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What the hell is Dubstep?

I’ve heard this word used extensively to describe a genre of music frequently played at hookah bars, frat parties and coffee shop DJ sets. “What is this?” “Dubstep.” “Hm.”

Dark and spasmatic, grungy and teeth-gnashing, dubstep is the sonic equivalent of an epileptic seizure. The Cain to disco’s Abel. Daft Punk on acid. “I want to kill everybody in the world,” trills the hook of Skrillex’s “Kill Everybody.” Put simply: this isn’t your mother’s “Dancing Queen.”

More straightforward, though, dubstep is defined by as electronic dance music with “overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals.” The primarily instrumental genre is more than a decade old, coming out of South London at the turn of the century, a product of UK garage producers experimenting with drum and bass elements and 2-step. From this it earned its distinct rhythmic irregularity, relying more on percussion loops than the traditional four-to-the-floor, boom-boom-boom-boom bass hits of techno and house music.

Then there’s the, at times, crunching distortion, the epic breakdowns, the wobble bass (Yes, that’s right, wobble bass. Check it out.) and the talking bass, not to be confused with the other kind of talking bass.

Put it all together and you get this. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park, “Hold on to your butts.”

For more Dubstep, check out Foster the People, Skream, Benga, Nero, Magnetic Man and Mary Anne Hobbs. / Issue 128 - September 2018
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