Lee "Scratch" Perry was more than a brilliant producer, he was a singer, songwriter, and shaman who recognized the genius of Bob Marley and considered him something of a kindred spirit. In the movie MarleyScratch speaks of Bob with apparent love and respect, recalling the many classic records they made together.
As the movie Marley makes clear, the song was originally intended as a reggae diss track.
One of the most enduring Wailers / Perry collabos was "Small Axe," a boastful selection that was so popular it was re-recorded on Burnin', The Wailers' second album for Chris Blackwell's Island Records. But as the movie Marley makes clear, the song was originally intended as a reggae diss track.
Like Perry, The Wailers had broken away from Coxsone Dodd's Studio One to launch their own label. At the time Studio One was one of the "Big Three" dominant labels in Jamaican Music, along with Treasure Isle and Federal. The Wailers and Scratch (aka The Upsetter) were the "small acts" (or axe) stepping up to chop down the "big tree" (or Big Three).
Legend has it that Scratch came up with the concept for the song while sitting on the toilet. Whether or not that story is true, there's no doubt that The Wailers and Scratch were shitting on the competition with this one.