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The History of Dubstep & The Key Dubstep Artists

Updated on November 22, 2011

An Intro to Dubstep

The dubstep genre revolves around electronic dance music; the originating dubstep artists came from South London, Britain. When it comes to defining the dubstep sound, it is best known for its tightly coiled production and precise construction often including overpowering bass lines, reverberant drums, sporadic vocals and the use of clipped samples.

It was in the late 1990s that the first dubstep releases were made available, they had a dark, experimental sound with 2-step garage and dub remixes as common features. The dubstep founding artists would infuse these original remix tracks with qualities of breakbeat, funk and the darker elements of drum and bass. By 2001, this musical style was being pushed around the London nightclub circuit. It started to become popular at Plastic People (London) during the club night 'FWD>>'. However, it wasn't until 2002, and the genre was really starting to make a name for itself, that the genre got its official 'dubstep' name and began to be set apart from the other 2-step and grime of the time. When it came to radio airplay, pirate radio stations were the radio station of choice for dubstep artists, it wasn't until 2003 that BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel got the dubstep sound on commercial radio stations but he was the only DJ at the time to do so. John Peel's dubstep radio slot was only on air for 12 months, during which time his audience voted Distance, Plastician and Digital Mystikz as their favourite dubstep artists. In 2006, the dubstep scene began to grow through the popularity of blogs and online sites that began promoting and reviewing the music. These included Gutterbreakz, DubstepForum and download site Barefiles.

Dubstep artist: Skream
Dubstep artist: Skream

The Development of Dubstep

and the founding dubstep artists.

The dubstep genre was really first established between 1999-2002 (as already mentioned) and the material that was coming out from the time was hugely influenced by El-B, Steve Gurley, Oris Jay and Zed Bias. For the releases of the original dubstep artists, prototype record labels started being formed. These included Vehicle, Road, Bingo, Lifestyle, Texture, Tempa and Soulja - all run by Ammunition Promotions, who were also the organisers of the Forward (FWD>>) club night. It was this club night that was the first real platform for new dubstep talent and the development of the dubstep sound. FWD>> provided a unique environment for dubstep fans to listen to the new dubstep sound and discover new music, whilst bringing the producers/djs to an appropriate crowd. The FWD>> night also ran a pirate radio show hosted by Kode9 on Rinse FM. This radio show was key to propelling dubstep artists like Katcha, Slimzee, Slaughter Mob, Youngsta and Jay Da Flex into the dubstep limelight. As the scene grew, so did the popularity of dubstep producers like Benga, D1 and Skream who then began to make regular appearances on the radio show.

The legendary record store 'Big Apple Records' in Croydon was also fundamental in the development of dubsteps success. Alongside the stocking of dubstep records, many founding dubstep artists were connected to the shop, gaining experience in the scene by working at the store - as did Hatcha and Skream. Digital Mystikz, Plastician, Loafah, N Type and Walsh were regular visitors.

The early dubstep sound was also rumoured to be linked to the recreational use of drugs, namely the tranquiliser Ketamine. Whilst many might say this 'explains a lot' about the early experimental dubstep sound, there's no real evidence for this suggestion.

The dubstep scene further thrived during 2002 to 2005. Rinse FM DJ Hatcha was a pioneer for the new direction that the sound took at the point. He would play 10" one-off dubplates with clear reggae influence, drawing from an exclusive group of dubstep artists like Skream, Digital Mystikz, Loefah and Benga. Their sounds also often featured darker qualities and minimal soundscapes. Dubstep producer Plastician started a dubstep event called Filthy Dub and it was with this night that Benga, Loefah, Skream and N-Type made their first performances as DJs. At this time dubstep artists Digital Mystikz also made a breakthrough, bringing an expanded range of influences to the dubstep community - most notably reggae and dub with orchestral melodies. Digital Mystikz then formed their dubstep label DMZ Records and launched their own DMZ club night in Brixton. Their club night DMZ was vital in presenting new dubstep artists (like Joe Nice, Hijak, Kode9, Pinch, DJ Youngsta and Benga) to the dubstep community. By the DMZ first anniversary, club night and label had built a huge base of dubstep enthusiasts following from across the globe. Fans travelled from Sweden, Australia and USA to attend their celebratory anniversary events.

By 2004, though dubstep was thriving, the Grime scene was also still very popular and it took the two Rephlex compilations (Rephlex being a dubstep label founded by Richard James) that made sure that dubstep got the attention it needed at this, the compilations featured tracks from Mark One, Kode9, Digital Mystiz and Loefah.

The next big push forward for the dubstep scene was in 2005 with the compilation 'Warrior Dubz'. The support of Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs was also essential in helping build the dubstep reputation. Her work on the BBC radio waves encouraged the dubstep sound to be taken seriously by a global audience and spread the UKs underground music buzz.

