Down Beat The Ruler (Bronx, NY)
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Tony screw of Downbeat Sound is a pioneer in the development of sound system culture in the US. In the “rub-a-dub” era of the 1980’s, sound systems were as much a showcase for live performances as they were for records, and Downbeat ensured its success by regularly featuring the best of Jamaica’s microphone talent. Brigadier Jerry of Jah Love Muzik was a frequent visitor, and other top artists like Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin, Super Cat, Shabba Ranks, Lone Ranger, Nicodemus, Early B, Jim Brown, Johnny Osbourne, Ninjaman, Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie, Professor Nuts, Wolfman, Peter Metro, Ricky Sterio, Colin Roach, Major Mackerel, Michigan and Smiley, and more came to New York to perform for the sound. In addition to hosting these Jamaican performers, Downbeat provided exposure for New York’s local artists, some of whom went on to achieve worldwide recognition. The core of the Downbeat crew included Shinehead, Louie Ranking, Sister Carol, and Santa Ranking, and other locals like Mikey Jarrett, Burru Banton, Alton Irie, Reverend Badoo, Verdi Green, Neville Valentine, and Brimstone would occasionally appear as well.
In addition to this large and varied supply of top-ranking live performers, Downbeat was also known to possess a deep box of “dubplates,” exclusive recordings cut by artists for Downbeat alone to play. Featuring custom-built lyrics proclaiming Downbeat’s dominance, these dubplates served the sound well in sound clashes. Armed with its fearsome wax and sizeable host of artists, Downbeat successfully clashed not only American competitors like African Love and Papa Moke, but also top sound systems from Jamaica like Silverhawk, Black Scorpio, Volcano, and Stereo One, who would fly to New York to battle the local champion.
Today tony screw/Downbeat is one of the industries treasures. Each week for “Reewind Sundays” he reminds listeners why he should in fact be referred to as the ruler.