Tag Archives: Rusko

Rusko unearths the Lost Dubs

Fresh off some Twitter beef with Deadmau5, dubstep meistro Rusko recently released two volumes of unreleased material, for free and through Twitter. Perhaps inspired by Skream’s Freeizm EPs, The Lost Dubs contains some material that pre-dates even his earliest releases, with tracks from 2004 and 2005.

As the name suggests, these dubs are steeped in reggae and dancehall grooves, from the slinky guitar chords on “Gyal Dem Inna Codeine Style” to the wandering bassline on his remix of Skream’s “Dutch Flowers.” The tracks are an interesting look at Rusko’s early material: “Jump Up” sounds like an underdeveloped version of breakout single “Cockney Thug.”

While these dubplates trace the straight line between reggae and dubstep, they also show synergy between dubstep and hip-hop. “Get down low” mashes a pretty straight-forward rap with wobbly bass for a banger that presages Caspa’s “How Low Can You Go” remix.

Unfortunately, there are no hidden gems on these EPs; these are basically demo tapes. Still, the Lost Dubs are required listening for Rusko devotees. A third volume is to follow, which will continue to fill in the blanks of one of the biggest names in dubstep.

Dubstep goes pop

As a genre, dubstep has reached a precipice. With successive releases by Rusko and Skream, and the highly-anticipated released by Magnetic Man around the corner, the mainstreaming of dubstep appears to have begun. The beats are still aggressive, the bass is still wobbly, but the music is easier to digest, due in large part to trance-like diva vocals. Unlike the darker, groovier luvstep, this “popstep” is just that – suitable for larger audiences ready to dance. Here are a few of the songs (and videos) you need to know:

Rusko, with a little help from Dirty Projector Amber Coffman, broke the scene wide open with “Hold On.” And if the crowds in the video are any indication, he may be on to something. All of a sudden, his upcoming Britney Spears collaboration makes a lot more sense. Also of note: his remix of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.”

Magnetic Man, the dubstep supergroup formed by Brits Skream, Benga and Artwork, has scored a top ten hit in the UK with “I Need Air.” The trio destroyed the crowd at Hard NYC, a performance that certainly converted non-believers.

The next single off Magnetic Man’s October 4 debut is the shifty “Perfect Stranger,” featuring UK funky chanteuse Katy B. The song alternates between downtempo verses and a breakbeating chorus, and it closes out Magnetic Man’s recent Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1.

No mention of Katy B can be made without also dropping her solo single (over a Benga track), the addictive “Katy B on a Mission.”

For fans of electronic music who want to see the scene grow while also maintaining some sense of musical integrity, popstep is a way forward. While it may be anathema to dubstep purists, wouldn’t you rather see the likes of Rusko and Skream headlining three nights at the 9:30 Club?

Album Review: Rusko – O.M.G!

Every musical movement has a standard-bearer: a proud flag waver and ambassador to the masses. For dubstep, that role is clearly and ably filled by Rusko, the L.A.-based, Leeds-born DJ and producer. From his 2006 production debut “SNES Dub,” to breakthrough track “Cockney Thug,” to his earthshaking remix of Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails,” Rusko’s output has found its way into sets by everyone from Diplo and Switch to Pete Tong and Annie Mac. With his full-length debut O.M.G.! (Mad Decent), Rusko presents what may be dubstep’s first crossover album.

O.M.G! is a tour through the various permutations of dubstep, with each of the 14 tracks honed by Rusko’s ear for melody and hooks. The album kicks off with “Woo Boost,” a squealing, grinding assault complete with air raid siren (check out the alternate, drug trip of a video below). The throbbing wobble that has come to define dubstep is present here, and is a constant force throughout the album. The hardest dubstepper appears at the backend of the album: “Oy,” featuring the Crookers, is a reminder that Rusko hasn’t gone totally pop.

