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OPINION: Dubplate. The definition needs settling.

I’m much aware this article is going to divide opinion and cause discussion, and this is in no way written to play down anyone’s work, as whichever side of the discussion you sit on, everyone who is doing any works at all in this culture, is doing big works and deserves all due respect.


However, after seeing someone recently ask for a ‘track ID’, and receiving the answer that it is a dubplate, they innocently asked why they couldn’t find it on Spotify or other similar sites, and this leads me to write this article.


At first, you would be excused to think it is funny, but the reality of it is, many people naively fall into this same misunderstanding due to the abundance of releases that are now being marketed as ‘dubplates’. Whether that is right or wrong, is where the divided opinion comes into play.


There are two sides to every coin, and I don’t want to say how anyone should or shouldn’t be marketing their product, however, it cannot be disputed that it is causing confusion for many people, and watering down what a ‘dubplate’ is. It has got so bad that it can sometimes be heard in a session, where a selector or an MC refers to any vinyl as a dubplate even if it could have a 1000 pressings.


If you were to google ‘dubplate’ it would tell you it is acetate disc traditionally used by studios to test recordings prior to mastering for the subsequent pressing of a vinyl record but pioneered by reggae sound systems as a way to play exclusive music.


Now, of course, the definition has somewhat moved on from this, and that is why there is the uncertainty of what a dubplate now actually is. But where a term such as ‘dubplate’ can evolve and keep with current times, it’s important not to repurpose the term, otherwise, you alter the value of that word.


To help explain what a dubplate is, you must look at other surrounding terms which can then be compared and provide clarity.


First of all, vinyl cut by lathe does not guarantee dubplate status. A limited quantity of vinyl made for sale is by definition a limited run, or at best, exclusive. A ‘special’, which is often also considered a form of dubplate, is where the holder/buyer of the tune requests a certain part of production or vocal to be amended a certain way (with a vocal, often involving the sound system/selectors name).


A dubplate stands in between this, evolving with the times, it can be digital or cut to vinyl. It can be given as a gift or negotiated with a price, but where it differs from a limited, is that it is not sold in a free market for anyone with enough money to get their hands on it. This is a necessary obstacle to stop the scene from becoming one in which money talks. A dubplate holds a value of respect between the person who produced the dub, and the selector who will play it.


A dubplate is rich in this culture and I believe it is now losing its value because of marketing. I understand I will receive opposing opinions, some may agree, and some may think the previous paragraph is almost right but there are additional elements.


To be truthful, there may not be a definitive answer, however, there is a growing case of people using words in wrong scenarios, and in doing so, they cause confusion and weaken the integrity of words.


I welcome anyone to respond, share their opinion, and I will happily promote what other people have to say as much as my own opinion because I believe there is much confusion and this discussion needs to be had.


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