I’ve been holding it in for a long time and I just need to confess something: I love Dubstep.
About 6 months ago I really didn’t; in fact, I felt quite the opposite. It was an excuse to test your subwoofers and make electronic music even more repetitive and uninspired. light intro, insert random sample, Wub wub wub.
But now I have come to appreciate why it is so much more than that. Time to ask some questions…
Let’s start musically:
Bass. That’s a good place to begin. Dubstep has a tendancy to try its hardest to break subwoofers. Hell, if you listen to a dubstep track on some PC speakers, chances are you’re probably missing half of the song. It’s not just the power of the bass that’s characteristic either; Dubstep tends to have rhythmic basslines, using modulated filters and the like to give a pulsating feel to the bass – often in triplets, which just sounds absolutely frickin’ sweet.
But of course there are still drums. In fact, one way to describe it is as a much darker, half time, crazily syncopated version of drum and bass. The tendancy is to have unusual, offbeat rhythms that are much more sparse than the bassline itself.
The icing on the cake usually comes in the form of samples, sometimes melodic, sometimes less so – to go with spacious, echoey synth sounds to create the style’s dark atmosphere.
But as with most genres, it is not just about the music. What else is characteristic of Dubstep?
Since its conception took place in the studios of british grime and drum and bass producers, it has accrued an affinity with the UK garage scene – an example of this would be on the “dubplate drama” interactive TV series, heavily based around the London-y underground garage culture, where the sountrack is in fact called “Dubstep Drama”.
To see the kind of dark, hip hoppy imagery associated with the genre, have a look at this dubstep clothing… I’m surprised there isn’t one available with the word “Wub” on it, though.
It is all about the DIY ethic – getting people together and appreciating the music. Often, it seems by a lot of the talk from forums such as dubstepforum and from comments on certain youtube videos, with the assistance of mind-altering substances.
When did it start?
Around early 2000 is when it was born, from the desire to merge the dark side of drum and bass with the slower pulse of the 2-step sound. A few pioneering clubs pushed the genre, with select few DJs spinning their dubstep vinyl; developing a strong underground following.
One of the first (if not the first) exlusively Dubstep labels was “Hyperdub” – founded by DJ Kode9, which started to make stars out of influential artists such as Burial – a well respected name in Dubstep (Though I find what I’ve heard of his stuff too sparse to really get into – maybe you’ve gotta be Dub in the Club to really feel it ^^).
How did it get popular?
With the assistance of the internet and radio, it’s flourished since 2000. Radio 1′s DJ Mary Ann Hobbes had a lot to do with this too – even creating the first mainstream radio show dedicated to it.
More recently though, with rappers like Snoop Dogg doing collaborations with dubstep producers, it’s clear that the popularity will only spiral upwards in the coming years.
Why is Dubstep so frickin’ awesome?
It’s the power of well produced drum and bass, the laid back approach previously almost exclusive to trip hop, and… uh… the power of drum and bass again. It’s so ridiculously heavy. It’s more head-noddable-with-a-disgusted-face-expressing-how-dirty-the-beat-is than any other genre I can bring to mind.
Dubstep loops have a certain feel to them which I think is best expressed in the videos made for the songs. Check out the crossover hit “Night” by producers Benga & Coki. An example of surreal imagery accompanying the surreal dubstep beats.
The sub-destroying, community-building genre is the biggest thing to happen to electronic music in a long time. It’s exciting to see what it’s accomplished… and even more so to look at what it’s going to inspire in the future.
Where can I get it?
Try some of these CDs (Chuck them in your car to see whether it can take the bass!)
“I love Dubstep”
With some of the best producers in the game; Coki, Skream and Benga adding to the collection of 46 tracks on this dubstep cd (Well, 2 CDs) it’s not one to miss!
“Dubstep Allstars 5″
There are actually 6 dubstep allstars albums out there, but just take a listen to this video to see why this is one of the best:
Anything important and influential to Dubstep I missed out? Share it in a comment below!