sweet as the scratch

dub from the roots of space

In John Akomfrah and Edward George's experimental documentary, The Last Angel of History (1996), a chrononaut known as "Data-Thief" undertakes a transhistorical archeological dig that unearths a "meta-text" of black electronic music (funk, dub, avant-garde jazz, Detroit techno, Chicago house, drum & bass, and UK garage) that articulates themes of outer space, sci-fi, otherness, and disembodiment. Presenting this assemblage of materials via interviews with musicians and writers such as Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Derrick May, the film posits an aesthetic at work across the African diaspora produced by black interaction with sound and technology, an aesthetic called afrofuturism.

First defined by Mark Dery in 1993 as "African American voices with other stories to tell about culture, technology, and things to come," "afrofuturism" in recent years has become a kind of catch-all term for engaging various elements of black technoculture. Since its indoctrination, countless books, academic conferences, works of art, albums, museum exhibits, and websites have been inspired by the moniker.

As co-founder of the Afrofuturist Listserv and afrofuturism.net Alondra Nelson points out, "though this term was first used by Dery, the currents that comprise it existed long before." That is, there exists a long history of black artists and thinkers who have deployed a similar set of sci-fi asethetics and themes to think about race, social inequality, subjectivity, and belonging despite drawing upon radically different artistic/stylistic mediums and cultural backgrounds. From George Schuyler's early speculative fiction, to Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic's astral traveling, to Octavia Butler's sci-fi, to Outkast's ATLien raps, and all the way up to Janelle Monae's recent uses of cyberspace as a conceptual device for R&B and soul, space has certainly been the place for experimentation and innovation.

This playlist, however, focuses on dub, selcting Lee "Scratch" Perry, King Tubby, Scientist, Mad Professor. These tracks are majorly obsessed with the cosmos. These artists dwell in fragmentation, mediation, and technological development, but also express a deep relationship to nature. Inasmuch as their music transports listeners to another dimension through a landscape of special effects and echoes, its pulsating bass and repetition pulls them back to bodily existence.

Here are 16 of these spaced out tunes:

0:00 "Approaching Earth" - Colonel Elliott And The Lunatics - Interstellar Reggae Drive
3:49 "Moon Dub" - King Tubby - Roots Radics Meets Scientist and King Tubby In Dub Explosion
7:45 "Alien Aborts" - Roots Radics
11:00 "Dub Explosion" - Ethnic Fight Band - Music Explosion
14:22 "Ital Step" - Well Charged - Vital Dub
18:09 "Armigideon Time" - Willie Williams - Armigideon Time
20:33 "Spaceman Skank (feat. Mafia & Fluxy)" - Mad Professor - From Mars Wit Dub
24:12 "Low Gravity" - Prince Far I & The Arabs - Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter III
28:34 "Ion Storm" - Black Uhuru - The Dub Factor
32:20 "Electrocharge" - BlackBeard - I Wah Dub
36:38 "E.T. Special" - Impact All Stars - Java Java Java Java
39:32 "Music & Science" - Lee "Scratch" Perry - Time Boom X De Devil Dead
44:44 "Planet Mars" - The Icebreakers With The Diamonds - Planet Mars Dub
47:58 "Space Invaders Re-Group" - Scientist - Scientist Encounters Pac-Man
51:15 "Starship Afria - Section 1" - Creation Rebels - Starship Africa
56:15 "Final Destruction" - Prince Jammy - Prince Jammy Destroys The Invaders
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