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Dubious about Dubstep?

Glimpses of lasers flee from the doors and windows of a Wilmington nightclub, revealing the cultural denomination of nightlife. The bass booms down Front St., permeating the roads like a thick inescapable fog, summoning followers to flock to its bassy call. Submergence into the club baptizes guests, allowing club-goers to be cleansed of reality only to completely give themselves to music. Glorifying the elevated DJ with praising hands and sporadic dance moves. Every bead of sweat brings that one person closer to being the most religious electronic follower, displaying their appreciation through bug eyes and extreme intensity. Recently becoming a trend this subculture of music categorized as electronic music is creeping into clubs around the nation.

A subgenre of this electronic music, dubstep, is a current phenomenon hitting local radio stations as well as national nightlife. Illustrating this recent mainstream movement, we see signs of dubstep prowl its way into a more popular light. With producers like to Lil’ John, we hear the machine like grinding bass mixed with spasmodic electronic riffs now in recognized rap and pop songs. Recent songs like Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” produced by Max Martin and Dr. Luke illustrate this transition. Skrillex, extremely popular dubstep producer, recently featured in the MTV show “Skins” comments on Britney Spears’ song, stating “I think its gonna inspire people to obviously do something different”. Beau Gunn, program director of 98.3 The Penguin adds that with music constantly updating, “It’s hard to ignore electronic music”.

The Penguin, widely listened to by Wilmington locals, picked up the syndicated radio station, Keller Cellar in 2004. The radio station, running from seven to nine on Saturday nights features a wide variety of music, including Bassnectar and Pretty Lights, once viewed as apart of an underground scene. However, these two artists, while may not completely identify themselves solely as dubstep producers, contribute widely to this popular spread of new electronic music. As explained by Skrillex, “The more the stuff that is underground becomes mainstream, the more the underground is gonna change,”

In 2008 Bassnectar played at the Soapbox Laundro Lounge in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina that hit its guests’ peak with a shocking 50 attendants. Comparing to the 2010 Bassnectar show at Coastline Convention Center selling out at capacity of 1,000 attendants. Within two years Wilmington went from clueless to crazed. Also demonstrated with Pretty Lights’ concert that was held at Diesel on September 26, 2009 that also sold out.

However, this music may appear prominent in the recent decade, when really dubstep was birthed through inspiration of the drum and bass movement coming from the UK in the early 90’s. This later morphed into dubstep, also generated in the UK, and finally came over the pond around ’98. DJ Time, named best DJ in encore magazine 6 years in a row, started out incorporating drum and bass into his top 40 mixes in clubs in ’96. Some people “like hearing dirty bass, it’s fun. If it makes money it works” he states. With bar owners gradually taking notice of this electronic craze some are creating club nights dedicated strictly to dubstep/electronic music. It appeals to a younger, often underage demographic. Due to such a strong following, 18 and up Monday nights with DJ CHDR Selekt and DJ PFUNK however have increased door sales significantly at the Whiskey.

While dubstep is the recognized rising subgenre of electronic music, some DJs are hesitant to play such a specific genre, with such a specific following. Because the music is slightly undeveloped, illustrating irregular rhythms and extreme bass lines it doesn’t always appeal to a more mature audience.
DJ Edie, passionate about house music and one of the only female DJs in Wilmington, respectfully feels “it’s just noise”. Dustin Cook, owner of Sputnik and Pravda, (Pravda voted best dance club in 2011) hesitates to play strictly dubstep. He claims, “It has its place”: he frequently allows its presence on college night (Thursday) at Sputnik and random appearances in various DJs’ sets. DJ PFUNK, Sputnik’s music source on Saturday claims “some people dig it and some people don’t”, he adds, “it’s not really dance music”. While PFUNK has been DJing hip hop and top 40 songs the past six years at almost every club in Wilmington, he began adding electronic tracks into his sets in 2009. He sticks with a smoother house approach with Kaskade and DJ Chuckie, however randomly appeases the younger demographic with Skrillex, an artist that falls under the “top 40 dubstep” genre, creatively classified by DJ Time. DJs have to appease all audiences and in some cases Cook claims “Dubstep doesn’t make us money”

To better elaborate, Electronic music has various subgenres that consist of different bass patterns and intensity as well as beats per minute. Electronic music generally plays at 128-140 beats per minute compared to hip-hop at 95 beats per minute as explained by DJ PFUNK. Examples of subgenres consist of house, trance, and drum and bass or jungle. A smoother style, house (like Kaskade), normally runs at around 128 BPM. On the other hand drum and bass branch off into the increasingly popular dubstep (like Skrillex), which runs closer to 140 BPM.

Revolution in music is constant, and its change permeates through DJs, nightclubs, and becomes mainstream through the recognition of local radio. While dubstep is electronic music, electronic music isn’t dubstep. Some people often like to use the dated term, techno, which is now seen as so broad that it is really only used by those who are unfamiliar with the genre.

From fueling a young generation of devoted listeners to reshaping mainstream music, dubstep has stomped its way into our clubs, radios, and has even tainted our semi-precious Britney Spears pop. Dubstep is not a band, nor is it a step team on UNC Wilmington’s campus. It is respectively ushering in a musical revolution, bringing about a fellowship of glowed-out nouveao-ravers and intensifying dance floors. It stomps down streets and possesses dancers. Save yourself now or let it “Take Over Control” (popular dubstep song by Afrojack)

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