what is dubstep music
Music Industry

What Is Dubstep Music? 8 Best Examples & History

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Written By Will Fenton
Music Industry

What Is Dubstep Music? 8 Best Examples & History

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Electronic dance music known as “dubstep” first appeared in the UK, specifically in South London, in the early 2000s. 

Heavy basslines, complex rhythms, and gloomy, brooding atmospheres are trademarks of the genre that make for an original listening experience. 

One of the most well-known subgenres of electronic music, dubstep has influenced innumerable musicians and producers all over the world.

The dense arrangements, rhythmic rhythms, and deep basslines are characteristics of dubstep music. 

With a half-time drum pattern that puts emphasis on the kick and snares on the first and third beats of each bar, dubstep often has a speed that is in the region of 140 beats per minute (BPM). 

Dubstep basslines frequently have intricate syncopations and rhythms and are typically low-frequency and highly distorted.

To create a gloomy, brooding mood that emphasizes tension and release, dubstep also uses ambient and textural elements like reverb, delay, and vocal samples. 

Drops, a distinctive element of dubstep music, are defined by abrupt, jarring shifts in rhythm and intensity. 

Drops frequently have a powerful bassline and other aural components that make for an engrossing listening experience.

Importance of Dubstep Music in Cultural Expression & Entertainment.

Dubstep music has played an important role in cultural expression and entertainment since its inception in the early 2000s. 

Here are a few reasons why.

Dubstep Is a Form of Cultural Expression

For young people, dubstep music has become a crucial form of cultural expression. 

Dubstep culture has its distinctive dance, fashion, and visual arts forms that have merged with broader youth culture. 

Dubstep music has also been used as a tool for social commentary, with many artists using their music to express their opinions on social and political issues.

Dubstep Music Has Contributed to the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music

Dubstep music has been a significant contributor to the evolution of electronic dance music

The genre has introduced new sounds, rhythms, and production techniques that have influenced other genres and sub-genres within electronic music. 

Dubstep has been particularly influential in the development of bass music, with many bass music artists incorporating dubstep elements into their music.

Dubstep Has Had a Significant Impact on the Entertainment Industry

Dubstep music has had an impact on film, television, and video games. 

Dubstep’s capacity to produce a dramatic and emotional atmosphere has led to its frequent use in video game soundtracks, television advertising, and movie trailers. 

Additionally, a lot of musicians have worked together with game designers and filmmakers to compose original music for their works.

Dubstep Has Created a Dedicated Fanbase and Community

A devoted fanbase and community have developed around dubstep, and they are still supporting the music today. 

Fans meet at dubstep concerts and festivals all around the world to take in the music and culture of the subgenre. 

Dubstep has also created a community of artists, producers, and DJs who collaborate and share their music and their fans.

History of Dubstep Music

Dubstep music has a rich history that spans thousands of years and has undergone significant changes and transformations throughout time. 

Below are some key highlights of the history of secular music.

Origins & Influences

In the early 2000s, South London, UK, became the birthplace of dubstep music. 

Different musical genres, such as 2-step garage, dub, drum and bass, and reggae, came together to form the genre. 

The Jamaican dub music culture, where producers would remix pre-existing tracks and add their own original sounds and effects, had a significant influence on dubstep.

The early dubstep sound was characterized by its sparse, bass-heavy compositions, half-time drums, and syncopated rhythms. 

The genre was also heavily influenced by the UK garage, which was popular in the UK during the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

UK Garage combined elements of garage house and jungle music and was known for its soulful vocals and 4/4 rhythms.

Producer and DJ Hatcha was a prominent player in the early dubstep genre. 

In 2001, he started playing dubstep music on his radio show on London’s Kiss FM, which contributed to the genre’s rise in popularity there.

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In the early dubstep scene, Skream, Benga, Digital Mystikz, and Coki were other important players.

Dubstep was also influenced by other musical genres, including dub, which began in Jamaica in the 1960s. 

Reverb and delay effects were frequently used in dub music, and the bassline was prioritized. 

These components were blended into dubstep producers’ music, resulting in a dark, atmospheric sound that was captivating and ominous.

In addition to these influences, drum, and bass, which were well-liked in the UK during the 1990s, also influenced dubstep. 

Drum and bass were known for their quick, frantic rhythms and frequent usage of breakbeats. 

