History of Dubstep
Based on the „History of dubstep” by Benji B at BBC1, „The Independent”, „The Guardian”, Discogs and general knowledge. Jarek Jaz.
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The name dubstep was used by the promoters from Ammunition Promotions to describe the fresh sounds released by their label Tempa and played by some underground London DJs at parties called Forward >>.
The wider audience got familiar with the name also in 2002, after it was printed on the cover of XLR8R magazine to define a style that combined the influence of the UK garage, grime and 2step. In the photo, next to the word dubstep, the guys from Horsepower Productions were pictured.
The first dubstep tracks were like a hybrid of the dark uk garage sound, usually released on the b sides of the 2 step twelves, sometimes they were called dub versions. Nobody, of course called them dubstep then, but the experimentations of EL-B, Zed Bias, Oris Joy or Steve Gurley were the pillars for the new style waiting for its moment to arrive.
The first release by Tempa rec gets to the distribution. Number 001 is a seminal track „When You Hold Me” by Horsepower Production, . The collective later is pictured on the cover of the legendary issue of XLR8TR magazine. Two years later they have their first album „In The Fine Style”.
Croydon, Big Apple rec & shop, south Londyn
The key place for the burgeoning dubstep scene and its development. Croydon is the place where all the important producers come from- Benga, Skream, Leofah, Plastician, N-Type, Rinse Fm crew. They all were meeting at the beginning of the previous decade in a record shop called Big Apple where Dj Hatcha was serving the customers. At that moment UK garage was dying becoming very stagnant and commercial and all the young producers felt that something new, darker and less commercial is going to happen pretty soon. The teenage boys- Benga, Skream, Loafah still buy their twelves in the shop and observe their older friends and their style. Big Apple becomes also the record label and releases the classic track “Red’ by Artwork. Later Artwork becomes one-third member of the very influential trio Magnetic Man ( together with Benga and Skream). After its closing down, the shop was reopened in 2010 under the name Mixing at Surey Street in Croydon.
Forward>>, Velvet Rooms, Plastic People
Forward>> or FWD>> is a seminal party, promoting dubstep and another darker underground, sounds created by Ammunition Promotions. First they took place in Velvet Rooms in Soho, London, finally the parties moved to Plastic People in the eastern part of the city. Regular parties started in 2001 and the dj who were present from the very beginning were Hatcha, Youngsta, Kode9, Zed Bias, Oris Jay, Slaughter Mob and J Da Flex.
The most famous pirate radio station in London that dubstep would not be the same without today. It started broadcasting in 1994 but the official licence got only last year. Rinse was one of the first stations where you could listen to grime tracks by Dizzee Rascall and Wiley, soon after, some dubstep djs appeared- Kode 9, Plastician (Plasticman then) and later Skream. The boss of the station Geeneus is a very important figure for the whole bass scene in the UK and more recently he has been a father of Katy B’s success.
The first official production by Kode 9 is released, Kode 9, later considered to be one of the forefathers of the genre, releases his track „Fat Larry Skank” for Tempa rec. The vinyl twelve numbered 007 is a split release with Benny Ill ( Horsepower Production). Today this record is always cited when it comes to summarizing the genre.
The first collaboration between Skream and Benga was released. Later these two producers will be responsible for taking the dubstep sound to the main stages of big festivals. The track is called „ The Judgement” and , of course, was released by Big Apple.
Dj Htcha starts using 10″ dubplates during his shows on Rinse FM. It is a clear inspiration from reggae scene and this way dubstep gets another connection, this time it is Jamaican roots, which later becames like philosophy for the members of Digital Mystikz collective.
After releasing their first twelve for Big Apple, Digital Mystikz was formed by Mala and Coki (producers), Loefah (a promoter and an originator of the cult DMZ night and also a producer) and MC Sgt Pokes. – We are not a part of some kind of celebrity culture – Loefah was explaining to curious journalists, and he was also talking about another inspiration- legendary album ” Timeless” by Goldie. „We do not need anything except for a huge sound system in some dark room. I was never ever writing anything on our leaflets, just the date, the djs and the fee. I did not even use the word dubstep” Loefah explained. Somehow it was not necessary. Digital Mystikz became another key producers for the scene, following the Jamaican-dub tradition of pressing dubplates and contemplating the power of bass on the events free of any traditional club light equipment.
Tempa releases „Dubstep Allstars vol. 1” (012) mixed by dj Hatcha. This was the first compilation of the shaping genre. Another episodes were mixed by: Youngsta, Kode9, Hatcha & Youngsta, N-Type, Appleblim, Chef & Ramadanman.
The creativity of the new London „big thing” brings more people to the scene. Richard D James, widely known as Aphex Twin releases in his label Rephlex two compilations with a bit misleading titles: „Grime” and „Grime 2”. The albums consist of tracks by Mark One, Plastician, Kode9 and Digital Mystikz. It was probably thanks to these compilations that DMZ Night party became so popular that sometimes there were literally hundreds of people queuing to get inside. Some time later newspaper „Independent” claims that grime and dubstep is the same and the new sound can also be called 8-bar, sublow or eskbeat. But the crucial thing for the further developement of dubstep was probably increasing popularity of blogs and internet.
„Midnight Request Line” by Skream becomes the first anthem of the scene in the short history of the genre. Everybody talks about dubstep, there is a lot of media hype. Mary Anne Hobbs from BBC1 invites the key dubstep producers to her show „Dubstep Wars”, which was probably a kind of breakthrough for the new style. Dubstep is no longer a UK thing.
The movie soundtrack for „Children of Men” with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore consists of tracks by Pinch, Kode9 and Digital Mystikz.
