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Dubstep is the name given to the largely South London-based dark garage sound that originally came out of productions by El-B (as part of both Groove Chronicles and the Ghost camp), Zed Bias (aka Phuturistix, Maddslinky and more) and Steve Gurley in 1999-2000. Like another garage hybrid, grime, it uses dark sounds, but differs from grime as it's largely instrumental. It also predates the evolution of grime by several years.


Origins and Early Dubstep

The term 'dubstep' was coined by Ammunition Promotions and first used on an XLR8R magazine cover that featured Horsepower Productions. It gained full acceptance with the Dubstep Allstars Vol 1 CD (Tempa) mixed by DJ Hatcha.

The key touch points of the early dubstep sound were Croydon's now defunct Big Apple shop and rejuvenated Big Apple records that pushed the sound. Producers and DJs in the Croydon area included El-B and Jay Da Flex from Ghost, Hatcha, Menta/Artwork, Skream and Benga from Big Apple records, and Horsepower. Zed Bias also contributed a great deal of productions to the early sound. Steve Gurley (ex of Foul Play) had also experimented with darker 2step.

Horsepower released records on the Tempa label, alongside Big Apple one of the first distinctly dubstep labels. Tempa was run by Ammunition Promotions, the other key touch point for the early development of dubstep. Since 2001, Ammunition have been responsible for a raft of labels like Tempa, Soulja, Road, Vehicle, Shelflife, Texture, Stealth People, Bingo and more - though to date only Soulja, Bingo, Road and Tempa remain active.


Ammunition also run club Forward>>, originally held at the Velvet Rooms in London's Soho and now running twice a month out of Plastic People in Shoreditch, east London. This club was critical in the development of dubstep, providing the first venue devoted to the sound and an environment in which producers could premier new music. Forward>> also run a radio show on key east London pirate station Rinse FM, hosted by producer/DJ Kode 9, owner of the pioneering Hyperdub label.

Also part of Forward>> from the start were other strains of garage hybrids. One style of early grime, then called '8bar', was played here by DJs like Slimzee (then of Pay As U Go, now part of Rinse FM). These flavours allowed producers like Croydon's Plasticman and Manchester's Mark One to come through with their own takes on the grime sound. The summer of 2005 has seen Forward>> bring grime DJs to the fore of the line up with Roll Deep, Jammer, Geeneus, Newham Generals performing with their respective MCs.

Forward>> also attracted the attention of Rinse FM DJs, who around 2003 opened up their schedule to dubstep DJs during a time where the traditional garage scene had turned their back on the sound. Rinse FM became a vital lifeline for the sound, strengthening the connection between dubstep and its urban London surroundings, while also allowing the scene to incubate new ideas.

Dubstep Today

Throughout 2003 on Rinse FM and through his sets at Forward>>, DJ Hatcha began pioneering a new direction for dubstep, one that was to finally establish the scene as a distinct and new sound. Playing sets cut to 10" one-off reggae-style dubplates, he drew exclusively from a rich pool of new South London producers - first Benga and Skream, then also Digital Mystikz and Loefah - to pioneer a dark, clipped and minimal new direction in dubstep. The addition of Digital Mystikz to Hatcha sets brought with them an expanded palate of sounds and influences, most prominently reggae and dub, but also strange mystical melodies.

The south London collective Digital Mystikz (Mala and Coki) and Loefah soon came into their own, bringing sound system thinking, dub values, and appreciation of jungle bass weight to the dubstep scene - and with it a new lease on life. After 12"s on Big Apple, they began their own DMZ label, which has released seven 12"s to date. They also began their night DMZ, held every two months in Brixton, a part of London steeped in reggae history. Showcasing the best in new dubstep talent (such as Skream, N-Type, Scuba, Kode 9, D1, Random Trio, Chef, Joe Nice, Pinch, DJ Youngsta, Distinction, Vex'd and Blackdown ) and backed by a massive, sub-bass boosted sound system, the night is currently the benchmark dubstep night worldwide. Only Subloaded, Bristol's dubstep night promoted by DJ Pinch and the Context crew, can compare to DMZ's sound system in weight.

Another key turning point for the scene were the two misnamed 'Grime' compilations put together by Rephlex (assisted by Ammunition). Featuring Plasticman, Mark One and Slaughter Mob on the first volume, and Kode 9, Loefah and Digital Mystikz on the second, it introduced the different flavours to the global electronica audience, the repercussions of which can be seen in current productions and club nights.

2006 saw a massive expansion of interest in the sound. Building on the success of Skream's 2005 grimey anthem 'Midnight Request Line,' the hype around the DMZ night and support from online forums and bloggers, the scene exploded after Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs gathered the cream of the scene together for one show, entitled 'Dubstep Warz.' The effect was to create a massive new audience for the scene, both in the UK and worldwide, after years of underground hard graft.


There is a breakbeat influenced side of garage - originally called breakbeat garage, now more often referred to as 'breakstep.' This sound is not to be confused with dubstep itself, although there is some cross-over between artists.

Breakstep evolved from the 2 step garage sound. Moving away from the more soulful elements of garage, it incorporated downtempo drum & bass style basslines, trading the shuffle of 2 step for a more straight forward breakbeat drum pattern. The breakthrough for this style came in 1999 from DJ Deekline's 'I Don't Smoke' selling 15,000 units on Rat Records until eventually being licenced to EastWest in 2000 and climbing the top 40 UK chart to no.11. Following this came DJ Zinc's '138 Trek,' an experiment with drum & bass production at garage tempo (138 bpm). This instigated a dialog between breaks and garage producers, with Forward>> playing host to Zed Bias and Oris Jay (aka Darqwan). They were mirrored in breaks by producers like DJ Quest, Osmosis and Ed209. Current descendents of these artists include Toasty Boy, Mark One, Search & Destroy, Quiet Storm, DJ Distance, Reza, Slaughter Mob, Blackmass Plastics, Warlock and the Hotflush Recordings camp.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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