Drum and bass were slowed down by dubstep producers to achieve a more tranquil and open sound.

Evolution & Diversification:

Since its creation in the early 2000s, dubstep has evolved. 

Producers started experimenting with various sounds and influences as the genre gained popularity, giving rise to subgenres like brostep, future garage, and trapstep.

Brostep, also known as “dubstep’s aggressive younger brother,” emerged in the late 2000s and was characterized by its heavy use of distorted bass, complex sound design, and intense drops. 

This sub-genre was popularized by artists such as Skrillex, Excision, and Datsik, and became a controversial topic within the dubstep community due to its departure from the genre’s original sound.

UK garage, 2-step, and house music were influences on the future garage, which is a more melodic and soulful subgenre of dubstep. 

Pioneers of this sub-genre, which was typified by the use of chopped vocal samples, eerie soundscapes, and complex rhythms, included Burial, Joy Orbison, and Mount Kimbie.

Beyond the boundaries of the genre itself, dubstep has influenced other types of music, with elements showing up in hip-hop, pop, and rock. 

This is evident in the music of musicians like Rihanna, Coldplay, and Kanye West, who have all incorporated dubstep-inspired elements into their compositions.

Dubstep Goes Mainstream

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, dubstep started to develop public appeal as the genre attracted a lot of attention and became a worldwide sensation. 

Dubstep was an electronic music genre that swiftly gained popularity thanks to its distinctive sound design, complex rhythms, and powerful basslines.

As the popularity of dubstep increased, musicians and producers started working with well-known hip-hop and pop performers, which served to further popularize the genre. 

This may be evident in collaborations between dubstep musicians like Skrillex and Diplo and pop singers like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, as well as in the use of dubstep-inspired sounds in the music of hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West.

The sound of dubstep has also been incorporated into other media, including video games, television series, and movies. 

This is evident in how dubstep is used in the soundtracks of blockbuster films like “Transformers” and “The Avengers,” as well as highly-liked video games like “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed.”

Dubstep remained a contentious subject among its supporters and in the music industry despite its popularity among the general public. 

While some purists believed that the genre had deviated too far from its origins, others embraced the fresh ideas and subgenres that resulted from dubstep’s development.

The Dubstep Scene

The genre was greatly influenced by the underground dubstep scene, which also propelled it to the mainstream of electronic dance music. 

DJs and producers in the UK’s underground club scenes were experimenting with new sounds and styles when dubstep first appeared. 

This experimentation resulted in the creation of a distinctive sound that is distinguished by its robust basslines and gloomy, menacing atmospheres.

The clubs, venues, and festivals that held dubstep events served as the hub of the scene, giving DJs, producers, and artists a stage on which to present their work. 

These gatherings frequently exhibited a strong sense of community, with musicians and fans coming together to honor the genre.

The London nightclub Plastic People, which held a regular event called FWD>> that became renowned as the genesis of dubstep, was one of the most significant locations in the dubstep culture. 

The gathering served as a gathering place for the genre’s early pioneers, such as Hatcha and Skream, and it contributed to the development of the dubstep sound that would later acquire widespread acclaim.

Brostep and future garage are two emerging subgenres and styles that were greatly influenced by the dubstep era. 

As musicians and producers started incorporating fresh sounds and influences into their music, these sub-genres emerged to reflect the wide variety of styles and influences present in the underground scene.

Dubstep Today

Since its beginnings in the underground club scenes of the United Kingdom, dubstep has come a long way. 

The genre has changed and expanded in modern times, with new sub-genres and styles always developing. 

Although dubstep’s fundamental components, such as its powerful basslines and complex rhythms, never change, the genre’s distinctive sound continues to develop and incorporate new influences.

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One trend that is emerging within the dubstep genre is a renewed interest in the more experimental and avant-garde aspects of music. 

Artists and producers are incorporating elements from other genres, such as ambient music, into their dubstep tracks, creating a sound that is more atmospheric and introspective than ever before.

Another trend that is becoming increasingly popular in the dubstep genre is the use of new technologies and production techniques. 

Many producers are now using virtual instruments and software plugins to create their music, allowing them to experiment with new sounds and textures that were previously unavailable.

Looking ahead, it is obvious that dubstep will continue to develop and change in response to fresh influences and vogue. 

Although some critics have predicted the end of the genre, dubstep festivals, and events continue to be popular, indicating that the genre has a long way to go. 

