10 Classic Dubstep Tracks You Should Know
Dubstep is undoubtedly one of the most popular genres of state-side electronic music. Over the last decade, it’s risen to encapsulate a raucous and dedicated micro-community that rivals that of any other genre. As a result, numerous artists have built headline-level careers and regularly sell out the same clubs that host prominent house artists. And bass music festivals like Lost Lands easily sell tens of thousands of tickets.
As with most genres of electronic music, dubstep came from humble beginnings. Birthed out of the UK garage movement and borrowing influence from dub reggae, jungle, and grime, the sound found local popularity in the early 2000s. Around 2005, dubstep began expanding its audience, receiving support on BBC Radio 1, and found its way into clubs worldwide. Largely buoyed by the success of artists like Skream and Benga, it still maintained a groove that echoed its roots in black music.
In 2009, the now uber-popular YouTube channel, UKF Dubstep, was founded by community college student Luke Hood. The account helped the genre explode, breaking new songs regularly to an ever-hungry audience.
Pop artists such as Rihanna and Britney Spears began incorporating these sounds into their tracks, eventually leading to mainstream acceptance. This paved the way for a new era of dubstep, one that is frankly a distant sonic departure from its origins. Still, it gave the genre a widespread appeal. Artists like Skrillex created their own brand of the genre, and it took off in the states, leading the way to a much heavier, more aggressive style of music.
With the news that OG dubstep artists Skream and Benga are returning to the fold with new music, we decided to look back at the sounds that set the tone for the halcyon days of dubstep.
Midnight Request Line - Skream - 2006
Any conversation about the origins of dubstep would be incomplete without mentioning Skream. Although he primarily focuses on techno and house music, he is undoubtedly one of dubstep’s pioneers. ‘Midnight Request Line’ was arguably the first crossover track, bringing a melodic sound to the genre. His ‘In For the Kill’ Remix in 2009 brought dubstep to the mainstream and cemented Skream as one of the grandfathers of the genre.
The Shinein - Skream – 2009
2009 was a formative year for Skream; he achieved true crossover appeal through his remixes but maintained his integrity in original productions. ‘The Shinein’ blends his unique style of light dubs with some drum n bass sounds and a scintillating bassline that kept early dubstep listeners wanting more.
Crave You (Adventure Club Remix) - 2010
One of the first pioneers of the North American dubstep movement, Adventure Club is likely a significant influence on your favorite bass artists. The Canadian duo exploded onto the scene with their remix of ‘Crave You’ by Flight Facilities in 2010. If Skream introduced the world to melody in dub music, Adventure Club helped create a template for the sound. Their remix is still extremely popular, regularly getting played out at every major festival.
26 Basslines - Benga - 2008
Like his close friend Skream, Benga deserves mention in any conversation about dubstep. Inspired by the sounds of UK garage, Benga grew up as a vinyl fiend, frequenting his local shop to find any inspiration he could. He met Skream, and the two went on to pioneer a new genre of electronic music. After his track, “26 Basslines,” put him into more known territory, he soon secured a residency on BBC Radio 1 and proceeded to act as a true historian of dubstep.
In 2015 He stepped out of the spotlight after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He went public about his struggle with mental health and how excessive touring and drug use led to an unhealthy and ultimately life-threatening lifestyle.
When I Look at You - Emalkay - 2011
Hailing from Birmingham, Emalkay broke out in 2011 when his track, ‘When I Look at You.’ The track received mainstream praise and represented a glimpse into the future of dubstep. It’s marked by some of the trademark builds and bass stabs that we now associate with the genre.
Bread Get Bun - Caspa, Rusko - 2008
Caspa has long been one of the most influential names in dubstep. He was influenced early on by Jungle and hip-hop, growing this fascination into exploring new, heavier sounds. He started his own label, Storming Productions, in the early 2000s and began a radio show on Rinse FM, helping to spread the gospel of dubstep. “Bread Get Bun” is textbook Caspa, with its heavy UK garage and influences.
Ginger Pubes - Cookie Monsta - 2010
A legend of the scene who tragically passed in 2020, Cookie Monsta was a highly influential figure in dubstep. "Ginger Pubes" is one of his most iconic tracks, featuring a sample from the movie, The Business and introducing some of the crunchier, wobble sounds now omnipresent in bass music.
Hold on (Sub Focus Remix) - Rusko - 2010
Two pioneers on one track. Rusko is still, to this date, one of the most recognizable names in dubstep. Although Sub Focus primarily produces drum n bass music, his remix of "Hold On" became an immediate crossover hit that helped catapult bass music to the mainstream at a time when artists like Skrillex and Flux Pavillion were finding their footing.
I Can’t Stop - Flux Pavillion - 2010
One could argue that “I Can’t Stop” is the biggest dubstep track of all time. Sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye West, remixed and mashed up by every artist on the planet, the track makes crowds scream 12 years later when the iconic vocal and drop comes in. Flux Pavillion was and remains one of the biggest names in bass music, and “I Can’t Stop” was his formative release.
Wasted - Excision - 2009
Alongside Adventure Club, Excision is one of few dubstep pioneers not from the United Kingdom. In 2022, he is, without a doubt, the most prominent name in bass music. From hosting his music festival, Lost Lands, to his label, Subsidia, Excision brings the biggest production and heaviest sounds to the stage. That being said, like any artist, he went through a sonic evolution. His early work shows he took influence from the formative UK dub scene and turned it into his own concept.