From underground clubs in London’s Shoreditch community and the town of Croydon in the United Kingdom to soundtracking global TV commercials and allowing groundbreaking producers to win Grammy Awards, dubstep has had quite the incredible journey as a sound and cultural movement since its early 2000s inception. With roots in reggae, dub and dancehall, house music and occurring simultaneously with the grime-rap-loving U.K. garage and two-step movement, dubstep, now embodied by producers like Rusko, Skrillex and others, is not a huge genre leap for fans of rap music to make.
Dubstep’s appeal is intrinsically linked to being played in dance clubs, which, given that rap music has evolved into being such a top-40-friendly sound, actually limited the genre’s initial growth outside of its English roots as most dance venues were equipped to handle brash and loud sounds with weighty basslines, which actually compare not so favorably to dubstep’s governing low-end theories.
Thus, similar to rap’s evolution, the sound went underground, as from New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Houston, L.A., Seattle, Portland and other U.S. locales, dubstep slowly left its U.K. beginnings and slowly evolved. Again, like hip-hop culture, the notion of dancing to sounds that oftentimes were not as melody based, lacked tempo shifts and focused quite heavily on the bottom end of the sonic spectrum bore skepticism as to the sound’s eventual growth. Slow development in this aim was aided by the process starting roughly a year ago of U.S. promoters regularly booking top U.K. dubstep names like Kode9, Skream and Benga to augment a growing set of U.S. names. In a manner similar to West Coast rappers like Ice-T appearing on billings with New York City rap stalwarts Run-DMC by the mid-1980s, the tactic allowed the genre’s popularity to spread quickly.
By the time that U.K. dubstepper Rusko released his original single “Cockney Thug” and a remix to Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails” in 2009, an iteration of dubstep that had far more pop and crossover appeal than the traditional wholly dub reggae and dancehall style of before became popular. In simply wobbling the once static basslines on dubstep tracks, Rusko opened the door to dubstep’s global growth but also may have created a game of “can you top this?”
Just as with rap music, dubstep’s mainstreaming has seen the sound mold in shape and form to latch onto every musical type imaginable. In bearing such a strong similarity to rap music in this sense, the following list makes sense insofar as rap and dubstep are pretty much musical cousins from different shores.