The term 'dubstep' describes a form of electronic dance music. The name reflects the music's origins, a combination of "dub" and "two-step," two subgenres of instrumental music.
Like many forms of modern music, dubstep had a sound well before it had a name. That sound, featuring the laconic, drum and bass rhythms of dub reggae and the shuffling, staccato rhythms of two-step, grew out of experimentation by DJs from Croydon, a district of South London, England.
As dubstep incorporates various subgenres of music, the music has many originators. The DJs credited with creating dubstep commiserated at the Big Apple music shop in Croydon, and some spun records at a London club called Forward.
Young DJs and producers worked and shopped at the now-shuttered Big Apple record shop. The store also had its own record label that released experimental dance music, so the same people would bring their creations by the shop in hopes of releasing a single.
Many of those DJs and producers successfully released songs out of Big Apple and played their own music when they worked the turntables at Forward. Producers Lewis "El-B" Beadle and Zed Bias are two experimental dance music creators credited by the Big Apple crowd as being influential on dubstep.
The artists who followed those men were Oliver "Skream" Jones, Mala and Coki of the Digital Mystikz team, Adegbenga "Benga" Adejumo, DJ Hatcha and DJ Loefah.
Thanks to Forward and a local pirate radio station, the artists developed an audience and a scene. Jones describes the music and the scene as having "a reggae influence and a rave feel."
In its early days, Dubstep was not particularly danceable, owing to the plodding bass lines and dark overtones of the sound. Still, the music drew a crowd and fans. It was at once familiar to listeners-as it drew on dub reggae, grime, jungle and other forms of club music in London. It was also very different, as the combinations created something entirely new.
The mainstream caught the buzz about dubstep. The 2006 film Children of Men featured dubstep prominently. The director, Alfonso Cuaron, heard the music through someone working on the film and decided it would work well with his movie. Dubstep artists Kode9 and Digital Mystikz, as well as dubstep-influenced rapper Roots Manuva, appear on the soundtrack. BBC Radio One featured dubstep artists on a show devoted to the music in 2008.
Sometimes when Hollywood or Madison Avenue co-opt underground styles, fans soon become former fans. This was not the case for dubstep. The genre's influence only grew, at least for people outside of London's club scene. Producers for top pop, R&B and hip-hop artists incorporated dubstep into songs for Brittney Spears, Rihanna and Snoop Dogg (who now calls himself Snoop Lion). Reggae dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry recorded his own version of dubstep, bringing it full circle.