A Brief History of Dubstep Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A dubstep music blog that takes you through a brief history of the genre and its biggest artists.

Origins of Dubstep

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that emerged in the late 1990s. It is characterized by sparse, syncopated rhythmic patterns with prominent sub-bass frequencies. The style emerged as a development of British garage music and jungle music.

Early dubstep tracks

Early dubstep tracks were often minimal in structure, with long, repetitive sub-bass basslines and sparse drum patterns. This style was often inspired by’mensive’ Jamaican sound system music, as well as industrial music and dub. Producers such as El-B and Zed Bias began to experiment with this sound, creating darker and more atmospheric tracks. These early dubstep tracks were often played at relatively slow speeds (around 140 beats per minute), which results in a ‘ half-time ‘ feel relative to other dance music genres.

Dubstep’s influence on other genres

While the term “dubstep” in reference to a genre of music was first used in 2002, the sounds and style of music now known as dubstep can be traced back much farther. The earliest signs of what would eventually become dubstep can be found in the productions of British DJs and producers claude Young, Neil Tripp, and El-B (amongst others) in the early to mid-1990s. These artists were experimenting with the jungle and garage sound that was popular at the time, but they were also adding heavy basslines and dark, atmospheric elements that would come to be characteristic of dubstep.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a group of producers based in South London including Benga, Skream, Horsepower Productions, and Zed Bias (aka Maddslinky) began making tracks that would lay the foundation for the dubstep sound as we know it today. These producers were heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall and dub music, as well as UK garage, and they began incorporating these elements into their own productions. Around this same time, a new generation of grime MCs were also beginning to experiment with rhyming over dubstep instrumentals instead of traditional grime beats.

By 2002-2003, Benga’s track “Skank” (later renamed “Benga Beat”) is widely considered to be one of the first true dubstep tracks; Skream’s “Midnight Request Line” soon followed suit. It was around this time that the term “dubstep” started being used to describe this new style of music. In 2003-2004, Dubplate Drama – a television series about London’s pirate radio scene – featured several prominent dubstep producers and DJs; this exposure helped to bring dubstep further into the mainstream.

In recent years, dubstep has begun to influence other genres of electronic dance music such as house and techno. At the same time, many producers who originally made dubstep are now experimenting with faster tempos and different styles; some have even moved away from typical 4/4 beats altogether. Nevertheless, the heavy basslines and dark atmospheres first explored by Young, Tripp, El-B, Skream, Benga, et al. continue to be an essential part of what we now know as dubstep music.

The Dubstep Sound

Dubstep music is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in the early 2000s in the United Kingdom. It is characterized by a heavy bass line with syncopated rhythms and chopped-up samples of other genres, usually played at a slow tempo.

Wobble bass

Wobble bass, also known as wobble bassline or simply wobbles, is a style of production used in dubstep and variations of electronic dance music (EDM). The sound is achieved by using low-pitched, often sub-bass sounds and layering them with mid-range stabs that create a “wobbling” effect. This style of production has its roots in Jamaican dub and 2-step garage, and was popularized in the early 2000s by producers such as Hatcha, Artwork, and Benga.

Skittering hi-hats

The dubstep sound is typified by skittering hi-hats, heavily processed and filtered basslines, and sparse arrangements. The earliest dubstep tracks were released in the late 1990s, but the sound didn’t really start to gain traction until the early 2000s. Dubstep reached its commercial peak in the mid-2000s with hits like Burial’s “Untrue” and Skream’s “Midnight Request Line.” But by the end of the decade, dubstep was starting to fall out of favor with the mainstream audience.

In recent years, dubstep has experienced something of a resurgence in popularity thanks to artists like Flume and What So Not. While the sound has evolved somewhat since its early days, it still retains its signature elements.

Dark, atmospheric textures

In the early 2000s, a new type of electronic dance music began to emerge in the London underground club scene. This music, which came to be known as dubstep, was characterized by dark, atmospheric textures and hard-hitting basslines.

Dubstep quickly gained popularity in the UK, and by the mid-2000s, it had begun to make its way into the mainstream. In 2010, dubstep producer and DJ Skrillex won 3 Grammy Awards for his work in the genre.

Today, dubstep remains popular among electronic music fans. Due to its heavy bass sound, it is often used in film and video game soundtracks.

Dubstep in the Mainstream

While dubstep has been around for over a decade, the genre has only recently started to gain mainstream popularity. The early 2000s saw the rise of garage music in the UK, which laid the groundwork for dubstep. In the mid-2000s, dubstep producers began to experiment with different sounds and tempos. This led to the development of the genre we know today.

Commercial success

Although some dubstep tracks had been played on UK radio stations like BBC Radio 1 and Kiss FM as early as 2003, it was not until around 2007 that the style started to enter the mainstream music consciousness, both in the UK and abroad.

One of the earliest commercial successes was Skream’s “Midnight Request Line”, which was released in 2005 and reached number 55 on the UK Singles Chart. Benga’s “Night” (2006) also charted, reaching number 34. Other early hits included “Cockney Thug” (2005) by Rusko, “X Rated” (2006) by Nero, and “Spectre” (2008) by Burial.

The success of these and other singles led to increased interest in dubstep from both fans and record labels, resulting in a flurry of new releases in 2007 and 2008 from both established producers and newcomers to the scene. This period also saw the beginnings of dubstep’s crossover into other musical genres, with producers such as Chase & Status and Magnetic Man incorporating elements of dubstep into their drum and bass tracks.

Criticism from purists

Many dubstep “purists” (those who are most loyal to the original sound and philosophy of the genre) feel that the mainstream success of dubstep has led to a deterioration of the sound, as producers aim for more commercial appeal. These purists often argue that mainstream dubstep is less innovative and interesting than the underground music that first popularized the genre.

The Future of Dubstep

Dubstep music has its origins in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The style was developed by British producers who were influenced by 2-step and garage music. Dubstep is characterized by its bass-heavy beats and dark, atmospheric sound. The genre has evolved over the years and has become more popular in recent years.

New directions in dubstep

In the past few years, dubstep has seen a surge in popularity in North America and Europe. This rise in popularity has led to new directions in the music, with producers and DJs experimenting with the style and incorporating elements of other genres. This has resulted in a more diverse range of sounds within the dubstep community, and has led to the rise of sub-genres such as wonky, brostep, and post-dubstep.

The continued influence of dubstep

Even though the original wave of dubstep has dissipated, the genre has continued to evolve and influence other genres. Dubstep artists have continued to experiment with different sounds and production techniques. The result is a genre that is constantly evolving and changing.

Many modern producers are using dubstep as a starting point for their own unique sound. This has led to the emergence of new subgenres, such as wonky dubstep and half-time dubstep. Wonky dubstep is characterized by wonky, off-kilter beats and a slightly chaotic sound. Half-time dubstep is slower than traditional dubstep, with half-tempo drums and a more hypnotic feel.

As dubstep continues to evolve, it is likely that it will continue to have a lasting influence on electronic music.

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