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Text by Anderson Muth
Birthed by the great Jackie Mittoo asthe 60s began to give way to the 70s, the Hot Milk riddim, akaMurderer, has been the source of hit records ever since. The initialCoxson 7” led to the Studio One era and then into deejays, rubadub,dancehall, and sound system: like so many well-rinsed riddims, it hasmoved effortlessly between decades. Johnny Osbourne, CarltonLivingston, Yellowman, Sugar Minott, and Shabba Ranks have all cutkillers, never mind Barrington Levy’s powerful take (and re-takewith Beenie Man).
Prince Fatty is a champion in the Dub Arena, and Loopmasters welcome this masterful Dub Engineer to the Artist Series with open arms, to present “Crucial Dub”, the all in one sample collection for Dub, Reggae, Roots and Dubstep lovers worldwide!
Jackie Mittoo’s skill and talent israther hard to overstate, which does much to explain the continuedrelevance of his composition, as Dr.Karen Anita Eloise Cyrus observes in her dissertation on theJamaican Canadian: “There are jazz elements in Mittoo’s music.Many of his instrumentals are formulaic with predictable patternsthat seem jazz derived: introductions taken from another piece; jazzframeworks of 12 or 32 bar forms to build his arrangements; rag pianoshuffles that seemed to support the strum of the organ; and pianofigures and passages similar to vamping and comping in jazz.” Fromthere, the Hot Milk riddim wove its way through the evolution ofmusic in Jamaica, generating these gems amongst others:
#1. Jackie Mittoo – Hot Milk [Coxson, 1968]
“Mittoo wrote the melody and basslineof ‘Hot Milk’ (’67)” notes Brian Keyo in his annotation fromTribute To Jackie Mittoo, one of many for Coxson Dodd. Heelaborates on how unique a partnership it was: “Dodd’s basicemployment arrangement with Jackie was payment to compose five newrhythms a week. This arrangement went on for over five years andamong the thousands of compositions he produced and arranged forDodd, it’s sometimes difficult to assess the exact contributions ofeach session man… Mittoo was the driving force behind hundreds ofclassic riddims.”
Though not all of those riddims havereached the heights and breadth that “Hot Milk” has, it washardly a guaranteed outcome. Despite its potency, Dodd seemingly saton the riddim…
Tommy McCook & The Sound Dimension – Tunnel One [Coxsone Records, 1976] & I-Roy – Drum Sound [Virgin, 1976]
… until “another instrumental,‘Tunnel One,’ which is a fine duet by Tommy McCook and an unnamedtrumpet player,” explainsreggae historian Ray Hurford. That same year found I-Royreleasing a very fine deejay cut, chatting freely on love and nature,over a heavier recut of the rhythm by The Revolutionaries.
Dub Specialist – Cairo [Studio One, 1980] & The Ethiopian – Empty Belly [Studio One, 1980]
And a dub cut did not appear untilAfrican Rub ‘A’ Dub’s 1980 release, under Dodd’s DubSpecialist moniker, as “Cairo.” Nor a proper vocal, “but it wasworth the wait as it featured the great voice of Leonard Dillon, theEthiopian. ‘Empty Belly’ is a classic song from a great album –Everything Crash,” continues Ray Huford. Moving into theearly 80s, the riddim was clearly becoming a success…
Lone Ranger – Can’t Stand It[Grade One, 1982?] & Ranking Joe – Can’t Stand It [KingdomRecords, 1982] & Yellowman & Fathead – I Can’t Stand It[Greensleeves Records & Volcano, 1982]
Though arguably made famous byYellowman and Fathead in combination, both Lone Ranger and RankingJoe dropped loose deejay versions of “Can’t Stand It,” thelatter backed by the Roots Radics band on the UK-released ArmageddonLP. Lone Ranger’s take is bubblier, and still in the hands of Dodd,whose credit is on the 7”; in contrast, the Ranking Joe is darker,even grimmer. Yet Yellowman & Fathead recorded the most memorabletake, their polished back-and-forth results in some wicked rub-a-dub– vintage dancehall vibes!
Sister Nancy – I Am A Geddion[Techniques, 1982] & Johnny Osbourne – Time A Run Out [StudioOne, 1983?] & Sugar Minott – Fight Against Dread [UptempoRecords, 1983]
From ’83 onwards, the floodgates wereopen as vocalists seemingly lined up to perform future classics.Overshadowed by her work on Stalag, Sister Nancy’s rousing “I AmA Geddion” deserves a second listen, likely with a rewind. JohnnyOsbourne also struck with “Time A Run Out,” not to mention SugarMinott on “Fight Against Dread.” Surely based on the dubwisepercussion, Ray Huford theorizes “that Sugar had access to dubplates of Studio One recordings which he used for the tunes” onthat show case 10”.
