Back in 2003 a new sound in underground bass music broke through to the surface in the UK – but it didn’t yet have a name.
This essential BBC Radio 1 show, The New Step, hosted by J Da Flex with support from Durrty Goodz, breaks it all down:
Tell us wot you call it
Darkstep, future garage, nu-step, sublow, 8-bar, grime, urban house, dubstep… It all referred to something that came after garage went mainstream and people lost interest, as they do, when an underground culture becomes commercialized and hype.
The ‘new step’, whatever it was called, was definitely influenced by the form and structure of garage –
but was moving forward, away from everything the scene and genre had become…the champagne, the designer clothes, and even the vocals. This new step was instrumental, bass-led music fresh from deep.
Zed Bias explains: “We’ve been merging dub and 2-step, 8-bar sort of beat structures and dub influences and real heavy basslines.”
“It’s a dark sound, it’s a jazzy sound, it’s a techno-y kind of sound, it’s a reggae sound. It’s all got the 2-step swing”, adds Hatcha of Big Apple Records.
Oris Jay’s take: “Dubstep is a little bit more coming from like the ragga dub things – I think that’s where that gets its sound from. It’s like, not fully breaks but it’s not fully garage – at the same time it’s just…whatever you want it to be.”
It don’t sound like garage
Both dubstep and grime would go down their separate paths over the next decade; dubstep in particular exported into something I can only describe as cringeworthy, where grime somehow retained its underground character, despite mainstream allure.
I’m a classic grime fan, still somewhat skeptical of new grime (but trying to be open) — my appreciation of dubstep stops after about 2005-6, and definitely doesn’t cross into wobbly basslines, American dubstep or ‘drop’ culture.
I think I’m lucky to have arrived to the UK after garage crashed and returned to the small clubs. Mainstream types (like co-workers) roll their eyes if I mention garage, but to me it’s still fresh as fuck.
My real love, though, is where dark garage and grime meet. In 2003 I stumbled across stairwell grime MC clashes on Soulseek, completely astounded by the music. Were they Lord of the Mic videos? I’ll never know. But no underground bass music has hit me like that since.
The New Step was produced by Rowan Collinson at Somethin’ Else for BBC Radio 1.