One thing is certain, the sound of dubstep will continue to inspire and influence a new generation of producers and musicians for years to come, whether it continues to enter the mainstream or remains an underground phenomenon. 

8 Best Examples of Dubstep Music

1. “Midnight Request Line” by Skream

“Midnight Request Line” by Skream is a quintessential example of early dubstep music. 

The track was released in 2005 on the Tempa record label and quickly became a hit among fans of the genre. 

The song features a heavy bassline and a sparse, minimalistic beat that creates a dark and brooding atmosphere.

The haunting melody that “Midnight Request Line” has, which is produced by a straightforward yet effective fusion of synths and samples, is what distinguishes it from other dubstep tunes. 

The song rises steadily, adding more and more layers of sound until it reaches a dramatic crescendo.

The popularity of “Midnight Request Line” contributed to Skream’s rise to prominence in the dubstep community and opened doors for other musicians interested in the genre’s potential. 

The song has been remixed and sampled innumerable times, and several modern producers have cited it as an inspiration in their productions. 

In general, “Midnight Request Line” stands as a timeless illustration of the dubstep sound and a tribute to Skream’s skill as a producer.

2. “Bass Cannon” by Flux Pavilion

“Bass Cannon” by Flux Pavilion is a classic example of the brostep subgenre of dubstep. 

Released in 2011, the track quickly became a massive hit and helped to cement Flux Pavilion’s reputation as one of the most innovative producers in the genre.

The song’s opening synth riff is instantly recognizable and sets the tone for the heavy bass drop that follows. 

The track features a driving beat and a variety of sonic textures, including vocal samples, sirens, and distorted guitar sounds.

The simplicity of “Bass Cannon” is what gives it such power. 

The song focuses on a few fundamental components to produce a strong and enduring sound, and it is this marriage of appealing melodies and robust bass that has made it so well-liked by dubstep enthusiasts.

The popularity of “Bass Cannon” contributed to Flux Pavilion’s rise to prominence as one of the pioneers of the brostep subgenre and has encouraged countless other artists to experiment with related sounds and production methods. 

The song is still regarded as a classic representation of dubstep sound and proof of the continued popularity of strong bass music.

3. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex

“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” is a dubstep classic that helped to bring the genre into the mainstream. 

Produced by Skrillex and released in 2010, the track features a highly distinctive and aggressive sound that has become synonymous with the brostep subgenre of dubstep.

At its core, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” is defined by its heavy, distorted bassline, which is punctuated by frenetic rhythms and jagged synth melodies. 

The track also features a range of other sonic elements, including vocal samples, sirens, and distorted guitar sounds, all of which contribute to its intense and highly energetic sound.

The popularity of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” contributed to Skrillex becoming one of the top dubstep producers, and it has encouraged a huge number of other musicians and producers to experiment with related sounds and production methods. 

The song is still regarded as a classic representation of dubstep today and is proof of the continued popularity of music with powerful, aggressive bass.

4. “Strobe” (Special Features Remix) by Deadmau5

The Deadmau5 track “Strobe” by Special Features takes the already well-liked progressive house track and gives it a new depth with a powerful dubstep drop. 

Since its initial release in 2010, the remix has grown in popularity among dubstep fans. 

A big dubstep drop that hits with strong energy follows a gradual build-up with beautiful, atmospheric sounds that inspire anticipation. 

The drop is distinguished by its robust bassline, pounding drums, and glitchy sound effects, which are all defining elements of the dubstep subgenre.

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The remix showcases the versatility of dubstep as a genre and its ability to blend with other genres seamlessly. 

The track has become a classic among both Deadmau5 and dubstep fans and continues to be played at festivals and clubs around the world. 

The remix also helped to further establish the popularity of dubstep and its ability to cross over into other genres of electronic music.

5. “Tetris” by Doctor P

Released in 2010, “Tetris” by Doctor P is a dubstep track that quickly became a classic in the genre. 

The track features a playful and catchy melody, accompanied by a heavy, wobbly bassline that has become synonymous with the dubstep sound. 

The track’s name references the classic video game Tetris, and the melody incorporates the game’s iconic theme.

“Tetris” showcases Doctor P’s production skills, with a variety of sounds and effects layered over the track’s driving beat. 

