The 10 best reggae labels, according to The Bug

The reggae-loving London producer takes us on a journey through his most revered labels of the genre.

Under the alias The Bug, London-based noise-maker Kevin Martin produces pulse-racing dub and dancehall that springs haphazardly from his obvious love of reggae. With a raucous set featuring MCs Flowdan and Daddy Freddy scheduled for next Saturday at KOKO, Martin took some time out this week to tell us all about the 10 labels that represent, for him, what the spirit of reggae is all about.

  1. Firehouse
    The Bug: “Uniformly fantastic catalogue from King Tubby’s digital era, which was criminally terminated by the late producer’s untimely slaying.. He made his name for the deepest, heaviest roots dubs, but the digital bombs kill me every time, lean, mean, funky sillicon dreams…”

    King Everall – After All
  2. Unity Sounds
    The Bug: “Post-‘Sleng Teng’ British dancehall label which had a woefully small catalogue but exceeded in terms of max quality and impact. Not as big as Saxon or Coxsone 80s sound systems, but a longer lasting recorded output..Pick up the excellent Honest Jons comp ‘Watch How The People Them Dancing’ to feel the minimal, synthetic magnificence.”

    Errol Bellot – What A Wonderful Feeling
  3. Jah Guidance
    The Bug: “Love the heavyweight, pounding Scientist dubs which characterize Junjo Lawes’s label’s 1980s output. If you like the sound of the heaviest, slowest roots killers being thrown down by the Roots Radics, and propelled through huge, hypnotic delays and oceanic reverbs you will dig these 7“s.”

    Johnny Osbourne – Turn The Tide Dub
  4. Wackies
    The Bug: “Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes’s NYC based label came to my attention via Rhythm & Sound’s fine reissue campaign, and I have become smitten by the crisp, heavyweight, FX-drenched, rootical necksnappers.. Horace Andy, Love Joys, Wayne Jarrett, Sugar Minott etc..all recorded some of their finest works for this label.

    Horace Andy – Cuss Cuss
  5. Jammy’s
    The Bug: “Insanely consistent floor-murderers churned out by the murderous don. Lloyd ‘King Jammy’ James ignited the digital revolution in reggae with the unbeatable ‘Sleng Teng’ rhythm and proceeded to drop an irresistible catalogue of non-stop bassline killers.”

    Sleng Teng Riddim Mix Part 1
  6. Mad House
    The Bug: “Bashment specialist has produced some of my favourite ragga rhythms. Specialising in minimal, experimental electroid mutations, his collaborations with Cham are an annual highlight in reggae’s calender..He doesnt release much, but when he does, Kelly triggers seismic waves in the club.”

    Dave Kelly/Mad House – Tun Up Tun Up and Back Way Riddim Mix
  7. Rockers
    The Bug: “Augustus Pablo’s label specialized in releasing some of the most consciously lyrical, rareified roots tunes, complete with melodica driven dubs, played by the bewitching label owner himself.”

    Hugh Mundell – My Mind
  8. Techniques
    The Bug: “Winston Riley’s label reads like a who’s who of reggae’s finest…From Buju to Sister Nancy, Riley’s label released some of the genre’s classics, that exhude pure class and dancefloor sass..Rare to find a poor release, buy on sight.”

    Sister Nancy – Roof Over Mi Head
  9. Master Mind
    The Bug: “A rare, overlooked label run by Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden, who found fame with his infectious monster the ‘Diwali’ rhythm. Master Mind never achieved any form of commercial success, but is charactericed by ridiculously forward-thinking ragga innovations. (I would dearly like to work with him if anyone’s got a link! haha). Bizarrely enough, the Z2010 riddim was picked up by Mowax.”
    Stream a mix from Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden here.

    Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden – Diwali
  10. Black Ark
    The Bug: “King of the phaser, the tape delay, the spring reverb and of course, madness… Lee Perry is a true, eccentric visionary, whose sonic voodoo indelibly marked the likes of Adrian Sherwood and a zillion others. Black Ark is unstoppable in terms of outward bound experimentation and timeless refrains.”

    Lee Scratch Perry – Militant Rock

“Special mentions in my heart to Fashion Records, Ward 21, Fat Eyes, Massive B etc…”

Catch The Bug live with Flowdan, Daddy Freddy, dBridge, Mala and Mad Professor at London’s KOKO on the 15th June; get more information on that here.

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