A pleasant surprise is the influence of rave and house on the album, elements Rusko only hinted at previously, on tracks like “Love is Real” off his Babylon, Vol. 1 EP. “Hold On” and “Feels So Real,” featuring Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors and Ben Westbeech, respectively, are straight-up dance tracks, with pop hooks as essential as the basslines. “Kumon Kumon” sounds like a Skream track, with its jungle loop, Casio synth, and heavy dose of laser effects. Any of these three are guaranteed dance floor killers.

On a few tracks, like “You’re On My Mind Baby” and “Raver’s Special,” the vocals are vocoded and autotuned in a way that is fresh and exciting. The Black Eyed Peas and T-Pain may have done it to death, but Rusko is undeterred in using the technique, and makes it work. Rusko even pays tribute to the dub in dubstep, playing up the dancehall influences in the Rod Azlan toaster “Rubadub Shakedown” and album finale “District Line.” The reggae tunage would feel right at home in a Major Lazer set, with enough bass to get a crowd grooving.

If 2010 is the year that dubstep crosses over, it may just be on the back of hip hop collaborations and remixes. Gucci Mane, on “Got Da Groove,” is the perfect fit for a trap-step track. Rusko bends but doesn’t break Gucci’s vocals, utilizing them as just another instrument to sample. It’s not a standout track, but it points budding dubstep producers in the right direction.

O.M.G! is a complete album, perfect both for true bassheads and dubstep novices. Followers of Rusko’s young but promising career will recognize tracks from his Mishka Keep Watch! mix, now as fully formed songs. However, the LP is not a rehashing of previously released material, but a formalizing of where Rusko, and by extension, dubstep is in the middle of 2010. If you still haven’t gotten into dubstep, this is exactly the album that will make you a believer. Just put it on your system, crank the bass until the neighbors call the cops, and take part in the visceral experience that only dubstep provides.


Dubstep Dossier #1

These days, it seems as if there is no escaping the grimy hold of dubstep, from its syncopated garage beats to its nihilistic basslines. The subsonic sound, after percolating overseas for the better part of a decade, is finally coming of age and gaining wide acclaim and acceptance in the US. We at TGRI have done our part to educate and illuminate, and our message remains the same: don’t fear the wobble!

With that in mind, I’m launching the Dubstep Dossier, a new column that will highlight some of the exciting new music that is loosely joined under the banner of dubstep. Rather than let The Verge get choked up with bass blasts, the Dubstep Dossier will try to keep up with a scene that is on to the next one by the time I hit ‘publish.’

Detractors often point to a stereotypical, melody-less aural assault and dismiss all dubstep as sonic noise. As with any musical style, some people do it right and some do it wrong. Bass for bass sake is nonsense; the strength of quality dubstep is the set of outside influences that each producer and DJ brings to the table.

The biggest dubstep tune of late is Doctor P‘s “Sweet Shop.” It lit up the floor, both at Rusko’s recent Baltimore gig and Tittsworth’s set during Scottie B’s Birthday at the U Hall, and is a perfect example of dubstep alchemy. While it launches with a piano-driven loop, house breakbeat, and ravey “take me higher” vocal, “Sweet Shop” quickly descends into a brutal breakdown: a machine-gun synth over a simple, mosh pit boom-bap. Alternating between the two styles creates a schizophrenic dance floor experience, like dropping Ecstacy and sipping syrup back-to-back.

If house-dubstep crossovers are not your thing, how about we bring back the mash-up? Dubstep can be a terrific backdrop for hip hop; the early 2000s garage/two-step scene had a symbiotic relationship with the grime scene, featuring artists like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and Kano. Putting hip hop heavy hitters over dubstep mastery by Rusko and Joy Orbison is a no-brainer.

Rusko x Outkast x Lil’ Wayne:

Joy Orbison x Lil’ Wayne:

Dubstep is here to stay, so stay tuned to the weekly Dubstep Dossier and you won’t feel lost and confused when your favorite DJ drops a true Bristol banger. And remember, don’t fear the wobble.

