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Radio: The Lowdown: Dubstep and Bass

Radio: The Lowdown: Dubstep and Bass

by Philip Sherburne  |  November 6, 2012

Radio: The Lowdown: Dubstep and Bass

We'll probably never get to the bottom of Chuck D's immortal question, "Bass -- how low can you go?" But in recent years, we've certainly gotten a sense for how far it can go. In less than a decade, dubstep went from being a sub-rosa subgenre (cooked up in London basements and tower blocks, and known to few outside a narrow radius) to becoming a global powerhouse.

There was Skrillex's Grammy win, of course, in which he even shouted out Croydon, the genre's birthplace. (Never mind that he's not a dubstep artist, per se, though his early productions are certainly indebted to the pacing and serrated bass sounds of the music as it developed in North America in the late 2000s.) And since the sound went overground thanks to crossover successes like Rusko, Magnetic Man and Skream -- and the attendant explosion of dubstep tents at massives and festivals across the U.S. -- it has become the go-to music for advertisers looking to inject their commercials with a little oomph. Just this week, I heard dubstep in a K-Mart ad, for crying out loud.

In many ways, dubstep has ceased to be a style with distinct parameters and has turned into something approaching meme-like status; what else could explain the presence of bass-heavy "wubs" on the new Taylor Swift album? And who knows where the music will go from here. Many of its early practitioners have moved on to more amorphous sounds, somewhat clumsily dubbed "bass music" (even though they're often indistinguishable from traditional house and techno); Digital Mystikz' Mala traveled to Cuba and came back with a suitcase full of Latin beats paced at dubstep's 140-BPM tempo, and even Rusko seems more interested in turning out stadium-sized trance bangers these days.

To get a sense of where dubstep has been and where it's at, however, just tune in to Napster's own The Lowdown: Dubstep and Bass, in which we feature breakout hits and underground staples from across the spectrum, including artists like Mala, SBTRKT, Scuba, Flux Pavilion, Doctor P, Shackleton, Rusko, Caspa, Roska, Addison Groove, Burial, Girl Unit, Joy Orbison, and, yes, even Skrillex -- the whole spectrum, from the blissed-out to the bro anthems. Just don't expect to hear any Taylor Swift.