How did dubstep get popular?

Current - "Dubstep for Dummies": The big dubstep lexicon

We recently received the following email from virus listener Stefan: «The bass has been booming from my son's room for weeks. He mentioned casually that he likes dubstep. So I went into the room with the words "Hey, cool dubstep you are listening to". He, eyebrow raised, "This is Glitch Hop". Please bring a guide for overwhelmed music fans! "

Okay Stefan, we can do it! We asked the kids and fought our way through countless sub-genres of dubstep. An overview:


It all began in south London around the turn of the millennium. DJs like Skream, Link opens in a new window or Benga, Link opens in a new window, use music styles that were popular in London clubs at the end of the 90s (Jungle, Garage, 2-Step, Drum'n'Bass, Dub), but concentrate on the lower end of the sound spectrum.

In plain language: The funky breakbeats (= chopped up drum samples) of the 2-Step and the dry UK house productions are joined by LOTS of BASS, also very often "wobbly" (this means this distorted "wub wub" effect). Dubstep is born.

Burial (no category)

In 2004 the dubstep producer Kode9, originally from Scotland, founded, Link opens his label «Hyperdub» in a new window, Link opens in a new window, which is still one of the most important addresses for future-oriented dubstep today.

One of the first acts that Kode9 signs on his label is Burial, the link will open in a new window. The London producer lives in total anonymity to this day and refrains from performing live.

Burial's second album “Untrue” (2007) is not only the definitive work of the early dubstep era, it is also one of the best albums of this millennium to date. The album appears in countless annual lists of music magazines and thus carries the word “Dubstep” out into the wide world.

Burial's music is difficult to categorize (that's why he has his own entry here). When "Untrue" was released, the album was classified in dubstep. If you look at the further development of the genre (see: Brostep), looking back, «Untrue» no longer has much to do with dubstep. Let's just call Burial's genre “The soundtrack to night bus rides through London”.


At the end of the 00s, acts like James Blake, Link opens in a new window or Mount Kimbie, Link opens in a new window, began to experiment with the very dark, barren dubstep of their predecessors. They are based on dubstep productions from the early 00s - but add techno, house or even R'n'B.

On the one hand, it sounds experimental, but thanks to the greater focus on vocals (you can also sing!), It also makes it into the sets of techno and house DJs - and in the case of James Blake even in the charts.

Disclaimer: «Post-Dubstep» is not a real genre, but rather a drawer for any kind of music that «somehow sounds like experimental Dubstep».


Dubstep is also heard in the Scottish city of Glasgow. The local dubstep producers rely on synth sounds that sound like lasers and are keen to experiment when it comes to the tempo of their music (sometimes faster, sometimes slower).

What producers like Rustie, Link opens in a new window or Hudson Mohawke, Link opens in a new window are doing in Glasgow around 2009, is called "Wonky" (in German "easy"), sounds more euphoric and cheerful than the productions from London and has a lot more to do with hip-hop beats and G-funk.


Genre names are for the bin. Or: How exactly does the “Purple” music differ from producers like Joker, Link opens in a new window from the Glasgow “Wonky” sound? ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯

Maybe it's the increased influence of video game aesthetics, or maybe it's just two different names for the exact same thing.


And Now for Something Completely Different: At the exact same time, around 2010, American electronic producers take the roughest, most mainstream and brutal dubstep productions from England and TURN ALL THE CONTROLS TO 1000. WAH WAH WAH WAH KRRRRRONNNZ.

In the end it sounds like the complete opposite of the originally very subtle form of «dubstep» - and yet this music is also called that.

Acts like Skrillex, Link opens in a new window are finding their way into the mainstream, becoming superstars and headlining festivals around the world ever since. Since "Bros" who wear tank tops and sunglasses like to hang out at such events, this new type of music is disparagingly called "Brostep" by dubstep purists. In the meantime, however, this term has also caught on with the protagonists.


Back to «Wonky»: Hudson Mohawke equips his music with even more pomp, oomph and balls - and with his new project TNGHT, Link opens a «trap» wave that continues to this day.

Kanye West discovers TNGHT, incorporates their beats on his album “Yeezus” and thus influences a new generation of trap rappers (trappers?).


YouTube, Soundcloud and the wide world of bedroom hobbyists make it possible: countless subspecies of dubstep have now become established. Here we have, for example, «Chillstep», a more relaxed and slower variant of the American Brostep ...


... and this would be «Deathstep»: the combination of Metal and Brostep.


Ah yes, «Ganjastep»! What could that be? Right: Brostep meets reggae. # 420 blaze time

Glitchstep / Glitch-Hop

Last but not least: “Glitchstep” and “Glitch hop”. You take Brostep and combine it with chopped up and cut back together beats and sound effects that click after a defective sound file (“glitches”). Almost as it would sound in a UFO. Voila: That would give us “glitchstep” - or “glitch hop” (more or less the same thing, just with a little more hip-hop influence).

(By the way: As with «Dubstep», the term «Glitch hop» stood for completely different music, the link opens in a new window.)

During the research we also came across the following terms: Clownstep, Halfstep, Techstep, Neurostep, Lovestep, Thugstep, Wobblestep, Gorestep, Neurostep, Robostep, Hardstep, Drumstep, Substep, Skullstep. No joke. Would anyone like to keep the list up?

The Dubstep A-Z on SRF Virus

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Tonight between 5.15pm and 6pm we deliver the right sound to our dubstep lexicon.