Title: United As One
Release Date: 2014 Sept 20
Genre: Reggae / Dub
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Dubkey & Dub-O-Phonic
By now the followers of Reggae and Dub netlabels will undoubtedly be familiar with United As One: the meeting of Dub-O-Phonic and Dubkey. The release was well publicized and has received many excellent reviews throughout the netlabel and reggae communities. I honestly expect that this release would receive lots of attention, so I let it sit in my queue for a while before writing this review.
United As One
Manwel Tabone and Dub Thomas undertook a project that is quite ambitious: combining the creative energies of artists from their respective labels to present a unified body of tracks. The result is a release that is uniquely diverse, and serves as a beacon for what is possible in the commons. However, I cannot help but think there is some criticism that needs to be talked about…and this release is a perfect example..
First let’s talk about the structure of the release. This is a series of 16 tracks, divided into groups of four. Each group shares a common riddim. The riddims were produced by Red Star Martyrs, Ashley, Med Dred and Negritage. Each riddim is presented in four settings with different voicings, dubs, and remixes.
All of the riddims, voicing and dubs on this release are excellent. One of the things that I get a bit worried about with a release like this is that I will get tired of hearing the same riddim over and over. However, in this case each of the tracks has an excellent vibe, and I don’t tire of hearing the repetition of the riddims. (Of course, if that had been a problem, I would have tried shuffling the track order so I could listen to different riddims.)
Some tracks stand out a bit more to me than others. For example Haji Mike’s voicing over Red Star Martyrs ‘Roots Rock Rebel’ riddim for Dead Politiks struck a chord in me. Getting past the politics inherent in all our countries, and getting to the point that we are all people, and we all deserve respect, and one love is a universal message that just resonates through me and out into the world around me.
Zion Irie’s ‘Dem Don’t Know Righteousness’ voicing over Ashley’s riddim is another one that struck a chord with me. This riddim is responsible for one of my favorite dub remixes on this release: ‘His Majesty Dub (Manwel T Mix)’
The final track that really stood out for me was ‘So Hungry’ by Singer Tempa, voicing over Med Dred’s riddim. This track is the kind of message that the world doesn’t need to hear every day — then need to feel this message. And, Singer Tempa delivers the feeling in a massive does.
So, what could I criticize about a release that I obviously like a whole lot? Well, it comes down to the choice of Creative Commons license. The core of reggae and dub these days is in the riddim. It’s essential to musicians, producers and vocalists to record using riddims that are popular.
So, here’s where the criticism comes in: both Dubkey and Dub-o-Phonic release their works under the No Derivatives clause of the Creative Commons license, which specifies that no one else is allowed to remix their work without entering into a new license (aka CC+) in order to create a new work.
There is one word that immediately pops into my mind: hypocrisy. It seems to be a bit hypocritical to license these works under the No Derivatives clause when, in essence, the core of the Reggae / Dub culture centers around the creation of derivative works.
This does not mean that I feel these labels should just give away their works completely (although they very generously make their works available for free download). I understand the desire to safeguard their artists interests so such that other’s don’t capitalize on them. I often state that I don’t have an issue with the Non-Commercial clause for this reason.
I still feel there is something slightly off with the idea that the riddims are restricted from anyone else’s use.
I like this release a lot. I thought I might have issues with the repetition of the riddims throughout the groups of four tracks. But these voicings, dubs and mixes are so masterfully produced that it didn’t bother. There were quite a few standout tracks for me, and that was just the ones that excelled above and beyond the high quality of this release.
The only criticism I have is with licensing these works — especially the riddims under a No Derivatives clause. (In fact, I feel this is a broader criticism of reggae / dub music released under the ND clause of the Creative Commons license, and not just this release. It just stood out to me more in this case since we are presented with groups of derivative works created with a select set of riddims on this release.)
Still it’s an excellent release that really showcases what the netlabel and Creative Commons communities can achieve when they are United As One.