Barrington Levy – Murder(er) [JahAll Mighty, 1984] & Carlton Livingston – 100 Weight Of CollieWeed [Greensleeves, 1984]
1984, in this case, was a year ofevolution, as Hot Milk became better known as Murderer due to thetremendous impact of the Barrington Levy tune. Only the initial 7”seems to bear “Murder” alone, picking up the ‘er’ on allsubsequent releases. DeadlyDragon Sound System pulls no punches in their support: “Youcan’t be a selector without this tune in your Box.”
Obviously cut as a Hot Milk relick,Levy was not alone in smashing the Hyman Wright & Percy Chinproduction. Carlton Livingston’s “100 Weight Of Collie Weed” isan instant herbalist anthem, covering the perils of driving ganja tothe city from the Jamaican countryside.
Around this same time, Lone Rangerrevisited, resulting in “IfLife Was A Thing,” as did Mittoo himself on the expansive 1985LP VersionStudio, devoted entirely to “Hot Milk.”
Dica & Big Vern – Murderer[Boogie Beat Records, 1992] & NINO – Reality [Production House,1993]
It’s necessary to mention the successof Levy’s “Murderer” within the UK’s hardcore/jungle scene,with break-laden cuts emerging in the early 90s. Dica and Big Vern’sdirect take as well as NINO’s interpretation, proto-jungle tovarying degrees, with elements of breakbeat and rave mixed in aswell. Makes Hot Milk sounds like a nod to Anthony Burgess.
The trend was still alive and well overa decade later, with JackyMurda’s 2007 skanking drum and bass injection; then JonnyDangerously’s pitched up 2010 endeavor; and Foks’bootleg in 2019, showing the perennial popularity.
Shabba Ranks – Respect [ShangMuzik, 1993]
An appropriate way to escort Hot Milkinto the 90s, Shabba Ranks gives his respect to elders of thedancehall U-Roy, King Stitch, Admiral Tibet, Papa San, Super Cat, andmore, emphasizing their impact with lines like ‘mic and equalizer arethe DJ tool, and people come a dance like children going to school.’Cool, cool.
Barrington Levy & Beenie Man –Murderer (aka Murderation) [Jah Life, 1994]
Crucial update to the original, thetough duet decries street violence and saw wide release on a slew oflabels – notably the Madhouse Version on Priority Records. Thereare versions aplenty, appropriately so. Worth checking out as well isthe white label12” from RSD, of Smith and Mighty, remixed in a heavyweightdubstep style.
Johnny Osbourne – Rock With You[Digital-B, 1994] & Cocoa Tea – No Threat [Digital-B, 1994]
Interestingly at the same time, a moresubdued interpretation of Hot Milk emerged out Bobby Digital’sstudio, giving Osbourne’s soaring vocal plenty of space. Likewisefor Cocoa Tea’s cruel condemnation of idiot sounds: ‘them soundthey are no threat, them sound they are no threat; them sound as iffi dey aya they listen mi cassette.’
Gyptian – Murderer [VP Records,2013]
Gyptian pairs surprisingly well withBarrington Levy, their voices just a notch apart as they move thewell-known tune forward. A bit more emotive thanks to Gyptian’spart, there’s more story here as well atop a thoughtfulinstrumental. Thirty years on, and Levy continues to retread wiselyevery time.
Jahdan Blakkamoore – Absolutely[Dub-Stuy Records, 2019]
With DJ Madd twisting the melody andlow-end into late-night territory, Jahdan Blakkamoore serves up amodern sound system weapon. “Absolutely, we come to ram up thedance; absolutely, free up and give the skankers a chance.” With ablend of braggadocio and pacifism, there’s freshness still in HotMilk.
As usual, hereare some more obscure finds for those still with cravings:
– “SmileMi Friend,” a cool collaboration with an uplifting messagebetween Nepalese singer Cultivation and British Arrival Sound System
– “Rolê”feat. Horseman & Earl 16, vibe-laden medley off the Prince Fattyfeature of Monkey Jhayam
– “SisterNancy vs Dub Specialist,” a mashup of epic proportions fromVullaka
– “Murderer”(Jeep Remix), a 1993 version featuring Rakim – what could go wrong?
– “RiseDi Gun Finger,” a celebration of dancehall culture from T.O.K;sample-slayer
Prince Fatty Crucial Dubbed
– “Warning,”a banger with Uncle Murda going in on a certain sample