Red Bull Music Academy presents No Sleep Till Croydon: The Roots Of Dubstep

From gritty basements to the world’s biggest festival arenas, the genre of dubstep has come quite a long way. But with a whole new generation of “EDM” fans waving their glow sticks to ever more ridiculous drops and wobble bass lines, the origins of what once was a true revolution in sound seem to have been forgotten by many. We pay tribute to what is arguably the most influential form of electronic dance music of the past decade, with a night of sub-rattling edutainment courtesy of Skream, his former mentor Hatcha, DMZ mastermind Mala, and the mighty Plastician. Come meditate on bass weight, take a bite off that Big Apple, and travel FWD>> to the past with classic tunes from ten years of dubstep and beyond. It’s South London inna di area!

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Soundtracking the streets of suburban Croydon, Skream’s trademark minimal sound found a resounding ear with urban youth around the world. From his sets and radio shows with cohort Benga to his ever-evolving solo releases on Tempa and the formation of Magnetic Man, Oliver Jones’s gravity-defying beats and pads—all buoyed by a tidal wave of sub bass—make perfect music for walking across the moon or accompanying an experiment gone wrong in a Martian research bunker. Whether he’s making across-the-board bass music, electronic house, dubbed out disco, dancehall riddims, or funky tech it all gets squeezed through the Skream filter and ends up sounding like it’s been beamed from the dark side of an asteroid.

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Mala is one half of Digital Mystikz, South London’s finest purveyors of meditational bass weight. Dubstep originator, producer, DJ, as well as label owner and promoter, Mala unleashes a dense concentration of dubwise good vibrations that would make Jah Shaka and Aba Shanti equally proud. The infamous FWD>> nights is where he cut his teeth, penning tracks with pal Coki like “Pathwayz” as well as “Neverland” and “Anti War Dub” on his own. Nowadays the Mystikz’ label DMZ has become a figurehead imprint for this thing called dubstep and the sound has spread further and wider than (probably) ever imagined. In 2011 it took Mala to Cuba, where he worked with local musicians to record his very first solo LP, realigning the dubstep movement tastefully within sound system culture.

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If you ever need a definition of ‘pioneers,’ then Plastician and Hatcha is it. These two have been defining the UK’s bass music ever since the early 2000s and the days of Croydon’s Big Apple Records. They both started trading tunes back in the Big Apple basement, even before the night that set it all off: FWD>> at Plastic People. While Hatcha was setting the foundations for what would become dubstep, Plastician was taking the no-holds-barred sound of grime to strange new places. Alongside Geeneus and Youngsta, they became residents of the club that explored the dark bass sound before it went on to conquer the world. Both selectors have been involved in radio for some time, from early pirates to extended stints on Rinse FM, Kiss FM, and the BBC, and have played a vital role with their respective clubs, compilations, and record labels in shaping the sounds that are now synonymous with global sound-system culture.

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It’s fair to say that Hatcha’s name is as axe-sharp as his dubplate skills. An original FWD>> resident, Hatcha shaped early dubstep by cutting exclusive dubs from Skream, Benga and Digital Mystikz, and also helped name the genre by describing Benny Ill’s dubby 2step records as “dubstep”. Right now he’s building his own “Pure Dubstep” compilations, hosting a regular show on London’s Kiss FM, and running the Sin City night and label.

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Sgt. Pokes

As the voice of DMZ, Sgt. Pokes has come to define the MC style of dubstep’s emergent days, while at the same time keeping it completely natural and spacious. Rolling with Mala, Coki, and Loefah since back in the early-’90s jungle days, Pokes grew up with classic DJ/MC combinations like Bukem & Conrad and Andy C & GQ. He understands that the vibe is best when the DJ and the MC know each other’s styles inside out, so Pokes was always going to be the best choice for DMZ. Since then he‘s also become the MC of choice for fellow disco-wreckers Skream and Magnetic Man, giving him a schedule that keeps him more than busy. Whether painting vivid scenes on the air, keeping it minimal on tracks like Digital Mystikzs’ “Guilty,” or making abstract jokes with crowds at countless festivals and clubs around the globe, Sgt. Pokes has made the mic his own.

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