The track’s use of sampling and manipulation of video game sounds has become a staple in dubstep music, with many other producers using similar techniques in their own tracks.

“Tetris” has been featured in numerous live sets and DJ mixes, and its popularity has led to Doctor P becoming one of the most recognized and respected producers in the dubstep scene. 

The track’s energy and playfulness have helped it endure as a classic in the genre, and it remains a fan favorite to this day.

6. “Hold On” (ft. Amber Coffman) by Rusko

Released in 2010, “Hold On” is a seminal track by the British dubstep producer Rusko, featuring the ethereal vocals of Amber Coffman. 

The track begins with a delicate piano riff and Coffman’s vocals, building gradually with layers of synths and percussion. 

As the track progresses, it culminates in a massive, wobbling bassline that has become a signature of the dubstep sound.

The usage of melody and melodic choruses in “Hold On” sets it apart from other dubstep songs. 

While the synth melodies and counter-melodies weave in and out of the track, creating a sense of tension and release, Coffman’s vocals give it a haunting and emotional quality. 

In terms of the development of dubstep, “Hold On” is a turning moment since it shows that the genre is capable of becoming more than just powerful bass drops and furious rhythms. 

It cleared the path for additional melodic and experimental dubstep tunes and assisted in popularizing the genre.

7. “Promises” (Skrillex & Nero Remix) by Nero

The Skrillex and Nero remix of “Promises” is a standout track in the world of dubstep. 

Released in 2011, the remix features the signature distorted bass and frenetic rhythms that have become synonymous with the genre. 

The track begins with a haunting vocal sample that quickly gives way to a pulsing beat, building up to a massive dubstep drop that hits hard and fast. 

The drop is built around a chopped-up sample of the original track’s vocals, creating a glitchy, stuttering effect that adds to the track’s sense of energy and urgency.

The remix was a massive hit upon its release and helped to cement Skrillex’s status as one of the leading figures in the dubstep scene. 

Its popularity led to the track being played at festivals and clubs around the world, and it has since become one of the most iconic dubstep tracks of all time. 

The Skrillex and Nero remix of “Promises” is a prime example of how dubstep has evolved over the years, blending elements of various genres to create something entirely new and exciting.

8. “Cracks” (ft. Belle Humble) by Freestylers

“Cracks” is a 2010 track by the British electronic music duo Freestylers featuring the vocals of Belle Humble. 

The song combines elements of dubstep, electro, and pop music to create a unique sound that has appealed to fans across multiple genres. 

The track features a catchy vocal hook that is complemented by a heavy bassline and a variety of electronic sounds and effects.

The song has been widely popular, receiving airplay on radio stations and in clubs around the world.

It has also been remixed by several other artists, further extending its reach and popularity.

The chorus of “Cracks,” delivered by Belle Humble, is one of the song’s standout elements. 

The lyrics talk about how tough it is to keep a relationship together and how even the strongest relationships can develop flaws. 

Fans of both dubstep and pop music have come to love the song’s combination of exuberant rhythms and depressing lyrics, and it is still a well-liked tune today.

What Is Dubstep Music? – Final Thoughts

Heavy basslines, complex rhythms, and the use of effects such as reverb, delay, and filtering are all characteristics of dubstep. 

The unique sound design and high energy of dubstep have greatly influenced the electronic dance music scene, with many producers and DJs finding inspiration there.

Dubstep has grown in popularity throughout its existence as it changed and included new sounds and influences. 

The genre is still a well-liked and significant subgenre of electronic dance music despite opposition from purists and skeptics. 

Dubstep’s impact on the live music scene is also significant, with many artists incorporating live visuals and lighting effects to create an immersive experience for their audiences. 

Despite its reputation for being loud and abrasive, dubstep remains a powerful and emotionally resonant genre of music that continues to push the boundaries of electronic dance music.

In conclusion, whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the impact that dubstep has had on the world of music. 

It’s a genre that continues to evolve and inspire, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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Will Fenton

Introduced to good music at a young age through my father. The first record I remember being played was "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley, I must've been six years old. By the time I was seven, I was taking drum lessons once a week. The challenge but the euphoric feeling of learning a new song was addicting, and I suppose as they say the rest was history. Favorite album of all time? Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones Best gig you've ever been to? Neil Young at Desert Trip in 2016 Media mentions: Evening Standard Daily Mail

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