The Verge – Dubstep

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the verge of a breakthrough. This inaugural column is inspired by the life-changing bass of the U Street Music Hall, and will focus on a few of the subsonic sounds coming to a system near you.

Rusko, the king of wobble, dropped the video for Woo Boost this week. The track is the lead single off his Mad Decent debut, O.M.G! As I’ve written about previously, Rusko is leading the way in the dubstep world with a singular sound that is aggressive and abrasive yet eminently listenable, like Charlie Brown’s teacher on acid. The video is the perfect visual complement to the ostentatious tunage. Obnoxious and glaring, the clip is a collage of broken video effects, swirling fluorescents, and a Union Jack-draped Rusko rocking a keytar. It is a total guilty pleasure, in all of its seizure inducing glory. The most defining visual is Rusko tearing through the green screen; it’s like watching the violent birth of something twisted and wrong. Enough words, watch the damn clip:

Jakwob first came to my attention thanks to his remixes of songs by Sound of 2010 winner Ellie Goulding, where he turned her shimmering, synth-folk-pop into danceable dubstep that preserved the charm of the originals. His remix of Kid Sister’s “Daydreaming” is more of the same: adding a dash of wobble to enhance, but not obscure, a solid dance track. His recent minimix for Annie Mac’s Radio 1 showcases both his remix and DJing talents as he skillfully mixes about 30 songs in 6 minutes. It sounds like DJ Premier and Girl Talk had a baby in London. Try to follow the bouncing ball:

Starkey, the Philadelphia purveyor of “that street bass sound,” will drop Ear Drums and Black Holes on April 19. Ear Drums is probably the first album that totally encapsulates the concept of luvstep (an interview with Starkey did launch the Luvstep podcast, after all). The first single, “Stars” (featuring Anneka), is the polar opposite of Woo Boost: a track designed for chillout not knockout. The video, while less over-the-top than that of Woo Boost, is disturbing in its own way, matching the tone of the deceptively dark track. “Stars” is only one of the Baskin Robbins-like flavors that appear on Ear Drums, so get your first taste now:

Dispatches from Suburbia: Rusko in Miami

As the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end: my nearly two week vacation in South Florida is over. I’ve gone from 70 degrees at the beach to 40 degrees in DC, from a nascent scene to a more developed one. And while the DJ nights, singer-songwriters, and local bands were pleasantly surprising, I’m happy to be home.

But before I left, I trekked down to Miami once more, this time for Rusko: DJ and dubstep producer extraordinaire, and one of the winners of 2009 (a more complete list of things that didn’t suck in 2009 is coming tomorrow – procrastination for life!). The 24-year-old is one of the driving forces in a style that we at TGRI Online think will be huge next year, and while I have seen Rusko rock a room before, I couldn’t miss a stateside gig in my backyard.

Ever since 2 Live Crew decided to be as nasty as they wanted to be, Miami and bass have been forever intertwined, influencing local scenes and styles from Atlanta to Baltimore. So I was interested to see how bassheads in the 305 would react to the distinct wobble crunk that the Leeds-born, LA-based Rusko generates.

Just down the street from the Vagabond in Miami’s Design District is White Room. The venue is basically a warehouse adjoined to a large open-air space that holds canopy lounges that wouldn’t get much use anywhere else this time of year. After a few local dubstep producers and MCs warmed up the crowd, the mullethawked feature DJ took the stage.

Rusko is one of the most active DJs I’ve ever seen. At all times, he’s either jumping up and down or air conducting, convulsing as if his movements control the treble, mids and overwhelming bass pouring out of the speakers. The crowd eats it up, doing their best to dance along to a style that is admittedly not the most dance-centric electronic music. The few kids trying to light show with glow sticks were dismissed out of hand: “Why don’t you wait for fucking Ultra for your twirly little shit?!” However, the pseudo-ravers were hardly the worst audience members: a few couples decided to demonstrate crowdfucking – or something close to it – and it wasn’t pleasant.

