New York City, home to a sizeable population of Jamaican emigrants, maintained a relatively low profile in the reggae world until the 1980's. Then, the music's transition from roots to dancehall was accompanied by explosive growth in New York's local reggae scene. This scene was centered around locally-run sound systems, and of these, the sound now known as Downbeat the Ruler has proved to be the most enduring. Founded in the seventies by selector Tony Screw, Downbeat rapidly became not only a regional force, but one that could compete with the strongest sounds from Jamaica.
In the "rub-a-dub" era of the 1980's, Downbeat ensured its success by regularly featuring the best of Jamaica's microphone talent. Top artists like Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Jonny Osbourne Josey Wales, Ninjaman, Professor Nuts, Shinehead Michigan and Smiley, and more.
Downbeat is 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
The arrival of the 1990's, live performances were replaced by a steady stream of dubplates introduced by the sound's "selector," and the deejays once so central to the sound systems became primarily recording artists. Downbeat, with its potent dub box, was handsomely prepared for this new era.
Today, after almost three decades, Downbeat remains a force to be reckoned with. The sound is traditionalist in its choice of artists and songs to voice, and does not constantly chase the most-hyped "bashment" rhythm or artist-of-the-week. Instead, Downbeat maintains what is quite possibly the deepest, heaviest collection of exclusive foundation dubplates in the world.
Tony Screw and Sci Gideon, 1998 World Clash in NY Downbeat Vs Killerman Jaro Vs Sir Coxsone .