Dubstep is a form of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) that originated in the UK (specifically London) around 2002. Throughout the early 90s Jungle had been the prevailing underground dance music genre, but as it started to run out of steam it became more regimented, eventually splitting off into 'drum & bass' and old school jungle around the middle of the 90s. UK Garage began to gain popularity around the same time. UK garage (derived from american garage music which started in New York in the 1980s) was played at jungle raves in the second room, giving a more chilled out alternative, 'that the ladies could dance to'. Towards the turn of the millennium, UK garage began a trend away from the 'girl-next-door' vocal samples and rolling beats towards a darker ambiance, inspired by Grime producers. Producers like Oris Jay, Steve Gurley, Zed Bias and El-B were amongst the forward-thinking UK garage producers making this new, darker, sound.
Soon other producers started picking up on this new sound, and Dubstep was born. The regular dubstep club night FWD>> started soon after, with tracks played by Hatcha, Youngsta, Kode9, Skream, Benga, Horsepower Productions and others.
By about 2005, Dubstep had gained significant popularity and it's style had changed somewhat, away from the garage rhythms, yet the emphasis on sub-bass (bass below 90hz), dark atmosphere and 140bpm tempo remained. Mary Anne Hobbs, the DJ on BBC radio1, became an unlikely figure in the Dubstep movement, putting top Grime and Dubstep producers on her radio1 show.
Since 2006, the genre has gained more popularity and has, since 2008, partly broken down away from its dark atmosphere and split into an innumerable series of variations and styles, all coming under the term 'Dubstep'.
Various 'Dubstep Documentaries' have been made to introduce new listeners to the genre, here are two:
Recent newcomers to Dubstep
As previously mentioned, dubstep has recently mutated again and split into a huge amount of greatly differing styles. Most newcomers to dubstep will have heard it in clubs on the dancefloor and will be familiar only with a certain style of 'jump-up' dubstep (recently dubbed 'Brostep') pioneered by Caspa and Rusko (who were in turn influenced by Vex'd) Martin Clark aka Blackdown talks about this new strain of dubstep in his latest pitchfork column:
Blackdown: "No summary of the year in dubstep would be complete without the ever-expanding wobble side of the scene, recently hilariously and accurately renamed "brostep." In the UK, the wobble sound is now the default dubstep position for many fans, as the scene commands a increasing share of the Friday night/student/super club market. With the fanbase expanded far beyond any one core, complaints about deviations from South London circa 2005 or an overall loss of direction feel increasingly irrelevant. Many new dubstep fans neither know nor care about those issues, and complaining about glories past is futile. So fair play to all the brostep ravers 'aving it"
Some Dubstep Artists
- Zed Bias (Dave Jones, 2-step UK garage producer, best known for his track 'neighbourhood') Sample Track
- Steve Gurley (Originally a drum and bass producer, then UK Garage, now producing UK Funky under the alias 'G Connection') Sample Track
- El-B (Lewis Beadle, UK garage producer, pioneer of the Dubstep sound) Sample Track
- Hatcha (Dubstep DJ, mixed the original Dubstep Allstars Vol.1) Sample Track
- Kode 9 (Steve Goodman, Lecturer on music culture and jungle, dubstep and funky producer. runs Hyperdub label) Sample Track
- Digital Mystikz - (Mala & Coki, often DJ live with Loefah and MC Sgt. Pokes, run the DMZ label with loefah) Sample Track
- Mala - (Makes deep, percussion, melodically lead Dubstep) Sample Track
- Coki - (Makes deep, aggressive Dubstep) Sample Track
- Loefah - (makes deep, echoey Dubstep) Sample Track
- D1 - (Creates melodic tracks that are often reminiscent of house, often with a 4/4 beat) Sample Track
- Skream - (Oliver Jones, producing dubstep as early as 2001) Sample Track
- Benga - (Beni Uthman, created tracks with Skream, often utilises unusual rhythms and triplets) Sample Track
- Kromestar - (makes deep dubstep, released on Deep Medi, collaborated with hatcha) Sample Track
- Burial (William Bevan, reclusive producer who stayed anonymous for most of his career, deep, melancholic 2-step garage inspired dubstep.) Sample Track
- Vex'd - (Jamie Teasdale & Roly Porter, created darker, heavier dubstep) Sample Track
- Pinch - (Rob Ellis, samples world music, dancehall and creates deep, atmospheric dubstep) Sample Track
- Tes La Rok - (Jani Niiranen, producer from Finland, most famous for his remix's of reggae singer Uncle Sam) Sample Track
- The Others - (D-Code & DeXterous, production duo make deep dark dancey dubstep. released on Dub Police and Sub Soldiers) Sample Track
- Boxcutter - (Barry Lynn, creates bass led tracks that sound closely related to IDM) Sample Track
- Scuba - (Paul Rose, owner of Hotflush records, recently moved to Berlin. Techno inspired.) Sample Track
