In the pop culture of the past few years EDM music has become unavoidable if you have any contact with modern music. From Daft Punk’s first studio album in eight years, “Random Access Memories,” maintaining a number one spot for two weeks until falling to the second spot in the third week (where it remains), to Diplo seemingly producing for every major name that the Hip Hop genre has to offer and running his own incredibly successful label “Mad Decent”. Of course, we cannot forget the one who first became a common knowledge name to those who didn’t even pay attention to electronic music, the poster-child of the modern EDM scene, Skrillex. EDM is definitely on the upswing and has been for a number of years now, but it wasn’t always the thriving scene it is now. Sure electronic music has had an underground following since bands like Kraftwerk were still relevant, but never has it been on mainstream radio to the extent that it is today. Before Dubstep made it’s way to North American shores it was fighting for it’s own identity.
The earliest music that one can definitively hear dubstep influence in come from remixes found on the B-side tracks of Two-Step Garage singles released in the U.K. Not unlike it’s seemingly namesake, Dub, which began as B-side remixes of Reggae singles. Similarly, Grime, a genre that came about at the same time as the first dubstep remixes, also relied heavily on Two-Step Garage. Each sub-genre was fighting for a leg up on the other in the underground UK club scene. While they both stemmed from the same style at the same time Grime focused much more on the lyrical part of the music, while Dubstep chose to move towards a deeper, darker instrumental style.
This darker, more minimalist style is what really gave Dubstep and individual following and a name for itself. Artists such as Skream, Digital Mystikz (a duo consisting of Mala and Coki), and Benga came to the forefront to mold this new genre of dance music into the wobble sound we know and love today. Dubstep began to incorporate jungle beats, reggae sound, and a wider range of instruments. Digital Mystikz also created DMZ records which promoted artists such as Benga, Kode 9, and Skream, unifying them under the same flag and moving the sound in the same direction. Though dubstep had found it’s niche in the UK dance scene it had yet to make much of an appearance in the North American or Eastern circuits.
Related: FROM DUBSTEP TO DISCO: SKREAM
The large success of Coki and Benga’s single “Night” and it’s long stay at the top of the UK charts along with the success of other producers gave reason for the rest of the world to acknowledge this new style. Around 2006 Dubstep club nights began popping up in major cities such as New York, Seattle, Montreal, Houston, and Denver. Though dubstep influences, such as the signature wobble, can be heard on tracks as far back as Britney Spears’ song Freakshow from 2007, using a dubstep producer and a dubstep beat on mainstream American music didn’t begin occurring until around 2009 when Rihanna and other hip hop artists collaborated with American and UK dubstep producers on albums. By this time Dubstep had made it to Japan despite cultural and geographic boundaries along with the help of artists Goth-trad, Hyaku-mado, and Doppelganger. With all this, Dubstep still had yet to show it’s true potential in the Western world.
The genre seemed to truly become noticed in the mainstream when English synthpop duo La Roux allowed their songs “In For The Kill” and “Bulletproof” to be remixed by artists Skream and Zinc respectively. With this listeners and producers alike seemed to recognize Dubstep’s ability to remix just about anything and make it sound good. An avalanche and years of endless dubstep remixes would soon follow, remixing everything from Inspector Gadget’s theme song (Chrispy) to songs by Ellie Goulding (just about every Dubstep producer who ever remixed something). Soon, Skrillex would emerge bearing the beast known as “Brostep” and would become the posterchild of the genre and the most popular EDM artist behind Deadmau5, and Daft Punk.
This beast, adequately dubbed “Brostep” for its mass appeal to the younger audience particularly the college-aged, males) would rocket Skrillex to fame. This aggressive, stop and go style , featuring screeching high notes alternated with growling, often vowel sounding mid-range notes would rapidly overtake the already established style of Dubstep. Brostep would draw from UK producers such as Rusko and Caspa, who utilized a mid-range instrument as the main focus of the melody as opposed to the sub-bass focus the pioneers of the genre used Though most of the people who called this newer Dubstep “Brostep” used the term pejoratively, the applicability to the party lifestyle of the youth culture and the new, ingenuitive sound is an undeniable attraction to the genre. It’s almost comparable to 2-chainz, or Waka Flocka. It’s fun to listen to at a party, though it isn’t exactly the first thing to turn to if you’re looking for some deep lyrics to tug at your heart strings.
The rise of Dubstep and EDM into the american mainstream media has turned the tide of popular music towards pounding beats and catchy synth melodies. In the past year a sub-genre of EDM has emerged and grown in popularity as well. Trap music started in the early 2000’s in the dirty South with artists from Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta, among others. Rappers such as UGK, Three 6 Mafia, T.I. and Gucci Mane made the genre popular within the hip hop community. Later artists such as Waka Flocka added their ignorant, party style of rap and crunked up the beat…and then EDM producers got hold of it.
American EDM producers did to trap music what American EDM producers have shown us they do to music genres: turn up the aggression and pump it full of bass. And they couldn’t have done it any sooner. Brostep was losing it’s novelty and something would have to take the reigns soon or EDM would fall right back off the map. The Trap music that belongs to the EDM side of Trap and less to the rap/hip-hop side of Trap features faster paced, more dance-able basslines, and synth melodies that are almost comparable to heavy House music. Surprisingly someone saw it fit to throw in samples from Hardstyle, a fast paced genre that was, and still is in some places, very popular in the rave community a few years ago. Oddly enough the slower Trap music and the faster, more aggressive Hardstyle go well together when used as a build-to-drop transition combo. The hip-hop community has responded surprisingly well to the new style. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame is even releasing a Trap album featuring artists like Diplo, Skrillex, Flosstradamus and supposedly even Miley Cyrus. Who knows what will come of that combination, though Waka Flocka’s ignorant rap style is sure to mesh well with the bouncing bump of Trap. Other artists have been collaborating and dipping into the EDM glory hole as well.
Artists who range back as far as The Doors, and Slash are collaborating with artists. In the case of The Doors, who got in the studio with Skrillex, had no idea who the beast carrying Brostep producer was until they met him. Metal band Korn, possibly recognizing the similarities between hard hitting Dubstep and their own style, collaborated with acts such as Kill the Noise, 12th Planet, Excision and several others on their 10th studio album called “The Path of Totality”. The result is honestly not to far from what they made before, but the added sub-bass and synthesizers brought to the table by EDM add even more to the experience and provide a range of sounds and techniques not before possible without tampering with the recording a crazy amount in the studio. An even weirder combination is the track made by David Bowie and Goldie. With David Bowie coming from his unforgetfull classic Space Oddity and the rock genre, and Goldie coming from the Drum n’ Bass scene one would assume that whatever would come of this duo would be some crazy, trippy, dark sounding stuff. Instead the track titled “Truth” is something of an ambient noise track, without really much to it. Collaborations with artists who one wouldn’t normally associate with the EDM genre can produce some very interesting music, it can also produce some very weird and disappointing music. The right mix-and-match combo chemistry is a delicate thing when two artists come together to create one piece.
Who knows what will end up getting remixed and turned into the next bumping style to hump and do drugs to. I’ve got my bets on showtunes, but that’s just me. Maybe even a new and original genre will come to the top. Some genres to watch out for in the next year or so might be Disco, Funk, and Glitch Hop. People are most likely going to be looking for something that isn’t quite all thump and bang with screeching synths, and a little groove goes a long way when it comes to dance. With Disco-House gaining in popularity and Daft Punk’s new single “Get Lucky” having an undeniably Disco-esque vibe to it, disco may have the next slot in the EDM popularity schedule locked in.
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