Friday, December 30, 2011

Losing Games

So it's been quite some time since we here at La MoDa Mixtapes have posted a podcast.  Oh, we've been staying busy (check out Mo's most recent deep-as-a-Chilean-mine offering for BrooklynRadio here), but it HAS been more than a fortnight or so since we last dropped a La MoDa Mixtapes exclusive for y'all.

Since our last official post, the Occupy Wall Street movement was born, the Enormous Room closed, Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, Kim Jong Il stopped looking at shit and Steve Jobs ascended to the great App store in the sky.

Oh, and Justin Bieber and/or Korn killed dubstep.  Or something.

I've been trying my best to avoid this topic since I last picked that scab back in January.  Being a little long in the tooth, I've tried to take the long view on this whole "dubstep is dead/brohstep makes me sad" topic.  I really have.  I mean, it all sounds so familiar to me (see:  death of jungle, death of trance, death of UK Garage, death of grime, death of hip hop, and on and on and on).  But, after a few recent articles/posts from other writers/artists making some valid points, I figured I'd strap on my hip boots and wade into these murky waters.  (If you're just here for the music, please feel free to skip to the bottom of this post).

2011 was a big year for dubstep.  We saw Britney dip her toe in the pool, we saw Skrillex pop up on the playlists of every high school kid's iPod Nano (and score a grip of Grammy nominations in the process), we learned that the Bieb was going to bless us with his particular brand of wobble pop, and by the end of the year we learned from washed-up nu-metal "pioneer" Jonathan Davis that Korn had in fact "invented" dubstep.  In 2011, dubstep sold us cereal and outerwear and cameras.  And, depending on who you talk to, this all added up to the "death" of dubstep.  And the haterade came out by the GALLON, especially for the man of the moment, Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex. 

The "dubstep is dead" keg has been tapped pretty frequently this year (seriously, Google that shit), from a variety of different angles.  Rather than rehash the whole trajectory of dubstep, I will just link to an article that I think really captured the whole debate rather succinctly:  Who Killed Dubstep? and the follow up article posted on the From Eternity to the Next Beat blog.  As the author stated, "Mainstream acceptance doesn't make good music any worse. The purists might disagree, but personally, I don't need to be part of an elite crowd to enjoy music."  That pretty much summed it up for me.  I don't love Skrillex, but I don't fault that dude his success.  

More importantly, some of the djs and producers I respect and enjoy, who are not exactly Johnny-come-latelys in the world of subsonics, seem to feel the same.  I mean, if Skream can tip his cap to what Skrillex has done (as he does rather effectively in this interview), then who am I to judge?  Anyone who follows DMC Champ and stateside D'n'B player DJ Craze's Twitter feed knows he's also on Team Skrillex.  Hatcha, one of the universally recognized pioneers of the sound, seems just fine with Skrillex's success.  And Skrillex himself argues that he is not a "dubstep" artist, but an electronic musician who incorporates dubstep tempos and formats into his work.

But the blog commenters and forum posters just can't hate him enough.  He has come to embody everything that is "wrong" with "mainstream" dubstep, or "brostep" as the cool kids like to call it.  Being rather uncool myself, I find this whole debate tedious, and a little confusing.  If the people who "invented" dubstep don't give a shit, why should I?  From where I stand, the whole debate can be reduced to a few main beefs:

1.  "it's not REAL dubstep."  Who gets to define "real" dubstep?  And how is it defined?  Because as soon as you define it, you set limits, you build walls.  Is there a dubstep "formula" one must follow to "qualify?"  Doesn't that sound terribly boring?  Or, worse, something music writers sit around lamenting because, let's face it, they're the ones who invent these sub-sub-sub genres and they've got deadlines to make and dilettantes to look down upon.

2.  "s/he is too young/new to the scene."  This line of criticism would argue that anyone who didn't buy white labels from Big Apple Records or go clubbing at FWD>> or tune into pirate radio to hear their dubstep is not authentic enough.  This argument always puzzles me.  I remember the first few raves I went to, and how enamored I was with the sounds of New York house and Detroit Techno.  I'd never been to a NASA party or heard Juan Atkins or Kevin Saunderson play techno in Detroit, but I knew what I liked.  And I paid $20 to get in, just like the cool kids....

