What Is Dubstep Music? With 7 Top Examples & History
Dubstep is younger than pop, rock, blues, and rap, and its two-decade run has produced some of the most rave-worthy hits that still have clubs, festivals, and solo listeners feeling the beat.
But this genre-defining style of music isn’t a typical EDM subgenre. It has many layers and variants to it, making it difficult to define.
This guide will give you a complete definition of dubstep with the top examples and best artists in the dubstep industry.
Definition: What Is Dubstep Music?
The musical genre of dubstep is an audible paradise for listeners who love deep bass sounds, sick beats, and the freedom of moving on the dance floor.
As a popular EDM (electronic dance music) genre, dubstep’s style has glitchy sound effects combined with hypnotic beats that have most listeners bobbing their heads or jumping on the dance floor.
It originated from U.K. garage music in the early 2000s and picked up a bit of influence from reggae and techno.
A dubstep music definition has more complexity since the genre is a combination of many styles and preferences.
Dubstep derives from the word “dub,” referring to slowed-down dub-reggae genres. The next word “step,” actually means “rhythm” and originates from 2-step garage music.
Dubstep Music Characteristics
Songs like “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion and Skrillex’s remix of “Cinema” by Benny Benassi are classic examples that defined the dubstep genre. Their heavy drum beats, slick-sounding beats, and slowed-down lyrics make the dubstep genre easily identifiable.
The main characteristics that differentiate dubstep from other electronic dance music are the rhythmic flow of high-pitched beats and wobble drum and bass sounds.
Both of those qualities make dubstep a type of genre usually resulting in ground-shaking, wall-shattering tracks (at least in the club or rave scene).
Dubstep is a sub-genre of EDM, but there are also subgenres of dubstep itself. Each sub-genre has the recognizable bass beats of dubstep but with a little personality of its own.
Here are five examples of dubstep subgenres that vary in sound but remain within the circle of electronic dance music.
As the name implies, this type of music is still loyal to dubstep but focuses more on the glitchy sounds rather than the harmonic beat and heavy drum and bass.
Songs like “All Eyes on Me” by Fox Stevenson and “Razor Sharp” by Pegboard Nerds are perfect examples of the fast-paced, exciting beats that glitchstep offers.
If the more aggressive, high-energy dubstep genre had a counterpart, it would be chillstep.
This genre isn’t necessarily the perfect one for nightclubs and raves, but it still has the same revving and synchronic beats as other dubstep genres.
Artists like Blackmill and Skrux perfectly combine the atmospheric melodies with positive static beats to give you one of the most unique dubstep experiences.
The next time you listen to a chillstep song, be prepared to be transferred to another realm.
If you’re a fan of heavy metal , deathcore and screamo, then this type of dubstep will give you a whole new playlist to listen to.
Its dark and aggressive sound mixes with that of the glitchy computer sound to create upbeat and intense dubstep music.
Artists like SVDDEN DEATH and DJ Skull Vomit make it one of the more unique and distinctive subgenres and lean away from the EDM scene more than other dubstep subgenres.
While it isn’t the most popular subgenre, it is still distinct and well-received for dubstep listeners who enjoy a mix of original reggae and wobble.
Ganjastep is almost groovy as it is exciting, with beat buildups and heavy beat drops.
Ragga Twins are a superior example to ganjastep with their Jamaican-style vocals and heavy beats.
Their songs “Badman” and “Reggae Bass” give an ode to both their reggae influence and dubstep style.
This subgenre appeared in the late 2000s and early 2010s and uses a blend of hip-hop’s rhythm and dubstep’s bass.
Skrillex is a widely known artist of the brostep genre with heavy bass use and vocals in songs like “All Is Fair In Love and Brostep” and “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.”
The genre continued to become increasingly popular among other DJs like Excision and even the heavy metal band Korn.
7 Examples of Dubstep Music
Dubstep has many genres and songs over the years of its popularity. Here are nine examples of the type of dubstep that pumped up listeners in raves, festivals, clubs, or their rooms.
“Bass Head” by Bassnectar
This dubstep classic was released right at the start of the genre’s explosion in the American music scene.
The only lyrics in the entire song are the title of the song itself, which causes listeners to depend mostly on the song’s fast tempo and heavy bass.
The song grew Bassnectar’s fanbase exponentially, eventually coining the nickname “Bass Head” for his fans.
“Crave You” by Flight Facilities (Adventure Club Remix)
The highly popular remix to Flight Facilities’ “Crave You” made it the perfect jam for any playlist from going on an adventurous night out to pumping yourself up before a game.