Another crucial moment for dubstep. Kode9′s Hyperdub records releases the debut album by enigmatic producer Burial. The world is on the knees and the journalists from the prestigious „The Wire” chose it the album of the year.
Dubstep conquers America. Thanks to Joe Nice, a dj from Baltimore dubstep parties become regular in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal or Denver. The same thing is happening in Japan where local dubstep djs become celebrities. Joe Nice arrives to the UK to play at infamous „DMZ Night” and another part of „Dubstep Allstars” compilation includes tracks by American and European producers such as Matty G, JuJu and Tes La Roc.
Hyperdub releases „Memories of the Future” by the boss of the label Kode9 and Spaceape. Another barrier was broken- melancholic and poetic flow of Spaceape is the story of post apocalyptic world on the beats of Kode9. Another epic masterpiece is also released by Skream whose album is like paying homage to Jamaican roots of the scene.
It cannot be stopped anymore. Dubstep is probably the most important guest of the very influential Sonar Festival in Barcelona. It becomes also interesting for the techno artists – „Blood On My Hands” by Shackleton gets the remix treatment from Ricardo Villalobos - the god of minimal techno. Some well known German artists like Ellen Allien, Apparat and Modeselektor also got the bug. The legendary Berlin based Hard Wax shop known for selling dub techno artists from the cult label Basic Channel starts distributing Skull Disco label that belongs to Shackelton.
Another anthem-” Night” by Benga and Coki from DMZ becomes the hit of the year and is played not only by the dubstep djs. The track was remixed countless times by more or less popular producers. One of the remixes was done by not very well known then Buraka Som Sistema. Gilles Peterson simply loves „Night”
Burial releases his second album „Untrue”. The whole world holds his breath, everybody talks about the album. It does not matter you are a fan of rock or you prefer techno. Everyone who knows that music was not over together with the death of Jimi Hendrix knows that „Untrue” will have a huge influence on the modern music. Even today we can hear the Burial’s ideas almost everywhere, from dubstep to pop to r’n'b. Burial sampled female, house vocals in the 2step tempo giving his tracks extremely individual sound. Not to mention the emotions which are waken while listening to this incredible masterpiece. Everybody has to listen to it because the world after this album looks different.
„Fabriclive” is the series of exclusive compilations/mixes released by the London club Fabric. Number 37 is mixed by Caspa and Rusko, the most influential producers of the second wave of dubstep. The same year Rusko unleashes a real monster- an EP called „Babylon” with bangers „Cockney Thug” and „Jehova”.
Tempa records again and this time it is Benga’s album. „Diary of an Afro Warrior”- bass music futuresque that was compared to Goldie’s „Timeless”.
Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC1) helps once again. She invites to Maida Vale studio another wave of dubstep artists. Cyrus, Starkey, Oneman, Chef, Silkie, Quest, Joker, Nomad, Kulture get their chance. The show „Generation Bass” was hosted by MC Sgt Pokes.
The same year a little paradox occurs: Lee Scratch Perry, the father of dub, the inspiration for many modern dubstep producers releases an album with dubstep versions of his classic tunes.
Scuba releases his album „Mutual Antipathy” in his label Hotflush. Scuba, a Britain born artist who resides in Berlin is an iconic person for the later development of dubstep which is heading towards house or techno. Women also have their piece of cake – Vaccine, Ikonika or Subeena have their first releases. Experimentators such as Zomby flirts with dubstep. Also some jungle/drum and bass artists such as Chase and Status have some dubstep tracks on their first album „More Than A Lot” for Ram Records. The dubstep scene is getting more mainstream and mature.
„Night” by Benga and Coki still in the first five of the BBC1 dance chart hosted by Pete Tong.
Matyn , a Dutch artists, releases his first album ” Great Lengths” for his own label 3024. It is a very important production because it perfectly connects techno and dubstep sounds, but maybe it is not the most important moment for the whole movement already being in the great media attention. The dubstep djs and producers are performing everywhere in the world and are interviewed by the mainstream press interested in the „next big thing” . Skream releases a perfect remix of the electro-pop hit „In For The Kill by La Roux which brings the dubstep sound to the TV series and to the discotheques around the world. A veteran dj Zinc also produces a remix for La Roux, this time it is „Bulletproof” and the track easily becomes a club hit of the summer. There is a fresh blood on the scene- a youngster Joker incorporates the influences of the p-funk to dubstep. Silkie produces a great album called „City Limits vol.1″ for Deep Medi Music which is deeply rooted into funk and soul from the seventies.
2010 – 2011
Dubstep is a multinational, speeding fusion heading to a great success . Deep in the underground it inspired the whole new movement already labeled „postdubstep” or „future garage”. On the other hand some of the „old” producers achieved a mainstream success. Benga, Skream and Artwork’s project called Magnetic Man pushed the dubstep sound to the big festival stages. One pop-ravey hit ” I need Air ” was enough to conquer the charts and the to sign the album contract for Sony and to tour the world. Despite the great commercial success the guys remembered to keep the connection with „the old school” employing for their live shows MC Sgt Pokes from DMZ. There are more producers hungry for glory. Nero is one of them, there is also a club singer Katy B, who supported by Benga and the Rinse FM crew achieved quite a lot in British pop. Chase and Status are interested in getting to the mainstream too. Their second album sounds less underground and more charts friendly. We cannot forget about Breakage and Emalkay’s albums which are like perfect combinations of jungle and dubstep. Quite a lot is happening in the underground too- great album by Horsepower Production, of course Burial who is following his own path, and plenty of producers and djs from the beginning are also active.