Practically everyone has laid claim to dubstep and it’s very hard to pinpoint the actual origins of the music. The genre itself has evolved and changed over and over again but there are a few people – artists, producers, DJ’s – that have really pushed the genre itself, and have helped it become what it is today.
So where did it all start?
The earliest forms of what can be described as “dub” (the name “dubstep” comes much later) was found in Jamaica in the reggae/reggae tone dance songs prior to 1999. What constitutes this early “dub” sound is the deep bass or what most call a “sub bass,” a 2-step drumbeat and a few distortion effects. All of these sounds and sound techniques would become the foundation for later dubstep. But that isn’t the only influence for the music. Drum’n’Bass is a genre of music that had influenced many artists and also been a pivotal part of the dubstep genre. Its use of the sub bass and heavy drums also made it very popular in the 90’s and would be a contributing factor in the creation of Dubstep.
What we call dubstep today and where it came, is a different story altogether. In 2001, in London many DJs/music producers were creating a new form of music that they were calling “grime.” It was a mixture of Drum’n’Bass music with a heavy bass influence. Some of the producers playing at clubs in London’s Soho (particularly a club called Forward>>) started to coin the term Dubstep. To the traditional sounds of “drum’n’bass” a few electronic elements were added: a sub bass, and 2 bass drops (a bass drop is when the music slows in tempo volume then comes back in with a powerful bass sound, kicking up the tempo once again). These London based Dj’s were also found working at a record shop called, Big Apple Records, and would push the new genre and collaborate with other artists shopping there. These artists worked together to create a new sound that was to their liking, and what they all shared in common was their love for bass. This is what became the foundation for what we now know as Dubstep.
As the sound became increasingly popular in London, more artists became aware of it. Dubstep slowly started to spread from DJ to DJ, club to club. But between 2003-2005, there came an evolution in the sound. DJ Hatcha started to incorporate the sound of reggae tone into the sub bass and beats of original dubstep. In doing so he created “…a dark, clipped and minimal new direction in dubstep.” With this new direction for the genre, other artists began to bring in their own flare as well. DJ Mystikz had a large palette of sound to draw from including: reggae, dub, jungle bass and orchestral melodies. Each new DJ brought something new to the table but kept the essence of dubstep in their recordings or shows.
So how did the genre spread from clubs in London to all over the world so fast? Joe Nice, an American DJ, started to bring the sound over to North America, and that sparked an influx of night clubs opening up in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal, Huston and Denver, that would push this new genre on unsuspecting clubgoing Americans.
Another DJ, by the name of Marie Ann Hobbs, started to play sets around the world in other clubbing scenes like Barcelona. This would give rise to the more mainstream artists getting their hands on it and presenting it to the masses. Britney Spears started to produce music that was essentially dubstep, which can be heard in her Blackout album. Rihanna’s Rated R was also heavily influenced by dubstep, containing 3 separate tracks utilizing the sound.
With these artists starting to use dubstep and push it into a new audience, the genre itself started to get a much larger following. More people started to pay attention to the genre itself, and after this, dubstep began to evolve again. Recently, Skrillex, a dubstep music producer/DJ, started a new movement in the genre called Brostep (It was only a matter of time before they Bro’d it up), which is said to be a bit more aggressive. It deals less with the sub bass and more with mid range, and uses heavy metal influences to give it a different, harder edge. This new movement in the genre has proven very successful in the United States, but purists of the genre have kept to the original form of dubstep. They eschew the mid range and hard tones for the more traditional sub bass sound that the genre is known for.
Dubstep has come from small beginnings in London, but has been influenced, fused, evolved, and flipped so many times that it is hard to define dubstep anymore. Is it safe to say that this new sound is here to stay and will continue to evolve all forms of music, over a wide variety of genres? My guess is probably not. Not to say that the genre itself wont be around for a while but with the amount of changes going on with the music itself, it’s hard to imagine that dubstep, what original dubstep was, will be around for as long as classic rock or rap have been. It’s the nature of dubstep itself.
As stated before, there is already an evolution with the music right now. Skrillex has taken dubstep and morphed it into Brostep, and has given it a new edge and with it a new face. With this in mind, it isn’t a surprise that most people who think they know what dubstep is, are really listening to some form of new dubstep. Most people may not have even heard original dubstep. I, for one, was among those people. One day at work my colleague put on some music and it was something to could be described as dubstep, but it wasn’t like any of the dubstep I had on my playlists. It was more bassy, less metallic, and had a lot less computer generated tweaks to it. I had no idea it was “original” dubstep until he told me what we were listening to. In my mind, what I had on my iPod was dubstep, and this version was a watered down version of my music. But after having looked at the history and the sound that is (was) dubstep, I realized that that sound was old news, and the new dubstep was what perforated the music scene today.
Someone also has the same belief that I do. Blogger Joeki2000, who writes for Submeditation, believes that the sub-culture who coined the term dubstep and had influenced the genre are slowly losing grasp on the music they created. He believes that there are many reasons why dubstep has changed and why it may not even be considered original dubstep. Some of the reasons behind this change have to coincide with the history of dubstep itself. It has become a mainstream sound, and when it became mainstream, it became oversaturated in the market, changed by the multitude of producers trying to ride the success train that is dubstep. Everyone needed a dubstep hook to make the club scene or get a hit record.
Another reason he believes the nature of dubstep has changed is because of the “generational gap.” This isn’t a new trend in the music industry, as one generation gets older, a new one comes in and changes the music scene, which confuses and angers the older crowd, who then become lost and nostalgic about what once was THEIR music.
“It was underground, not everyone got to hear it. You had to make an effort to search out these tunes. These early impressions of dubstep are absent nowadays, but the nostalgia remains, leading to a sense of disgust with older heads visiting contemporary dubstep nights, where the imagery is in fact quite the opposite. Hundreds of sweaty teens moshing and jumping to exuberant midrange centered music that is being mixed from drop to drop.”
What is hip now is not dubstep, but a hardcore/edgier shadow of dubstep. It changed to fit the needs of the consumer and listener, and as younger people got into the sound, they looked for the sound more interesting to them. So dubstep has been left behind. In the house, earphones, music shops, and clubs of the people who kept a firm grasp and hold on that sound. What we have now is something completely different. Lost is the deep low base; in is the harder midrange sound. Sure you might think it’s bass, but the elitist would stick his nose up at it.
However, the name dubstep still is thrown around today. Even what Skrillex calls Brostep is still known to the masses as dubstep. So you could say that dubstep has gained a massive following. A fan base that rivals that of any other dance music of this generation, and even the Big Wig record producers are noticing.
Dubstep is in and isn’t going anywhere. But the humor in all of this is that, if within the past ten years, the original dubstep was lost and changed forever, and the elitists of the genre have turned their back on this new sound, how long will it be before the masses turn their back on it? Things that are mainstream are left behind for the new “indie”, underground thing. So now that dubstep is the mainstream and is “in”, don’t you think that sooner or later, it’s going to be on its way out too?