The remix was released as a debut single from a Candian DJing duo Adventure Club and landed them success within the EDM music world.
Giselle's melodic, upbeat lyrics, high-energy beats, and heavy drum make it an anthem for clubs and raves.
“Promises” by Nero
The U.K. produced a highly successful dubstep trio, Nero, that gave EDM lovers anthems to dance to and belt out loud.
Dubbed as one of the most classic songs of dubstep, “Promises” captures the powerful vocals from Alana Watson, electrifying beats, and heavy bass to get any crown on their feet and jump to the rhythm.
The music video is just as magnetic and energizing as the song, with a storyline of defiance and rebellion which accurately described the emotions dubstep made many listeners feel.
“Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” by deadmau5 ft. Rob Swine
Deadmau5’s “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” sounds like its right out of a raving dance scene from a horror movie. The song reached number one on the Hot Dance Airplay charts and peaked at number 12 on the U.K.’s Singles Chart.
The music video starts with deadmau5 fading in and out of consciousness until his spirit comes out of his body. The song begins to build a steady, rhythmic beat filled with a heavy base and rough lyrical sounds.
While the song makes a perfect addition to your next Halloween mix, the video captures how dubstep music would make listeners feel: light, blurry-eyed, carefree, and out of your body.
“First of the Year (Equinox)” by Skrillex
Skrillex released “First of the Year” in 2011 as a part of his third album More Monsters and Sprites EP.
He has already gained popularity thanks to the album he released the year before. This song added even more success and appreciation to his music career.
Most of his songs are dynamic, dabbling in different versions of dubstep. This song is heavy in electronic bass sound with belting lyrics, powerful beats, and an intriguing music video.
“Experts” by SKisM
SKisM decided to release a song that challenged the nuisance of online trolls and critics who thought they knew what true EDM music is.
Song begins with an insanely powerful and aggressive intro with a climactic buildup, leading to an even deeper base after the short lyrical speech.
The music video itself is just as aggressive and epic as the sounds in the song. The character eventually is destroyed by SKisM’s powers, after a clever animated appearance from other dubstep greats like Skrillex, Excision, Eptic, and Zomboy.
“The Paradox” by Excision
Excision's “The Paradox” is one of the powerhouse songs off his 2016 album Virus. His live performance of this song executes a perfect example of what heavy dubstep should sound like.
The suspense-building intro, robotic sounds, and aggressive beat drop characterize the wild, high-energy atmosphere of most raves.
When you combine the blinding strobe lights, visuals, and post-apocalyptic vibes this song becomes a true great in the world of dubstep.
5 Top Dubstep Musicians
Many DJs and music producers have mastered the way of using computers and discs to create amplified sound specifically for raving audiences who crave it. Here are the top five of those musicians who gave listeners something to dance about.
Skream, born Oliver Jones, is a London-based DJ and music producer who was one of dubstep’s earliest artists and successful pioneers in the club music genre.
At the early age of 15, he began making music that would take U.K. garage style and turn it into heavier beats and pounding bass that would rival the typical drum n’ bass and EDM genre.
His dark base music style accommodated other genres like disco and techno as he gained popularity. His popular remixes including La Roux’s “In For The Kill” and “Midnight Request Line” showed how diverse his musical production could be.
Sonny Moore, a.k.a Skrillex, has eight Grammy Awards, millions of monthly listeners on Spotify, and holds the record for most Grammys won by an electronic artist.
You could say that his powerful and aggressive style of EDM propelled him to the global stage of dance club music. His EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites became the stepping stone he needed to sell out venues and gain widespread adoration from clubbers.
Not long after did he produce highly successful collaborations “Where Are U Now” and “Sorry” featuring Justin Bieber which topped the Billboard 100 charts. His remixes to “HUMBLE” and “Cinema” delivered his favorite climatic beats and satisfying drops to fans everywhere.
Today, he continues to collaborate with popular artists and produce heart-pumping electronic music that rocks the world of clubgoers.
The live sets of Bassnectar are known to be full of energy, intensity, and aggressive electronic sounds that brought authenticity to the dubstep music scene.
Bassnectar, born Lorin Ashton, became influenced by the lure of music at an early age, experimenting with grunge and hardcore rap before eventually becoming a hardcore lover of raves and electronic music.
From there, he spent his time mastering the feverous art of DJing, producing multiple albums that expanded his fanbase and influence.
His talent and success landed him spots at the most popular festivals Lollapolooza and Coachella along with collaborations with Diplo, Ellie Goulding, and Lupe Fiasco.
