For this edition of Insight Focus, we’ll be reflecting on a genre of music that sent shockwaves through the underground electronica scene during the early 2000’s, captivating the mainstream masses. This was the resonating sound of Dubstep.
The Early Years: My Introduction to Dubstep
We’ve certainly seen an evolution of the genre over the years, but to really understand Dubstep and it’s origins, we have to go back to the early 2000’s when the true evolution of Dubstep unfolded and a new, electrifying genre was born. I grew up around the outskirts of Sheffield from the early 90’s and was always massively into the musical culture surrounding the city. Dubstep was a little different in terms of a creative genre the city was used to, it was captivating, fun, loud and at times, straight up vile.
Nightlife around Sheffield and the UK began to embrace Dubstep nights, small-time promoters were feeding Dubstep to the people and everyone was going mad for it. This was a new type of nightlife which gave listeners a new buzz, a new type of high to feed their addiction. The Woah-B Dubstep mix below no doubt played a huge role in my inspiration to Dubstep music.
I was a little late to the scene. I missed the origin phase for sure, but I was there to watch the evolution of the genre capture mainstream media attention. My gateway to Dubstep became iconic tracks from some of the usual suspects such as Skream, Caspa, Rusko and Kromestar, these guys were legends in computer music. The genre focused on creating that wide-open sense of space and momentum driving oscillating baseline that we all knew as the iconic ‘Wobble’ bass. A percussion line that would shuffle non-stop throughout the track and maybe a few samples taken from some 90’s cockney movie. Everything I loved about Dubstep can be heard in the two tracks below.
The Dubstep scene was carrying huge momentum. Mainstream radio was dropping Benga and Coki‘s ‘Night‘ during prime time whilst stations like Rinse FM dedicated shows to Dubstep. It was taking over. Dub-plates were becoming the norm which meant vinyl plants had month-long waiting times due to the high demand for limited edition dub-plates. A vinyl resurgence was on the cards, powered by an underground movement.
During these days, you couldn’t navigate your way through YouTube without coming across a recommend UKF Dubstep single, or a hugely hyped Dubstep remix of some Elle Goulding or La Roux track. Roll on 2010 and now we have Ministry of Sound involved, bringing the raging Dubstep scene to the masses through their iconic compilation albums. This was all happening so fast, but I was loving every moment of it. It was around this time I bought my first car, a classic 1989 Ford Fiesta L, a serious motor. In need of a serious audio upgrade, it was out with the old and in with a 1200watt Pioneer subwoofer. A freshly made Dubstep mix in the front and a banging subwoofer in the boot, this was heaven.
It’s momentum certainly got the attention of me when I was around 19-20 years old. I was always keen on music technology, but dubstep was a new art form I hadn’t explored. It encouraged me to be more involved with the genre in terms of producing and performing, but also crafting subwoofer boxes and throwing outrageous parties. We were the wild youth, inspired by the resonating sound of Dubstep.
It was later on when I was at university where I started to lose touch with the genre. Maybe it was just my personal preference slightly adjusting with age, but I began to get a bit bored with the genre and the scene surrounding it. The genre ‘Brostep’ was beginning to make an appearance and so were producers such as Skrillex, Knife Party, Datsik and Zomboy, fans were starting circle pits at club nights and the popularity overall was in decline. I became embarrassed.
This new style of music didn’t reflect the legendary sound on Dubstep I had grown up with. This was heavily manipulated, complex and highly technical, a genre which did not appeal to me at all, causing a sinking sense of loss within me. Dubstep was over.
By 2015 we had seen a massive shift in popularity and sound for the once iconic genre. The legends of the game are still around, but the roots of Dubstep are long dried up. The genre evolved, just like everything else over time. We do however hear aspects of Post-Dubstep in today’s underground community, such as Future Garage and UK Bass, but will we once again witness the pure sounds of the once supreme genre?
You could argue the case that dubstep is dead and buried, hardcore fans of the now quiet genre would argue against that statement, but like Trance, House and Techno, it will live a happy and eternal afterlife. Dubstep presented us with unmatched excitement, an ecstasy of pleasure, but most of all brought out our best dirty face when that filthy drop would hammer through the system.
For now, though, we wait. I’ll continue to revisit the sounds of Skream’s amazing self-titled ‘Skream!‘ album and the bouncy vibes of Rusko’s ‘Babylon, Vol.1‘ EP, but will we ever witness these vibes once again in the future? Only time will tell.