- Milanese - (Steve Milanese, Jungle and Garage inspired, deep and dark) Sample Track
- 2562 - (Dave Huismans,creates a unique dubstep/techno hybrid) Sample Track
- The Bug - (Kevin Martin, inspired by dancehall, jungle and grime, produces under lots of alias, The Bug is his alias most closely related to Dubstep) Sample Track
- RSD - (Rob Smith, old Jungle producer, creates dub/reggae inspired bass heavy tracks) Sample Track
- Shackleton - (Sam Shackleton, creates dark, very percussive dubstep, ran Skulldisco record label with Appleblim) Sample Track
- Appleblim - (Laurie Osborne, makes bass driven, echoing dubstep, runs Applepips record label) Sample Track
- Peverelist - (Tom Ford, owns the Rooted Records shop in Bristol and the Punch Drunk record label, makes minimal techno inspired dubstep) Sample Track
- Dusk + Blackdown - (Dan Frampton, Martin Clark, use lots of indian/asian song and instrument samples and grime artists, run Keysound record label.) Sample Track
- Distance - (Greg Sanders, makes very heavy, dancefloor dubstep) Sample Track
- Martyn - (Martijn Deykers, Dutch producer Martyn makes 2step, techno inspired dubstep, branching out into UK Funky) Sample Track
- Headhunter - (Techno, Dubstep hybrid) Sample Track
- Caspa - (Gary McCann, pioneer of the 'wobble' dancefloor sound, owns Dubpolice record label) Sample Track
- Rusko - (Christopher Mercer, similar sound to his often collaborator Caspa) Sample Track
- Silkie - (Soloman Rose, emotive jazz and soul influenced dubstep, part of Anti Social Entertainment) Sample Track
- Quest - (makes dubstep to dance to, uses instrumental samples, part of Anti Social Entertainment) Sample Track
- Zomby - (creates bizarre 8bit inspired tracks with complex melody and rhythm) Sample Track
- Ikonika - (Sara Abdel-Hamid, makes offtune synth-filled 'wonky' dubstep) Sample Track
- Starkey - (Paul J. Geissinger, american dubstep producer, makes what he calls 'street bass') Sample Track
- Ramadanman - (David Kennedy, creates techno inspired dubstep, uses 2-step rhythms) Sample Track
- Gemmy - (Gemmel Phillips, Bristol producer, creates what has been dubbed 'purple funk', synth led melodic dubstep) Sample Track
- Joker - (Liam Mclean, originator of 'purple funk', emotive, synth led melodic, grime inspired dubstep) Sample Track
- Guido - ('purple funk', wonky synths and orchestral samples.) Sample Track
- Mount Kimbie - (Dominic Maker & Kai Campos make downtempo emotive 2-step dubstep) Sample Track
- Darkstar - (James Young & Aiden Whalley make emotive, 2-step dubstep with plenty of sweet vocoders and wonky synths) Sample Track
- FaltyDL - () Sample Track
- James Blake - (part of Mount Kimbie releasing his own tracks) Sample Track
- Bass Clef - (utilises live instruments in his tracks) Sample Track
- 16bit - (Eddie Jefferys (aka Kidnappa) & Jason Morrison (aka DRT) from London, UK) Sample Track
- Broken Note - (Eddie Jefferys & Tommy extremely dark heavy dubstep) Sample Track
- Eskmo - (Brendan Angelides, old drum & bass producer, creates wonky hypercoloured dubstep/garage)
- Hyetal - (Uses computer game sounds, 8bit bleeps and wonky synths with garage rhythms) Sample Track
- Grievous Angel - (Sheffield local who creates future garage/funky fusions. 'Remixes live') Sample Track
- Untold - (Creates experimental rhythms, loosely based on garage. When asked what genre he made, he replied "Don't know, Don't Care") Sample Track
- Brackles - (Rob Kemp, 'future garage' producer, 2-step rhythms and plenty of futuristic synths) Sample Track
- Joy Orbison - (Upcoming future garage/dubstep producer, known for his anthem of 2009 'Hyph Mngo') Sample Track
- Shortstuff - (Futuregarage producer, runs Blunted Robots record label with Brackles) Sample Track
- Borgore - Sample Track
- Excision - (very heavy, clinical sounding dubstep. Heavily influenced by both metal and drum & bass) Sample Track
Some Dubstep Websites
- http://blackdownsoundboy.blogspot.com/ (Martin Clark's blog. He writes a regular pitchfork column on dubstep/grime/funky and it is well worth a read - particular interviews worth reading are Skream, Burial,Loefah and Mala, Loefah & Kryptic Minds
- http://futuregarageforum.com/ (a recent break away from dubstep, producers partly inspired by Burial and El-B led 2-step revival look back to garage for inspiration)
Are there any Dubstep radio shows?
- Gutter Radio (obviously), listen to all our previous shows on mixcloud; http://www.mixcloud.com/GutterRadio
- The Mary Anne Hobbs show, on BBC Radio 1, every Thursday 2am - 4am GMT.
- Sub FM
- Rinse.fm (the UKs biggest pirate radio station, playing plenty of Grime, Dubstep and (these days, mainly) Funky)
Holy crap, that's a lot of music, where do I start?
For a full "Dubstep Education", I'd recommend starting at the beginning;
- Ammunition And Blackdown Present: The Roots Of Dubstep is a recent compilation with lots of tracks taken from the very beginnings of dubstep. Also Roots of El-B is worth checking out if you like that garagey feel.