Dubstep artists here on began gaining further mainstream attention, though many dubstep artists chose to remain underground, producers were soon being chosen to have their dubstep tunes used in film and television soundtracks and were getting picked for 'Track of the Year' and 'Album of the Year' in publications like 'The Wire'. Dubstep had been heavily infused into the works of many pop artists by 2009, dubstep artists were soon remixing for mainstream artists whilst pop acts themselves had dubstep vibes within their music. Successful pop to dubstep remixes include Skream's 'In for the Kill' for La Roux. Some dubstep artists even started producing for pop acts, notably Benga worked on Katy B's 'Katy on a Mission'. Probably the most mainstream dubstep artists are: Skrillex and Chase & Status.

Brostep & Post-Dubstep Artists

Post-dubstep often denotes dubstep production such as 2-Step, UK Garage and dubstep music that incorporates elements of R&B and ambient music. The material of James Blake, Fantastic Mr Fox and Mount Kimbie are all regularly referred to as post-dubstep. Post-dubstep music characteristically has a tempo of approx. 130 beats per minute.

Brostep is also related to post-dubstep. Brostep is often labelled 'dubstep with more anger' as well as 'Americanized, garage dubstep'. When Brostep increased in status the sound moved from the small clubs to bigger stadium/arena events. The dubstep artists that have been linked with Brostep include Rusko and Skrillez. Dubstep purists have disapproved of the Brosteps obsession with aggressive sounds.

10 Popular Current Dubstep Artists

Get to know the dubstep genre with releases from these 10 notable dubstep artists:

Benton - Benjamin Benton, whose production title is just is last name, is one of the UK's best up-and-coming dubstep artists. Known for his dark, brooding style, he has released on the Boxclever and Biscuit Factory labels. Benton is esteemed by other big dubstep artists: Benga, Lost, Unitz and Skream. His biggest dubstep triumph has to be his 2010 release 'Out There' which was a smash on dance floors across the country.

Scuba -born Paul Rose, Scuba is a London dubstep producer who relocated to Berlin in 2007. Scuba is best known for his melodic yet heavy dubstep style, though his production is not always restricted to the straight dubstep genre. Scuba runs his own record label called Hot Flush, he has released tracks from other dubstep artists such as: Loefah, Toasty, Boxcutter, Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie and Jazzsteppa.

Mount Kimbie - A dubstep duo who met in 2008 at the Southbank University, their real names are Kai Campos and Dominic Marker. Mount Kimbie release tracks featuring ambient soundscapes, sampling, use of guitars and loops. They have been listed in Mixmag, Drowned in Sound, Resident Advisor, NME, Pitchfork Media and DJ Mag within their 'Best of 2010' features. Mount Kimbie have produced dubstep remixes for artists including The XX, Foals and The Big Pink.

Untold - Jack Dunning aka Untold is a globally acclaimed dubstep artists who has been making music from his bedroom since he was 20. Untold did lose his interest in production for a while at university but in 2005, he was reunited with his passion when he had a sub bass lesson at a DMZ night. In 2008 Untold was discovered by Hessle Audio after hearing his Kingdom EP.

Brackles - Brackles is a dubstep producer, real name Rob Kemp, best known for his popular sets played at the FWD>> club night. Brackles made his first DJ appearance at just 15. Brackles he is known as one of the most creative post-dubstep artists about, and has released on Apple Pips, Planet Mu and Brainmath.

Gemmy - Gemmel Phillips, or Gemmy as he is better known, is a dubstep producer who has collaborated a lot with producers Joker and Guido. Gemmy was quickly spotted by local DJs and other dubstep artists when he started making music with colourful, sub-heavy flavours.

Emalkay - Martin Knowles is a dubstep DJ and producer; best known for his 2009 tune release on Dub Police, 'When I Look At You'. Emalkay was first hailed by grime legend 'Plastician'. Emalkay gained support from Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobs in 2007 and has since gained support from other big dubstep names like Chase and Status and The Scratch Perverts. Emalkay has remixed for Pendulum, Mike Snow and Faithless.

Kromestar - Kromestar has released on numerous important dubstep labels including Dub Stars, Deep Medi Musik and Hot Flush Records. His breakthrough year was 2009 when he released 'My Sound' which has since become known as one of best dubstep albums ever made. Kromestar is also well known for his dubstep collaborations with DJ Hatcha.

Dismantle - Will Knighton is a Brighton born up-and-coming dubstep producer known as Dismantle. He is part of the dubstep collective Gangoon Dubz (with Zaius, Rudi Redz, 2Geezey, Agro, Hizzleguy & Hurley). Dismantle is respected by several big dubstep artists like: Benga, Skream, 16 Bit, Shy FX, Kutz and N Type.

Echo Park - Brian Gibbs, aka Echo Park, is a Chilean dubstep producer. Echo Park was getting his music heard when he was just a teenager and signed to PCH Records. He has performed across the globe. He was signed to Disfigured Dubz in 2011, a label which was set-up by legendary dubstep producer Skream.

Who are your favourite dubstep artists? - Leave us a comment and let us know!

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