them. Many hot tunes were played with covered labels, so rivals couldn’t trainspot the title for their own purposes, but the SELECTOR had them marked in a way only he and his crew could understand. The SELECTOR judges the mood of the audience, watches for reactions to certain tunes, and hands the OPERATOR the next record to play.

The OPERATOR is the one who plays the records, putting them on and off the turntable and taking cues from the DJ. The DJ has many subtle commands that he fits into his rap, to tell the OPERATOR what he needs.

“Play low” or “Play me low” means bring the riddim quietly under the voice so the DJ can make a point or drop a funny punchline.
“Mix me” means that the OPERATOR should work the fader in time to the music to bring rhythmic variations to the riddim. This also makes the DJs lyrics stand out more.
“Jack it up” or “Come Again” or “Reel!” or “Lick it back!” or any number of other variations mean to start the record over. Jamaican audiences will sometimes demand that a record is played dozens of times in a row!

The DJ’s role has expanded over the years. Obviously the name comes from the tradition of radio DJs, who talk over records, announcing artists and titles, news and advertising, and of course jokes and stories. In a classic Jamaican dance, the DJ had to fill the gap between records since there was initially just one turntable, and the OPERATOR had to flip the record or go to the next one as quick as possible. DJ’s would interact with the singer on the record, and add intros and outros. Soon every 45 had a VERSION side, just the riddim alone for the DJ to improvise over. The rest is history, as U-Roy and thousands of others put out DJ records. Now it has blown up into a huge industry, bringing countless riches back to the island that created it, as world renowned Jamaican DJs tour the world, cutting dubs and tunes, gigging like mad and branching out to every corner of the globe………………………………..

Well soundboy, back to the drawing board! You better go back to the woodshed and practice until you can blend two songs to the beat- some of you have no rhythm or taste, and will never be able to do it properly. Maybe you should let those who know the music and really feel the music take over.

(If you feel it already, and know your history, this article is not for you)


  1. you have sum it up,go to any party in london,all
    you hear is the same music,back in the day you had
    loversrock,dub,rockers,roots,sound systerm,thats was nice,Now bad word & pure rubbish you hear,must be getting old bless

  2. Greetings!Haven't visited your great blog for awhile.Really impressed with your knowledge of our music & culture. One little correction, your "world clock" shows Kingston time one hour ahead of actual time.We don't use D.S.T. in Jamaica.Also, could you post the version/dub of this record(Soundboy)? Thanks & nuff respect!

  3. Respect Chris: thanks for the kind words: will correct the clock-give thanks

  4. WELL SAID BREDDRIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Yooo wicked man, thnxx for your story, I understand things better now.
    Big Up !!! =D