So to follow on from my feature in the mag I’ve had a few requests to supplement ‘2009: The Year That Dubstep Broke’ with a playlist blog feature. So I put together a timeline of references.
For anyone who’s a wee bit lost – the feature was based around the fact that this year we’ve seen what over the past decade has not only consolidated itself as the most important British dance-culture of the past 10 years, but arguably organic UK genre, full-stop, explode in alarming fashion.
Not only commercially speaking (with the likes of La Roux’s Skream remix, Rusko’s Prodigy fiddling, Chase N Status’ Snoop hook-up and Benga and Eve’s dalliance) but in a permeating series of hybrids and offshoots which have pushed the sound into directions the like of which we haven’t really seen in any dance sub-genre before.
So without further ado, here’s a chronological list of a few select highlights that hopefully give some insight to dubstep’s evolution and development. Please bear in mind that I was limited to stuff I could track down on YouTube, so there were obvs a load of choice cuts that are missed. Also, there’s only so much space, so obviously plenty of ‘anthems’ are missed below. I’ve more concentrated on tracks that display a ‘development’ in the sound, as well as definitive classics. So please don’t use this as a platform to bitch at me.
Garage kingpin Zed Bias (with bigman Steve Gurley coming correct, as always, on the remix) visibly start punting 2-step garage into moodier territories, using samples and sounds taken from ‘darkside’ drum’n’bass’ palette via the sound’s rasta/dub heritage. This is from 1998! Crazy.
Zed Bias again, this time with El-B on the remix, another key proto-dubstep pioneer. Skanking in a quagmire of sub-bass.
This is the first release on Tempa, the now legendary imprint started by dubstep behemoths Ammunition Promotions (who also run synonymous clubnight FWD>>, and various other proto-dubstep and dubstep labels inc: Soulja, Road, Vehicle, Shelflife, Texture, Lifestyle and Bingo). Horsepower became dubstep’s first poster-boys when they graced the cover of XLR8R, in July 2002, which was the first recognised public coining of the term.
Oris Jay sticking to that pacey, skipping tempo but getting trigger happy with the sub and ragga-esque samples.
Kode 9’s debut on Tempa, ‘Fat Larry’s Skank’ – 2step at its most smoked out.
Starting to take shape, it’s Skream and Benga’s ‘The Judgement’, the third release on Big Apple Records, the imprint from the Croydon shop that became a hub for all the early activity. Both these chaps worked behind the counter. The mood is eerie, the sub is splurging and wobbling all over the place, though the beats are still double time. The kind of stuff Hatcha was establishing in his sets at FWD>> (then still called ‘FORWARD>>’) in its early residency at Charing Cross’ Velvet Rooms.
Off the second release on OG dreads Digital Mystikz DMZ label, ‘Dubsession’, it’s ‘Lost City’. I chose this one rather than the first ‘Twisup’, as it’s their first with that now signature half-time lollop. Things are starting to feel sparser, more clipped, and even creepier than before. Listen to those Psycho-synth-string stabs and those unmistakable DMZ cymbal ‘cracks’.
Croydon resident and Big Apple regular customer Plasticman released what would become his first trademark tune in 04, ‘Cha’. He would become one of the bridges between dubstep and its petulant little brother, grime.
Here MCs Shizzle and Napper vocal it with grimey consequences.
Then more Croydon locals Slaughter Mob, with a track off Reflex’s (misleadingly entitled) ‘Grime’ compilation ‘Fireweaver’.
First up, one of the first signs of crossover smash for the recently established genre and sub-culture, Skream’s ‘Midnight Request Line’. Arguably still the genre’s biggest classic.
Then Burial’s first release who would of course become one of the sound’s mainstream purveyor’s, in time. Although his Hyperdub label boss Kode 9 maintains that it’s not strictly dubstep, more what he terms ‘haunted garage’.
Loefah on the DMZ label with ‘Mud’ – I remember hearing this on Mary Anne Hobbs’ catalyst Radio 1 Breezeblock special ‘Dubstep Warz’ this same year and thinking, ‘big’.
Flying Lotus (a member of the Coltrane family) takes things all hip hop Stateside with his debut.
Leeds lad Rusko starts shaking things up with wacky video game samples, and jump-up dubstep is created. The sound of purist sneering beckons…
Minimal techno legend Ricardo Villalobos remixes Shackelton’s ‘Blood On My Hands’, as the Croydon/Berlin axis opens.
Benga and Coki’s ‘Night’ becomes the first dubstep track to achieve daytime Radio 1 air time.
WTF!?!?! Even Britney’s getting in on the action, pinching ‘the wobbler’ sample. Shameless, kinda good though.
Just love this Coki Richie Spice remix of ‘Burnin’ too much to not include it.
‘Arch Angel’ off Burial’s Mercury Prize nominated album, ‘Untrue’.
Glasgow’s Rustie’s turning away from the sub and getting all ‘wonky’ with the mid-range frequencies, on ‘Zig Zag’.
Silkie’s mixing in funk’n’soul production with ‘Poltigeist’.
And Bristol’s breakthrough Joker brings a sound that blends hip hop, grime, electro and funk to rigid, ferocious effect on ‘Snake Eater’.
Rusko’s going ‘thug-step’ with his smash ‘Cockney Thug’, the beats are even bouncier and the samples more cartoony, it gains the sound lots of new fans, and alienates himself from many of the originators.
Who’d have thunk it would take a hyper-stripped dubstep/rave ‘hands to the sky’ moment to power La Roux to Number Two for weeks on end and bestow Skream with certified Gold Status? One of those special moments in chart history.
Croydon kid Joy Orbison gets all blissed-out and Balaeric with his underground hit ‘Hyph Mngo’
Commercial D’n’B producers Chase N Status bring Snoop into the fray.
West London bedroom fiddler Pariah takes things back to the smoother liquid coffee-table sounds of latter day garage, though on a decidedly more down-beat tip. Here he remixes The XX’s ‘Basic Space’, one of the first guitar bands to borrow from dubstep’s low-end production palette.
And perhaps most bizarrely of all, teen synth-metal pin-ups Enter Shikari dive headfirst into dubstep’s bass quake, on newie ‘Havoc B’.