Remembering Adam “MCA” Yauch’s Dubstep Influence: Beastie Boys Let the Beat–mmmm–Drop

Beastie Boys + Billy Idol = Nice mashup

Dubstep writer Sarah Bennett contributed to this post.

It’s another week in the dubstep universe and another death of an iconic musician. News of the death of Beastie Boys member MCA (a.k.a. Adam Yauch) has us dusting off the New York trio’s groundbreaking hip hop albums and breaking out the best of the Beasties — and there’s a lot of it. Losing someone as influential as MCA forces us to hit “rewind” on our musical lives (though we do more scrolling through songs these days than the physical tape-player maneuver we would have done in the Beasties’ era) and look back on what got us here.

Beastie Boys are a good example of a group that dove head-first into experimenting with sounds and breaking down genres, both foundational concepts of L.A. dubstep. They started out as a hardcore punk band–in the vein of Black Flag–morphing into rappers after meeting some success in NYC with a hip-hop release. The guitar-bass-drums trio were now using their ear to make funk-hop hybrids — tasty beds of beats to rap over. MCA traded in his electric bass for lower-pitched, ashy-delivered lyrics, setting himself apart as a distinct voice in the group’s fast-paced flow.

The band’s second studio album, 1988′ Paul’s Boutique, is one that has a particularly unique relationship to dubstep in that the majority of its music is comprised of samples, layered on top of one another using manual techniques that were newly being explored. Dubstep lovers have to give a nod to their work which was made of organic found melodies and beats before beat-production software even existed–and that’s in addition to pushing lyrical raunch on its slack-jawed audience with a playful but hard attitude and being relentlessly honest about the fact that they came to party.

There are so many samples used in Paul’s Boutique, in fact, that there is an entire website dedicated to exploring its individual pieces, references and lyrical inspirations, an interest in context and history that is lost on much of new electronic music. Dubstep fans prowling Soundcloud or Tumblr for new mixtapes today can only guess as to the origins of the sounds the DJ used to make his favorite track–and that’s assuming if the DJ even knows where he got the beats himself.

The death of MCA reminds us how hard it is to trace back music’s DNA strands in today’s reblogged, creative-commons world, but the late icon’s work with found sounds and the Beastie Boys shows the importance of knowing your roots, a rallying cry that we strive to learn from every day.

 

RIP MCA. YOU WILL BE MISSED!!

 

Is Fun.’s Song “It Gets Better” an Anti-Dubstep Anthem?

Sure, Nate Ruess has come a long way since his folk-loving power pop days as Phoenix’s The Format, but does the Fun. frontman hate Dubstep now? The band best known for its current Janelle-Monae-featuring single “We Are Young” is unabashedly pop friendly, harking back to 70s rock bands with some modern theatrical production magic worked in. Personally, we prefer Ruess’ songwriting dressed down as with the Format’s 2003 Interventions and Lullabies, but Fun. is definitely, well, fun.

So imagine our sadness when we get deep into the band’s debut album Some Nights and–after many sleepless nights of dubstep on the brain–we realize that one song is not like the others (AKA, lacking in serious Freddy Mercury hero worship). And after getting it in our heads that Ruess’ latest band and album is trying to save theatrical rock, it’s hard to listen to the track “It Gets Better” and not see it as a blatant attack on the genre of dubstep.

The song abruptly starts with the “robots having sex” sound that many find offensive about dubstep and features about 20 seconds of this high-register wobbly 2-step electronic snare beat, complete with glitchy tweaks under a Skrillex-esque autotune voice that sings, “What have we done? Oh my god.”

But the whole song is not this offense-t0-true-dubstep. Instead the verses and chorus have an insistent rock beat and pop-chord progression that continues over lyrics such as “You never looked so bored” and “It’s hard to stay inside my head when words keep pouring out” (which could be a reference to how dubstep DJs often create their music in a solitary environment).  The chorus itself repeats the line, “It gets better,” perhaps directly nodding to the return of the glitchy dubstep beat that re-occurs briefly in the build-up line before each chorus. The back-and-forth between catchy rock beats and the more off-putting 2-step beats makes for a schizophonic song that seems to spread an anti-dubstep case across three and a half minutes.

Do you think the song itself a battleground for these two supposedly disparate music genres or are we just getting our panties in a bunch?

