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Dubstep Takeover of Radio 1 and Beyond

How Dubstep joined the mainstream.

by William Barns-graham, 20th January 2011

“2010’s most exciting new music genre” pronounced BBC Radio 1 on the night when they opened their gates to a constant stream of bass that was to last 12 hours. The movement of dubstep from underground cult to mainstream success has seen the greatest outpouring of creativity in British music for over a decade and this was rightly celebrated at the end of the year in which it finally sneaked into the main Radio 1 sets. 2010 was the year dubstep began to be played in the daytime as well as the night; the year where we even saw Katy B become the first dubstep popstar.

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Joining the mainstream

All of the dubstep legends, celebrated for their influence in the genre's rise, were in attendance – Skream and Benga were introduced as the main ‘rockstars’ of dubstep by the excited Annie Mac. Chase and Status and Katy B were interviewed and so was Nero who has been nominated for the increasingly prestigious BBC Sound of 2011 award. The ‘soundclash’ saw a horde of other dubstep stars competing against each other in a regional battle between London, the midlands, Manchester and Bristol. Zed Bias (credited with being one of the first garage DJs to have played tracks that could now be viewed as being dubstep tracks) judged and gave the London team of Plastician, DJ Chef and P-Money (mc) the title. The quality of the soundclash was high though and any of the four would have been worthy winners (my favourite was the Midlands team of Doctor P and Flux Pavilion from Circus records with Chunky as mc).

The great waves of bass kept on coming as the soundclash gave way to the future of dubstep before the station reflected on dubstep’s history with Ras Kwame going through the BBC’s dubstep archives. It was strange, however, that all of the acts and DJs bought in to talk about dubstep struggled to explain what it was. The Circus records crew were quick to note how many new listeners will often refer to the ‘wobble’ and how on YouTube you’ll often see comments about how a song is, for example, ‘dirtier than fingering your sister and finding your dad’s wedding ring’. They were dismissive of this, as of course they should be, but they were rightly keen not to dismiss that the grimy sound that such people associate with dubstep is a prominent feature of the genre. The ‘Dubstep Takeover’ was successful in featuring the great range of the different sounds and techniques used in dubstep. It showcased a timeline that ran through the garage, 2 step reggae and drum and bass origins up to the introduction of the wobble and into the increasingly techno sounds now coming through in modern dubstep. Benji B’s ‘Guide to Dubstep’ in particular succeeded in taking you on the dubstep journey from ‘Oris Jay to Magnetic Man’ which featured all of the different sounds that have occurred.

"The great waves of bass kept on coming as the soundclash gave way to the future of dubstep before the station reflected on dubstep’s history with Ras Kwame going through the BBC’s dubstep archives."

Even the legends of the sound struggled to describe the genre. Skream, when asked, laughed and said that it’s probably anything that uses bass and 140 beats per minute. Dubstep is therefore a wide area of music as you would expect of a genre that is used to describe both Shackleton and Caspa. Perhaps the biggest strength of dubstep is that it is a genre that keeps on giving to a wide range of people due to the broad range of sounds it can use. However, this strength is also the cause of the biggest annoyance of dubstep for some people – some people will dislike dubstep because it appears to be a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on, some will dislike how dubstep has recently become only about the ‘wobble’ and you’ll get some people who will be annoyed that their music taste is dismissed because they’ve only been listening to this music for a shorter time than people who they’d describe as being ‘dubstep snobs’.

Of course these opinions, that you often see being posited on YouTube, are irrelevant and the best thing about the Dubstep Takeover was that it tried to encapsulate the entirety of this genre: new and old music, artists and fans. It was no wonder then that some listeners texted in to note the ‘euphoria’ that came with knowing that they were listening to and enjoying the same music as millions of other people and the fact that this music was dubstep is a cause to celebrate. Whether the first dubstep they had ever heard was a dubplate in Croydon in 2000, Benga and Coki’s ‘Night’ or the Jakwob remix of ‘Starry Eyed’, everyone was listening to the same music on this night. It was a celebration of the continuing creativity that is flourishing in dubstep and its deserved acceptance into mainstream listening.

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