Evolution of Dubstep in Popular Culture

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  • Topic: Techno, House music, Rave
  • Pages : 10 (3657 words )
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  • Published : April 15, 2013
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Introduction and The Origins of Dubstep
If you were asked ten years ago what dubstep was, chances are you probably would have never heard of it before. At the time it was still in its experimental stage and only existed in dance clubs in South London. Since then, the popularity of dubstep has grown rather quickly in comparison to musical genres of the past. Now, dubstep is everywhere. It has a large following of fans, it is all over the Internet, it can be heard on popular radio and television, and new artists are constantly emerging all around the world. A quote from writer Karl Puschmann describes the rapid spread of dubstep: “The sound has blown up terribly quickly but it’s fair to say the masses haven’t really got a handle on what it is, what it sounds like, and just why other people like it.” The problem is, will the masses ever really understand what dubstep was originally all about? Or will the origins of a music genre that grew so quickly be completely lost in cultural appropriation and its meaning will transform into something entirely different? In this paper I will examine how dubstep has entered into mainstream music and media and how this has caused the meanings of dubstep to evolve and change by analyzing the particular visual styles and culture surrounding the genre and its followers. Dubstep is a style of music that emerged on the electronic dance music scene in South London during the late 1990s. In the beginning, tracks were very experimental, spreading through an underground network of dance clubs and pirate radio. It wasn’t until 2002 that the term dubstep was first used to describe the genre as the sound became more noticeable and distinct, differentiating from other genres of electronic music. Dubstep began to spread outside of the London underground scene once it hit the Internet in 2005 and 2006 with tracks like Skream’s “Midnight Line Request”, which allowed it to reach the masses. One example of a dubstep movement emerging in a location outside the United Kingdom, is the dubstep scene in New Zealand pioneered by artist Charlie Brown, better known as Optimus Gryme. He states: “A lot of dubstep is made and manufactured for the dance floor which I must admit sounds like robot poo. It’s two notes heavily distorted and that’s the dubstep that most people are hearing,” he says. “I wanted to showcase all the other styles that are available. New Zealand dubstep has its own sound and its own style and I just wanted to show the people that and, for want of a better word, educate them.”

Even with his own “kiwi twist” the music still holds true to the historical roots described by Michael White. Optimus Gryme explains that New Zealand dubstep is “a lot more dubby, with a dub reggae/roots vide to it”. Looking at what took place in New Zealand shows how flexible dubstep is in terms of personal expression. When asked by Karl Puschmann if there are many producers around New Zealand, Optimus Gryme laughs and explains that you’ll always meet someone who has a friend or brother who produces dubstep. This offers yet another explanation to why dubstep diffused throughout culture so quickly.

Dubstep’s unique sound was heavily influenced by styles like grime, two-step, and drum n’ bass. There were so many subgenres branching off of dance music, and so much experimentation occurring, that it was rare for a single electronic style to emerge that had its own set of distinguishing characteristics. Since so many things were happening in the electronic dance music scene at the time it’s difficult to trace the style’s exact origins and influences. Michael Wilson, in his article “Bubble and Squeak” gives a broader history of the origins of dubstep that’s much easier to clearly understand and disect: “The "dub" and "step" components of the hybrid form's name have their origins in two very different traditions. Dub in its pure form is a subset of 1970s Jamaican reggae, derived from the production of instrumental...
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