Q&A With Dubstep Expert/Journalist Tom Dotan: A Dubstep Fan’s Perspective

 

Tom Dotan, Dubstep Expert/Journalist. Photography by: Jason Brown

 

Dubstep dates back to 1998, and originated in South London, United Kingdom. Since its inception, it has seen a tremendous growth not only as its own genre of music, but has also branched out into different forms within its own genre. (See our dubstep glossary). The sound has even infiltrated modern music as we know it, with several dubstep remixes of popular songs emerging, as well as the creation of original music featuring the distinct sound. I interviewed Journalist/Dubstep Expert Tom Dotan who reflected on his first exposure to the genre, why he thinks the genre is becoming prevalent in modern music today, and where he thinks it’s headed.

Why did you become interested in Dubstep?

I follow British electronic music and was interested in the precursors to dubstep, two-step and garage. Dubstep, as soon as it crossed my radar was the next step in my exploration through the genre.

What intrigues you about the genre?

It’s very primal and yet totally a product of technology. And it’s visceral, literally. You can feel it in your guts when it’s done right.

Why do you think Dubstep is popular amongst music fans?

I don’t know if popular is the word I’d use, I’m skeptical we’ll ever have a whole pop song done that slowly, and with a bass that distorted. But its peaking into the mainstream is probably because dubstep’s presence is so recognizable so quickly. Pop music is always looking for a signature riff, and dubstep is clearly that.

Do you think its infiltration into the pop world will affect its sound in the future?

Sure. Because dubstep is an amalgam of so many music styles and based on high-end audio technology it will naturally evolve and take in different influences, pop and otherwise.

Where do you see dubstep going? Where do you want it to go?

A musician like James Blake is a good example of what a post dubstep artist– more vocally oriented and less reliant on the “drop.” Remember, dubstep isn’t a new genre, by the time it caught on in America, it was almost 10 years old in the UK. We’re already living in the post dubstep world, despite the new popularity of artists like Skrillex.

Why did you create the Owl City video?

I was interested in mapping out the structure and pattern of a dubstep track; it comes with being a musician and boring music major. It was mostly for my benefit, I didn’t think anyone would really care (do they?). Plus if dubstep can give some soul to a plastic trinket like Fireflies, it must be worth delving into.

Anything you would like to add about dubstep?

Wub wub wubwuwuwuwuwuwwub wubwub voooom!

 

Also, check out Dotan’s video he created breaking down the components of the dubstep sound in the dubstep remix of Owl City’s hit song Fireflies below: 

 

Untitled from Tom Dotan on Vimeo.

Q&A with The RIZO’s Alex and Mannal: Dubstep, Knowing Your Roots and How to Promote Your Friends

Mannal, left, and Alex of The RIZO. Photography: Jason Fenmore

The RIZO is a dubstep crew from Los Angeles responsible for parties like Pussy Power and many other shows throughout the year. “RIZO” stands for Respect, Inspire, Zen and Optimism and the crew is looking for more than just throwing themed parties – a lot of the times they jam for charities like The Downtown Women’s Shelter and take food donations as entrance fees because dubfolk also happen to be quite giving.

The RIZO’s main ladies Alex and Mannal sat down with We Speak Dub to talk about their crew and their thoughts on the LA dub scene.

How many artists do you have under the RIZO?

Alex: We have Ashtrobot, Polymer Drone, Apok-C and Beatrix just got added as a vocalist for us. Oh and TRVST! A couple of months ago, we added the Captain Panic guys as well to the roster. Those are just people that we know from the scene, seeing them put a lot of work into what they do and they’re also on the same vibe as us so it’s like a little family unit.

How do you manage them?

A:  For the artists on our roster it’s kind of like having a management team without having to pay for management. We will promote all of their releases, any of their mixes, plus we set up mixes with them. We also help them with bookings. I mean most of them already have agents or managers and we’re kind of like on the side doing all that for them as well. And it’s kind of like a give and take—they play our shows and they’re part of our roster so you know that every time there’s going to be a RIZO show you’re guaranteed that you’re going to see those guys.

Mannal: Yeah it’s really just what you would do for your friends anyway but we work really, really hard on getting their names out and getting their music out. Like we do a podcast every month and every month it’s a different artist so they all get a spotlight and something to put out.

How did you get into promoting in the dubstep scene?

M: We’ve always loved the party scene—the drum and bass scene in general—and this has always been a dream of [Alex’s], you know?

A: Yeah I always dreamed of all that. Me and my roommates Ezaro—one of the guys from RIZO—we started going to a lot of underground parties like dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass. We started throwing events in 2009. One day we were just like, “Let’s do this. Let’s look for a venue and book people and see how it goes.” And at first there was a lot of trial and error obviously, but after I think our third event, everything became like a cookie cutter situation.

What is it about dubstep?