3.  "brostep is ruining the scene."  Again, this one confuses me.  If 1000 kids show up to see a Skrillex show, and get their faces melted to "brostep," how is this BAD for Mala or Silkie or Von D?  If your argument is that those 1000 kids don't know the history of dubstep, or don't care to learn, who gives a shit?  Those kids are there to party, not learn.  If 100 of those kids leave that show and do their homework, that doesn't make the other 900 kids stupid.  But it DOES have the potential to open those 100 kids' eyes to the deeper, more underground sounds of the genre.  Is that a bad thing?  Furthermore, if 500 kids show up to see N-Type at a club, and only 50 of them actually know who N-Type is, and 50 more think N-Type sucks because he doesn't play enough face-melting drops, who gives a fuck?  All 500 of those kids paid the cover at the door, so if anything, N-Type is BENEFITING from "brostep."  Skream says as much in the above-linked article:  everyone benefits, if only a little, from the expansion of the scene.  Maybe they have to put up with a few more stupid requests each night, but really, is that so bad?

4.  "s/he doesn't have the proper pedigree."  This argument supposes that, unless you have crates full of underground UK Garage/futuristic 2-Step records in your basement, unless your playlist includes sufficient offerings from Horsepower or Tempa, you're not "coming at dubstep properly."  One of the main knocks against Skrillex is that he was a metal/emo kid until 2008, and this metal/rock influence brings the "wrong" sort of fans to the scene.  Again, this implies a certain level of unsophistication of his fans, due to their lack of pedigree.  In addition to #2 above, this argument also dismisses those who arrived at dubstep from a place that didn't include the original Dubstep Warz broadcasts.  So if your CD book includes more System of a Down than Digital Mystikz, if your crate contains more Leftfield than Loefah, you're disqualified.

Anyway, as I've stated before, I enjoy all sorts of bass music.  Though I've been repping breaks for the last 15+ years, I thoroughly enjoy dubstep in ALL its variations, and I wanted to put together a mix that really covered a broad spectrum of sounds, especially those of the 140 bmp variety.  There may be some "brostep" in here, some "fake dubstep," I'm not sure.  I don't know, and I don't care.  

One of my favorite magazines is Waxpoetics, and the editor's note from issue 46 keeps coming back to me as I consider the "dubstep is dead" argument from this last year.  Editor Andre Torres, in discussing the effect that "purists" had on jazz, states "...So though some think they're doing jazz a service by protecting what they feel are traditional elements of the music, they're also doing it a terrible disservice by so narrowly defining jazz that it's forced to stay a niche music forever."  To me, purity is boring.  And it would be tragic if, in 10 years, we look back and realize that this vibrant, diverse, storied genre called "dubstep" was sacrificed on the altar of purity.

Plus, sometimes you just want your face melted.....

1.  Amy Winehouse - Love is a Losing Game (Lucian X & NAPT Redub)

2.  Fugees - Ready or Not (Rastah Mouse Remix)

3.  FJH - Borsche
4.  George Lenton - RDD
5.  Skream - Rollin
6.  FJH - Enter the Dragon
7.  Torqux & Twist - Relentless (16bit remix)
8.  Datsik & Bassnectar - Elevate
9.  B-Phreak - Body Check (Random Scarves Remix)
10. RackNRuin - Skanker Riddim
11. NAPT & Lucian X - Blow Your Mind
12. Freestylers - Say Yes (Ben & Lex Remix)
13. 601 - This Year's Champion
14. Ellis Dee & DJ Twista - Touch Me ft. Marie Louise
15. Shakes - Gangbusters
16. Pyramid - Feel Like Jamming
17. Schema - Move
18. Iman - Only You (RackNRuin Remix)
19. Queen Latifah ft. Al Green - Simply Beautiful (Pyramid Remix)
20. Jose Gonzalez - Crosses (The Boogaloo Crew Bootleg)