When The Daily Star reported in 2013 that the dubstep pioneer, Oliver "Skream" Jones, uttered those famous words, it sent reverberations through the EDM world. While Oliver went on to claim that he was misquoted, the damage had been done—the proverbial ship was sinking, if it wasn't on the ocean floor already. Was dubstep really dead? One of the genre's best and brightest stars seemed to think so.
Skream's disenchantment with the genre isn't unfathomable. Today's dubstep, commercialized and Americanized, is a far cry from its humble origins during the turn of the millennium.
During the early 2000s in England, dubstep originated from 2-step garage, grime, reggae and drum and bass—the genre was considered an underground sound until artists such as Skream, Benga, Nero, and Joker pushed it mainstream. By the end of the decade, the sound made its trip across the Atlantic Ocean, where it was consumed, copied, and transformed into a harder, brasher style of music, labeled "brostep" by both fans and critics. Following the rise of dubstep front man Skrillex, the music became a part of everyday mainstream life: pop songs, car commercials, movie trailers, you name it. The all-too-familiar wobble was everywhere. As far as the public was concerned, from 2009 to 2012 this was the only kind of bass music being produced.
So what changed? New styles develop and tastes evolve extremely quickly in today's ever-moving music scene, and that holds especially true for electronic dance music. What was cool last week is considered outdated and boring the next. Dubstep isn't dead, most of its young fans have simply left it for another bass subgenre: trap. Typified by its 808 kick drums and aggressive dark melodies, trap serves as middle ground between dubstep and hip-hop, which is another massive genre that has seen its popularity diminish. Like everything else, trap music will wax, wane, and change with the times whether you like it or not.
So, is dubstep dead? At the end of the day the answer is, "not really." As far as Canadian musical output is concerned, dubstep is at its full strength. Artists such as Datsik, Excision, Zeds Dead, and Adventure Club continue to deliver chart-topping productions, while the bass stage at festivals continue to bring hordes of fans on par with the main stage headliners. In Toronto, while Bassmentality no longer delivers a weekly mayhem at Wrongbar, Zeds Dead is always a can't-miss show. Acts like 12th Planet, Flux Pavilion, and Bassnectar have also performed for packed crowds across Canada within the last six months. According to Datisk, who recently delivered a sold-out show in Vancouver, "There are still more people listening to dubstep than ever before. Maybe, it might be dead to a lot of the tastemakers, but personally I just think there is room for improvement. We just haven't found it yet." Speaking of Vancouver, spend half a minute inside FIVESIXTY, Fortune Sound Club, or Celebrities during a dubstep show and tell me they don't know how to party. My friend hit up a Zomboy performance at FIVESIXTY last year and still hasn't found his face. The demand for high-quality acts and productions is still there, we just don't have every kid and his brother pumping out generic brostep anymore.
When original dubstep producers like Skream decide to move on to other styles and sounds, you shouldn't be angry because that's their prerogative. No musician or artist should stay trapped in a box. Last I checked, the bass is still bumping, the crowds are still raging, and the new tracks are still coming. If you don't like it, fine, more room at the front for the rest of us.
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