A: Dubstep is crazy because dubstep is so many things. You can like it for so many different reasons. I like drum n bass, and I like reggae and I like dancehall and to me that’s what dubstep was the break off of. So when I heard the original dubstep sound you know, like Borgor, that kind of sound, or Skrillex even, it just reminded me of drum ‘n’ bass on a more low-end type of scale and I liked that. It was like a fast reggae but a slow drum ‘n’ bass. Some people like it because they love house music and they got into it that way. Some people like electro and they got into it that way.

Have you seen any changes in the L.A. dubstep scene?

A:  It’s definitely changed, not necessarily for the bad. It’s evolved, I think, which is good. I mean you lose a lot when you have to go mainstream and I think that’s what happened to our scene. It’s become very mainstream and popular but at the same time that’s never bad because that also means everyone’s just going to make money [laughs]. Everyone that’s been working hard is finally going to get their dues but you kind of lose a lot of the underground vibe when you do go mainstream. There’s so many new people involved in it that don’t know where it came from and that’s kind of a downside.

M: As long as people can appreciate what it is and where it came from. I think that’s the problem, people jump on the popularity train as opposed to the appreciation and roots of where the music is coming from like this is cool, this is kind of manufactured everyone’s listening to it, everyone’s doing it, but what is it? If these kids took the time to learn about the music and how it’s evolved over the past few years then they can appreciate it more.

DubstepIFICATION: With Wobbly Remixes, Dubstep Makes Its Way Into Mainstream Pop Music

Britney Spears, "Hold It Against Me" via adrianhummel.com

Today’s dubstep as it pertains to the pop world has seen a dramatic shift. The most notable is from the Princess of Pop herself, Britney Spears. Her hit single “Hold It Against Me,” has integrated dubstep into the bridge of the song. The simple yet effective dubstep break happens (around 2:19 in the video below) when Spears sings “Gimme something good/ Don’t want to wait, I want it now/ Drop it like a hood, and show me how you work it out.”

We weren’t the only people to notice this change. Back at the beginning of 2011, Los Angeles-based Skrillex, dubbed as the “Prince of Dubstep,” said in an MTV interview that he believed “the more the stuff that is underground becomes mainstream, the more the underground is gonna change. I think it’s gonna inspire people to obviously do something different.”

“I thought the track [“Against Me”] was great overall. I’ll be honest, man: I love Max Martin. I think he’s an absolute genius. And Dr. Luke did it, right? I think they are a f—ing dream team. I love the track! [However] I thought the dubstep part was unnecessary. Not to say it was done wrong. I feel like it was very self-aware and consciously put in there to be ‘the dubstep part.’ I can see a lot of people getting pissed about it — the purist dubstep and drum and bass fans — but at the end of the day, it’s cool that people are trying new things. Sooner or later, anything that happens in the underground — be it watered down or not — it always makes itself into the mainstream. It’s cool to hear.”

Read more from Skrillex’s Interview with MTV here.

Rusko, a UK dubstep artist, also helped produce the track, along with Max Martin and Dr. Luke, and takes responsibility for the brostep sound which this bridge most resembles.

The dubstep world is also infiltrating the pop world by featuring remixes of popular songs. Adele, Kanye West, Foster the People and Ellie Goulding, just to name a few, have seen their songs receive this treatment. So what does this mean for dubstep? I believe this growing trend is helping foster the movement and is bringing dubstep to the forefront of mainstream culture. Plus the songs, with their up beat tempos and heart pounding beats are fun to listen and dance to. Check out these dubstepIFIED songs below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have an opinion about Dubstep’s infiltration of the Pop World? Shoot us an email!

L.A. DUBSTEP: How the U.K. Import Landed on the West Coast and What Residents are Doing With It

 

How did Angelenos come here—to host an electronic-music revolution in our own backyard?

In the same way that no one is really from LA but they are still all part of it and it’s a part of them, dubstep is a musical export that has been adopted and adapted by the city. By the time that L.A. native and the (sometimes contentious) face of American dubstep Skrillex received the nod from the musical gods at the GRAMMY awards, dubstep had long been a living, breathing, beating entity in Los Angeles for almost a decade.

It wasn’t long ago that producers in the south of London were mashing up garage, 2-step dance music and Jamaican dub sounds to create the genre that was characterised by overwhelmingly rhythmic bass wobbles set within a range of 140 to 160 beats per minute. In 2005, the UK-born bass genre started filtering stateside and by 2006 two of L.A.’s biggest clubs—SMOG and Low End Theory—had already started to mold the unique shape and sound of Los Angeles dubstep.

Today, on any given night in the county—from Low End Theory’s Wednesday nights at the Airliner and Smog Sundays at Dim Mak Studios in Hollywood—there is some sort of dubstepping going on.