Here is a list of 'essential' albums, the best full albums to come out of dubstep in the past 5 years;
- Skream - Skream! is Skream's first (and so far, only) album, another is due to be released in 2010. It contains the infamous 'Midnight Request Line' track.
- Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior is Benga's debut album. Received plenty of critical acclaim and includes hugely popular crossover track 'Night' and dancefloor hit '26 Basslines'
- Burial - Untrue. & Burial - Burial. Burial came out of nowhere, and wanted to stay there. Unfortunately a mercury prize nomination and The Sun newspaper made sure he was dragged out the bubble of anonymity he so enjoyed. Burial's take on dubstep/garage is fuelled with emotion, extremely sorrowful and hauntingly beautiful. If you dislike all other dubstep, chances are you'll still like this.
- Dusk + Blackdown - Margins Music. Blackdown aka Martin Clark is the top dubstep commentator, yet his production is equally intelligent as his writing. Taking inspiration from London (as a lot of dubstep artists do), dusk and blackdown focus on the extreme cultural diversity in London. An incredible album.
- Caspa and Rusko - Fabriclive.37. The album that started a movement, some might say. Taking dubstep to the dancefloor, caspa and rusko make a brilliant mix that keeps you entertained from beginning to end. Fans of 'brostep'; this is where it all began.
- Dubstep Allstars Vol.6 - Mixed by Appleblim. Tempa have released a regular cd, mixed by a guest DJ, on their 'dubstep allstars' series. Volume 6 is done by Bristol local and Applepips founder Appleblim. Bristol music, and dubstep is no exception, has a knack of going where no one has been before and this mix shows another aspect of the diverse dubstep sound. Appleblim seems to relish in the techno influenced side of dubstep, the minimal rolling drums, echoing percussion and throbbing bass make this mix an unmissable addition the to dubstep allstars collection. The Rest of the series is highly recommended, especially Dubstep Allstars Vol.3 - Mixed by Kode 9
- Look for the Rinse.fm releases too, including mixes by Skream, Pinch and Oneman, Rinse.fm is always pretty ahead of the game.
- If techno really is your thing, you might prefer 2562 - Aerial. 2562 is a Dutch producer who, after releasing two incredible 12" on Tectonic, releases his album. a complete hybrid of Dubstep and Techno.
- Hyperdub 5. This is the 5th anniversary compilation cd from the incredible Hyperdub label, featuring new and old tracks. Possibly the best dubstep album of 2009.
- Skull Disco - Sound Boy Punishments, Skull Disco was a mould breaking label with it's own unique sound. Shackleton and Appleblim remain two of the most forward thinking producers out there and this compilation is a worthy summary of the labels output. Although now defunct, Skull Disco should probably also be added to the label section. Totally unique and ground breaking, you wont hear anything else like it.
- If Dub/Dancehall/Ragga/Grime is more your thing, you'll love The Bug - London Zoo, full of grumbling bass and sharp tongued mcs, Kevin Martin's dubstep/grime debut is unmissable.
- Silkie - City Limits Volume 1 is the only album to be released so far on the Deep Medi record label (run by Mala of DMZ). Silkie, of Anti Social Entertainment, creates an unconventional dubstep album full of smooth saxophone melodies and deep throbbing bass. 'The best dubstep album of 2009'
- iTAL tEK - Cyclical, Alan Myson from Brighton creating futuristic dubstep soundscapes.
- Boxcutter - Oneiric, Techno inspired Boxcutter creates albums which deserve to be listened from beginning to end.
- Milanese - Extend, Aggressive dubstep/grime. Recommended for any fans of harder dubstep.
- Vex'd - Degenerate, 2005 album from the dubstep duo 'Vex'd' shows how aggressive dubstep should be done.
Some Dubstep Labels
- Disfigured Dubz (Skream's Dubstep Label)
- Apple Pips (Appleblim's Dubstep Label)
- Berkane Sol (Geiom's Dubstep Label)
- Kapsize (Joker's Dubstep Label)
- Punch Drunk (Peverelist's Dubstep Label)
- Keysound (Dusk + Blackdown's Dubstep Label)
- Deep Medi (Mala's Dubstep Label)
- Soul Motive (Forsaken's Dubstep Label)
- Hotflush (Scuba's Dubstep/Techno Label)
- Tempa (Run by Ammunition Promotions, who also run FWD)
- DMZ (Digital Mystikz's Record Label)
- Hyperdub (Kode 9's Record Label)
- Tectonic (Pinch's Record Label)
- Dubpolice (Caspa's Record Label)
- Hemlock (Untold's Record Label)
- Sub Soldiers (Rusko's Record Label)
- 2nd Drop
- Skull Disco (Shackleton and Appleblim's old record label)
- Hessle Audio (run by Pangaea, Ben UFO, Ramadanman)
- Rottun Records
- Acroplane (Free netlabel, visit it here: http://www.acroplane.co.uk/ )
- Planet Terror (Free netlabel, visit it here: http://www.planetterrorrecords.com/ )