There was a time when the iPod was my spirit animal. Every emotion would be regulated or matched with the sounds I found through Thursday nights on the desktop computer. I would search through the NME, Radio 1, Radio 1 Xtra playlists, Zane Lowe and then always to a blog called post dubstep.
Coming of age in London was a very grassroots urban experience. Working class slang would be acquired and flexed to intimidate peers and demonstrate one’s confidence in and connection to the city. Similarly, sounds and styles from subcultures would be played and worn as the defining feature of an individual’s status.
Dubstep and Grime were introduced almost immediately when graduating from primary to secondary school. The appeal of this music was its ability to paint imagined futures and violent diversions from our present understanding of London. With Dubstep there was the ability to find yourself connected with the night clubs, Fabric, Corsica Studios, Lightbox, which we’re out of our reach for the next 4 or 5 years. With Grime, Dizzee Rascal, Sway, Wiley, Skepta, JME, Giggs, we learned lessons about attitude, honour, sexuality, socialising, masculinity, respect and aggression. Nonetheless, the stories about the black experience in working class London were still far away from my own understanding of the city and thus, like how Dubstep was made for the clubs, Grime seemed somewhat removed from my day today experience.
We didn’t have the gangs, the weapons or the clubs but we did have iPod’s, bus journey’s, free yards and gatherings. Dubstep and Grime found a lived existence within the free yards and gatherings where the groups ‘musical ones’ would spend the evening crowded around a set of speakers flexing finds and trading tracks. And yet, beyond these celebratory spaces, the enjoyment of Dubstep didn’t seem made for the iPod and the subjects of Grime seemed like a sport played within very specific theatres within the metropole.
Therefore, it was the sound that I will call post dubstep, the work of Jamie XX, Burial, Four Tet, Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Koreless and Mala, that captured the essence of Dubstep, the city, it’s tubes, it’s train stations, it’s bus stops, it’s darkness, it’s slickness, it’s lights, it’s buildings, it’s people, it’s energy, it’s clubs, in MP3’s that sound tracked the city.
Using the rhythm of Grime, the base of Dubstep, the soul of songs chopped and screwed from previous subcultures, postdubstep created music in bedrooms for Londoners to walk, commute or watch the city. Songs like Mala’s Alicia, Four Tet’s Plastic People, Burial’s Untrue, Jamie XX’s Far Nearer and Mount Kimbie’s Before I Move Off, sound like they are tailor made for a modern urban landscape of 17th century cathedrals, brutalist architecture, buildings designed in Norman Foster studios and the endless stream of bright lights and big ideas.