The world of dubstep in Los Angeles today, which incorporates art installations and wisps of weed smoke into its aesthetic, is the younger more successful sister of drum ‘n bass which remains in LA’s underground electronic dance music scene.

Dubstep’s infectious momentum has swept the city, replacing the upbeat, synth-heavy music that formerly dominated the dancefloor. Young people of all ages from Long Beach to Pasadena are now hosting, going to, producing, listening to—doing dubstep.

The UK’s dark and grimy basses have found new life in the bounce of West Coast hip hop, the splice and dice of remixed hometown jazz and the mid-range guitar-like synths of L.A.’s cock rock past. There are people who love dubstep—photographers and graffiti artists and t shirt makers, producers, DJs, MCs—who can be found at every show and have watched the music through its meteoric rise to ubiquity. For most electronic music fans, it’s been a long time coming and though the sounds have changed since it crossed the pond a few years ago (and many proclaim that dubstep is in fact already dead), it seems like Los Angeles is only just beginning to show its dubpresence.

Introducing Dubcore: From Jay Sean to Breathe Carolina, A New Genre Is Born

 

Yes, I was shopping at a Tilly’s, that Orange County-based chain that slangs surf-and-skate clothing to middle and high schoolers. More importantly, though, is that Tilly’s has in-store music video playlist that is ripe with the latest in teeny-popper fare. It was here and in the middle of a seemingly innocent electronic-infused emo song that my ears picked up a familiar wobble bass–the defining characteristic of the dubstep sound.

Breathe Carolina, from Denver Colorado, make party music on GarageBand that has been categorized as both electropop, and crunkcore. Their influences run deep in the post hardcore scene where throaty, screaming vocals and intense mid-song breakdowns are the norm. But their music goes forward, into the electronic realm, where pop hooks and dance music can be made without instruments.

They crossed the dubstep threshold with a cover of Bangra-R&B artist Jay Sean’s 2008 song “Down,” which for those who have never had the pleasure, is a song so catchy that it gets stuck in the inner depths of your brain for weeks. Two minutes into Breathe Carolina’s version, however, the harmless cadence of “Down’s” upbeat chorus fades away and the Autotuned vocals begin to growl, “Take it down low.” A wobbly, bass-fueled breakdown ensues for about 15 seconds before the growler returns with the bridge (rapped by Lil Wayne in the Jay Sean original). Is this dubcore? What about Skrillex, who used to sing for post-hardcore band From First to Last? Is the heavy wobble bass of dubstep the next step for breakdown-hungry fans?

Check out Breathe Carolina’s cover here. The dubstep comes in at around 2:20.

“Sex, Drugs and Dubstep” Has Us Wondering: Is Rock ‘N’ Roll Dead?

Dubstep goes with sex and drugs just like its predecessor

We’re all familiar with the phrase “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but what about “Sex, Drugs and Dubstep”?

Yup, the debaucherous-lifestyle motto originally made popular by Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ 1972 song “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” has now been re-purposed for a different genre–dubstep. From t-shirts to internet memes to eponymous tracks, the latest incarnation of this phrase seems to be everywhere we look. But words aren’t the only thing being replaced here. Dubstep very well could be the new rock ‘n’ roll.

Sixty-five years ago, white American teenagers were just beginning losing their minds to the illicit hip shaking and sultry crooning of Elvis Presley, who (according to many) is “the King of Rock and Roll.” So vastly different from the post-swing pop music of the 50s, Presley’s Memphis-bred guitar work–as well as that from others affiliated with the growing rock ‘n’ roll genre–taught rigid bodies how to move and transported listeners into a carefree state. It’s safe to say that dubstep serves a similar purpose for today’s fans, providing an alternate, rule-free reality, though now Presley’s body affecting guitar is instead a wobbling, electronically created bass.

The phrase “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” however, doesn’t only refer to the music genre itself, but also the lifestyle associated with its performers and fans. With its wild beats and energetic choruses, rock ‘n’ roll almost calls for the no-care absence of authority and there is a long list of artists whose entire lives are emblematic of this long-standing cliche. But rock ‘n’ roll in any semblance of its original form is long gone from the mainstream (thanks a lot, Nickelback) and so to an entire generation of new music consumers, rock ‘n’ roll exists as a concept only, one that is easily absorbed by similarly transcendent sounds such as dubstep.

Should we be mourning the death of rock ‘n’ roll–even if it secretly lives on in tiny little pockets of the universe–or look positively on its ideological reincarnation in dubstep? WWARD (What Would Axl Rose do)?