The Australian music duo, consisting of Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, has collaborated with the top names in EDM and produced multiple chart-topping singles.
Knife Party’s aggressive build-ups and gratifying beat drops made them powerhouses in the live club music scene and the hearts of other EDM artists.
Their albums Abandon Ship, Rage Valley, and Haunted House helped the duo achieve global success and tons of popularity with those who love the hardcore beats and energetic baselines most associated with dubstep.
Excision comes from the Candian province of British Columbia but has dedicated fans and support all over the world.
He dedicated his time early on to perfect his style with Bass music, high-energy live sets, and pounding bass vibrations. His forceful and energetic audiovisual performances put him at the forefront of the dubstep music community.
HIs numerous full-length studio albums and successful singles filled with contagious beat drops and mesmerizing sounds have crowds either swaying, jumping, or banging their heads (sometimes all three).
The History of Dubstep Music
Dubstep has produced some of the most popular club hits and electronic dance anthems despite it only being a couple of decades old.
Where It All Began
In the very late 90s and early 2000s came a newer kind of club music. Although the name for this exciting new genre wasn’t what it is called now, it still gained momentum in the underground night scene of the U.K.
Some of the earliest pioneers of dubstep are said to be from Jamaica, combining the rhythmic reggae tone with an ahead-of-its-time upbeat tempo.
But the most widely known origins of dubstep can be traced to the nightclubs of South London where bright lights and heavy bass rule the atmosphere.
The genre stemmed from the influence of U.K. garage but eventually moved up the global scale as it started to gain popularity with the party scene.
Eventually, an artist named Martin Clark penned the new name of this fast-growing genre. In 2002, dubstep was officially born and ready to further the electronic dance music movement.
Growth Throughout the Early 2000s
The transition to darker bass sounds and heavy beats made the new genre take newer turns until it eventually found even more success with Big Apple Records, Artwork, and Horsepower productions.
All three music production companies experimented with 2-step and London’s garage-style to reinvent the dubstep genre.
Producers like DJ Hatcha, Skream, and Benga would go on to release some of the earliest dubstep tracks, establishing them as true pioneers of the genre.
As more artists introduced their music to South London’s music scene, radio shows and the newly influential internet were helping dubstep’s popularity grow immensely.
In 2005 and 2006, the dubstep music scene has exploded in London with the help of Dubstep Warz and the frequent DMZ all-nighters held by dubstep artists Digital Mystikz and Loefah.
The same year brought the power of dubstep to American cities thanks to DJs Joe Nice and Dave Q. The first decade of dubstep proved to be only the beginning of a movement that would dominate raves, clubs, and the bodies of upbeat music lovers.
The Best of 2010s Dubstep
The next decade would be a golden generation of dubstep, producing popular artists like Skrillex who received three Grammy awards for his music.
Dubstep began to seep into the music of artists from other genres like hip-hop’s Jay-Z and Kanye West and pop’s Rihanna. It even opened the door for a variant: brostep. Brostep brought in the use of heavy wobble or “wub,” which added a new element to EDM.
Popular music festivals like Coachella began to bring in more dubstep and EDM DJs to rock the stage and give listeners a rave-like experience.
From 2010 to 2009, songs like “Bass head,” “Cinema (Skrillex Remix)”, and “Centipede” truly gave dubstep the extra push towards global acceptance.
Later in that same decade, collaborations between dubstep artists and artists of other genres became increasingly popular among listeners. Remixes of pop and hip-hop songs dominated the ears of music lovers, making way for dubstep artists to claim spots among the charts.
The Present Dubstep Music Scene
Many argue about the decline of dubstep due to the shift in genres that are dominating modern music. But even with the constant shifting of what is popular now, dubstep still shakes the dance floor at many festivals and clubs.
As dubstep grew, artists began to experiment with varying music styles which eventually led to the many other subgenres of dubstep. Some of these subgenres became a way for dubstep to keep its originality while accommodating the tastes of other DJs.
Artists like Skrillex and Excision still stayed true to their dubstep and EDM roots, releasing new albums that are determined to bring back the euphoria of deep bass and heavy wobble.
What Is Dubstep Music? Final Thoughts
Now you’ve seen how dubstep is both varied in its style and true to its original roots of U.K. garage and 2-step.
The main characteristics that make dubstep such a distinctive genre are its frequent use of heavy basslines, syncopated rhythm, and suspenseful beat drops.
Dubstep has come a long way from its start in the early 2000s, paving the way for EDM artists to emerge on the scene and give people the best kind of music to dance or rave along to.
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