History of EDM: Dub

History of EDM Dub - Jamaica 1974

As you know from our previous post on the history of EDM, disco shook up the dance floor and lead to electronic music. Around about the time disco was popular, there were a bunch of  DJs and engineers in Jamaica who were putting their own innovative spin on reggae. What they created would shake up the dance floor forever. Dub has affected almost all genres of dance music, and has a big impact on the dance floor even today. This is the History of EDM: Dub.

In Jamaica in the ’50s and ’60s, DJs and engineers put turntables, speakers, and a generator on the back of a truck and held street parties. This became known as “sound system” culture.

In the late 1960’s, producer Rudolph “Ruddy” Redwood asked for a version of the The Paragons’ song “On The Beach” from a studio. However, the engineer accidentally left out the vocals. Redwood kept it, letting the DJ “toast,” or rhyme and sing, over top of it.

Producer King Tubby started to noodle with a mixing console and pre-recorded tracks, taking out vocals or chopping them up, mixing different instrumental tracks,  and creating what was called “versions” of songs made specifically for street parties. These “versions” became known as dub.


Dub producers looked at the mixing console as an instrument, talking instrumental tracks and pumping up the drums and the bass. This put the focus of the track on the rhythm. All to get people dancing.

They then started adding layers and layers of sound, playing with how much sound you could add while still maintaining a dance rhythm. Some of the tracks were pretty out there. But this also spurred the arrival of “toasters,” whose function was similar to a hip hop MC.

By the early 1970’s, dub was a well known sub-genre of reggae. A couple of inspired producers took the genre further with Lee “Scratch” Perry releasing a straight up, original dub album, Blackboard Jungle Dub, in the spring of 1973.

In 1974, Keith Hudson released his classic Pick a Dub and King Tubby released two albums, At the Grass Roots of Dub and Surrounded by the Dreads at the National Arena, a landmark release in the history of straight-up dub.

After this, dub morphed into a lot of other styles of music. Because dub was more about the process than a specific sound, it started to bleed into lots of different kinds of music. You can hear it best in jungle and drum and bass, but you can hear the techniques discovered by those early reggae producers in disco, hip hop, house, dubstep, and more.

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