The EDM scene has blown up. Skrillex has won a Grammy, Madison Avenue is scrambling to change all their hip-hop campaigns to focus on the electronic generation, and the Brads & Becky’s of the world are lining up to get tickets for EDC instead of Jack Johnson or Phish. And now, what was once an underground movement is now a high priced ad word on Google...Dubstep.
True dubstep fans are pissed off and rightfully so. They are watching their culture and genre become commercialized and exploited just like hip-hop in the '90s, this time with high-speed Internet, smart phones and social networking apps. The writings on the wall: dubstep is now a commodity and there is no way to stop it. Before you know it, Britney Spears is going to come out with a dubstep track. Oh wait…
The man behind that Britney Spears track is Rusko. He’s signed to Mad Decent, and has worked with artists ranging from Buraka Som Sistema to Adele. Born Christopher Mercer, Rusko hails from Wheldrake, England, graduated from Leeds College of Music, and first made international noise with the track “Cockney Thug.”Songs, his new album, is the follow up to O.M.G., his first full length and the album often credited as the one that brought dubstep to the masses.
He has no qualms admitting that he makes “wobbly party music,” and doesn’t hide that he’s working with mainstream artists. He’s going with it and making fun, upbeat dance music that everyone can appreciate, as long as you’re not Goth or stuck listening to Dilated People’s albums. Songs is an album that’s live for the BBQ and perfect for those all-night parties where the thermostat never drops below 80 degrees. The album shakes its pop luster by incorporating a heavy dub/roots influence and rock solid production. From the “Year 3000” intro to the final track, "M357," it's clear that every drum beat, sound and vocal were carefully selected to not just make a solid dubstep album, but an album that transcends the genre by simultaneously educating the listener about the history while looking towards the future.
The first single, “Somebody To Love” (free download below) as well as tracks like “Pressure,” “Dirty Sexy” and “Be Free” are 100% Saturday night "lets hit 6th gear" party music. “Opium” and “Thunder” are more abstract attempts to evoke a deeper, rave-like emotion, while “Love No More” and “Meek More Green” are direct odes to the dub and roots history of Rusko and dubstep. Sequential songs “Asda Car Park” and “Whistle Crew” work, and are mixed, almost as one track, and reminiscent of something you might hear in the Jungle or D&B tent mid-nineties. “Skanker” and “Roll Da Beats” are dubstep tracks through and through, just a little more polished than what you might find on the Tempa or Smog labels. Songs is not a 100% dubstep album, which allowed Rusko the ability to incorporate sounds not usually associated with the bass, wobble and clack. Much as with O.M.G., Songs is progressing the normal constructs of dubstep and pushing boundaries, which is usually for the positive. Imagine if hip-hop would of stopped at “Criminal Minded,” or house never went beyond “Plastic Dreams,” or if electro would of stopped at... oh never mind.
Rusko is not the savior of dubstep. A title like that is almost as obnoxious as coining Skrillex the “King of Dubstep.” However, Songs will most likely be considered a pivotal album in both the dupstep and EDM genres, because it manages to move forward while staying relatively true to dubstep’s historical roots. Songs incorporates the base elements of the dub, jungle, drum & bass, and reggae scenes into a genre that, like it or not, is now at the top of the trend list.
So perhaps, the next time Brad happens to hear a song by King Tubby or Dilinja, his first instinct might be to take a listen because it now sounds familiar. Or maybe he can at least tell the difference between brostep and dubstep, and might buy a Skream, Benga or Shakleton album. Judging by female attendance at “real” dudestep shows, Becky is pretty much a lost cause. However, it's artists like Rusko that have the ability and vision to change that.