In a genre defined by sonic exploration, he boldly pushed dub reggae to places where no man had gone before.
Dub reggae innovator Style Scott is best known for his drumming with Roots Radics, Prince Far I, Bunny Wailer, Scientist, and Creation Rebel. Scott is also the heartbeat of Dub Syndicate, a loose but fertile association of studio musicians and producers that has been innovating dub for more than twenty-five years. In a 1994 interview with Carl Moses, Scott explained, “Dub Syndicate is just I, really, and my productions that I’ve done in Jamaica with a lot of people.”
Also credited on records as Lincoln Valentine Scott, Style Rattadam, and simply Style, Scott has played drums and percussion (or “percussions,” as they say in the Caribbean) on hundreds of records since the late ’70s. He grew up soaking in reggae culture in Kingston, Jamaica, and was influenced early on by the work of the dub pioneers Lee “Scratch” Perry and Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock.
Scott’s musical career began after a stint in the Jamaica Defense Force, during which the drummer would often hang around recording studios and rehearsals and occasionally sit in with the bands that were popular at the time. Through the relationships Scott made on the dub scene, he started to be asked to play on sessions, and slowly his own style emerged. Roots Radics grew out of these sessions, and during the late ’70s they became an in-demand rhythm section in Jamaica, playing in the studio and live with artists such as Bunny Wailer, Israel Vibration, and Gregory Isaacs.
Scott and other members of Roots Radics were drafted to tour with Prince Far I in Europe in the early ’80s, leading to the drummer’s relationship with the famed U.K. producer Adrian Sherwood, who was also the head of On-U Sound Records. Dub Syndicate developed from Scott and Sherwood’s early studio collaborations in the U.K. and eventually included contributions by many others, such as the members of Tackhead— Keith LeBlanc, Skip McDonald, and Doug Wimbish—who’d previously comprised the house band for the legendary hip-hop label Sugarhill Records. Dub Syndicate continued making music on the cutting edge throughout the ’80s and ’90s and remains active today, producing records with artists such as Capleton, Big Youth, Yasus Afari, and Cedric Myton of the Congos.
In a 2011 interview with Nico Caillaud and Julien “Loob” Zasso for culturedub.com, Scott explained his genre’s inner workings. “Dub is really a deconstruct rhythm that you start from scratch,” he said. “The artist go in the studio, they make a song, right? [Then] an engineer with any sort of genius about them starts stripping down the rhythm. They take away the voice, start emphasizing the drum and bass with white noise and delays and all of that.”
These techniques continue to be used in many forms of modern music, including dubstep, which grew out of the 2-step and drum ’n’ bass styles in the U.K. Evidence of dub’s wide-ranging influence can be heard with artists as diverse as Can, the Police, Tortoise, and Matisyahu. Style Scott helped to shape the genre into what it is today, and his legacy will doubtlessly continue to influence contemporary music well into the twenty-first century.
Stylin’ Rhythms Style Scott
Transcribed by Eric Novod
Doctor Pablo & the Dub Syndicate, “Man of Mystery,” North of the River Thames
Common in the Roots Radics style of reggae drumming, this groove features the rare choice to place the bass drum on beats 1 and 3 and the snare on 2 and 4. (0:28)
Gregory Isaacs, “My Only Lover,” Lovers’ Rock
This classic track also features the bass drum on beats 1 and 3 and the snare on beats 2 and 4, but it’s the offbeat hi-hat accents that bring in the reggae feel. (0:15)