The gritty, British sound of dubstep will be lost

Hannah Lederer Alton, a UK dubstep fan, responds to attempts by US rappers to co-opt the booming underground genre

Sunday 23 March 2014 04:05

A character called Kosta Elcher, described in today's Arts & Books as an "LA music marketeer" (whatever that is), thinks there is a "fundamental need" to fuse British dubstep and American hiphop. I totally disagree; there clearly isn't any such need. The only incentive is money - mostly on the part of Snoop Dogg and his record label.

There is some dubstep going on in America already, with artists such as Starkey, based in Philadelphia. He's excellent and original, producing a very different sound to the wobbly dubstep made famous by Benga and Skream.

However, Snoop suddenly wants to attach his name to dubstep and use the UK scene for his own exposure. But I think it's going to backfire. He's not gaining in popularity from the "dubheads" here - nobody I know has any time for his attempt at a dubstep track, "Snoopdogg Millionaire". If he's interested in the music and creating something new, that's fair enough; but why doesn't he just produce his own dubstep song? To simply lay some vocals over "Eastern Jam" (arguably the biggest dubstep track of 2008) is a bit of a joke.

Dubstep is currently being taken to the mainstream with tracks such as Skream's dubmix of La Roux's "In for the Kill" being played on Radio 1 all the time. It's cool that more people are now hearing Skream's sound and he's probably now the biggest name in dubstep. What he's done for the genre with that track is pretty amazing and he deserves recognition for his talent. But, there's a difference between a commercial dubstep track reaching the masses on the airwaves and this awful Americanization that is taking off (or attempting to).

Dubstep is still a pretty underground scene over here, though there are a couple of dubstep tracks that are played in commercial clubs (with embarrassing sound systems that produce barely a fraction of the bass required). What Skream has done for the genre by producing "In For The Kill" is undeniably huge. He's created a dub track that is played in the afternoon on Radio 1 - if you told me that when I first listened to Skream a couple of years ago, I never would have believed it.

Such success is a big step so why are we suddenly rushing off to America to cross our basslines with their raps? It's so unnecessary and no one will take it seriously.

I'm not keen on people who decide they hate a genre with the only justification that it has become "too mainstream" or "too commercial". That's one of the problems with sampling "Eastern Jam", as Snoop did. Yes, it was enormous in 2008 and tore up the clubs but it's over now. If they want Snoop to take on dubstep they need to create a track from the top.

Chase & Status are originally drum and bass guys so that's another factor in why "Eastern Jam" was so big when it came out - it was completely different to what they had done before. That song was huge and so well-produced. The bass and drops are something else. The first time someone sent me the link for "Snoopdogg Millionaire", which pairs "Eastern Jam" with a Snoop vocal, I thought it was a joke. Some people might like the Snoop mix but it's not really even dubstep: suddenly you're listening to the lyrics and not the bass.

I understand why when Americans hear dubstep they want to get involved. But it feels like they are just jumping on the bandwagon. They want a piece of it but aren't really contributing anything worthwhile to the sound. US rappers like Snoop, Busta Rhymes and Xzibit are just too big for the British dubstep scene as it stands right now. It feels like we will end up being crushed under their might and morphed into something else so we'll never get that gritty, original British sound back.

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