Still, we were able to enjoy the dubstep clinic that Rusko put on, much like he did at Hard NYC. From contemporaries Zomby and Doorly, to remixes of Gucci and Kid Sister, the set included everything that demonstrates dubstep’s promise right now. The best part is initially recognizing a song, before it devolves into the glitched out sounds of the apocalypse that have come to define dubstep. And it was good to see it work where bass was born.

HARD NYC @ Terminal 5, 10/10/09

Check out more Hard NYC photos by Nicky Digital. Flashing Lights photo courtesy of the HiFi Cartel)

Sometimes a show promises to be such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I motivate myself to board a discount bus to New York City and hope there will be a couch to crash on at the end of the night. Last Saturday was such an occasion, as Hard NYC rolled into New York’s Terminal 5, bringing leading electronic artists Destructo, Jack Beats, Rusko, Major Lazer, and Crookers to the Hell’s Kitchen club. After a rumored show with a similar line-up failed to materialize at the 9:30 Club, this show was a no-brainer.

For the uninitiated, Terminal 5 is a warehouse club similar to 9:30, with larger balconies, another story, and a capacity of around 3,000. For the club to be half-full shortly after Destructo opened the night’s festivities was pretty impressive. Destructo, aka Gary Richards, Hard Fest’s organizer, DJed a pretty straight-forward mix of club, house, and electro tracks, but the crystal clear sound system and psychedelic visuals foreshadowed the aural and visual extravaganza that would follow.

If the occasional hip-hop show can make it feel like 1990, certain electronic shows can make it feel like 1995. The show was an 18 and over affair, but the X’ed out hands probably outnumbered those nursing Red Bulls and vodkas. For a crowd whose only rave experience is probably Netflixing Go, these party kids have the culture down to a T. There were more pacifiers than you could shake a glowstick at, although gloves with Lite Brites on the fingertips were also drawing crowds of glassed-over eyes. They might have been too high to spell “MDMA,” but they have good taste in music and they came to party.

Each act was allotted about an hour, and they stayed remarkably close to that, with seamless transitions between sets. After Destructo, British duo Jack Beats took the stage and brought a serious set of new wave house edits that the crowd ate up like so many colorful pills. They remixed hipster favorites from Passion Pit and Yeah Yeah Yeahs into electro bangers, and even dropped Nadastrom’s remix of A Milli. While a good number of people in the crowd recognized the latter track, I’m sure Google searches for “a milli remix, slowed down, crunk as hell” had an uptick after the show. Jack Beats’ fusion of electronic styles and populist playlist surely gained new fans for the newest member of the Cheap Thrills crew.

Next up was one of the main reasons I ventured to NY: dubstep superstar Rusko, whose remix of Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails” was one of the hottest tracks of 2008. Want to replicate Rusko’s set at home? It’s simple! Throw on his mix for Mishka’s Keep Watch series (of which he played nearly all the tracks), turn off the lights, and crank the bass on your sound system until your neighbors call the cops, your heartbeat goes irregular, and your face melts off. Rusko’s wonky, wobbly tunes had an intensity that you don’t usually get from dance music. The crowd definitely appreciated the slowed down, bass-heavy set, and didn’t need any encouragement from Rusko’s hype man, who proved to be an unnecessary distraction. The 23-year old York-born DJ has energized the dubstep scene with partner-in-crime Caspa, and he’s a must-see for dance fans when he ventures into the US.

While the price of admission was covered after the first three sets, the night was just beginning. Next up was Diplo, performing as Major Lazer, his cartoon-themed dancehall project with Switch (who was predictably absent). The Mad Decent head honcho, in a simple black suit, proceeded to redefine what a DJ show can be with help from a few of his friends. Skerrit Bwoy, equal parts dancer, MC, and hype man, put on a daggering clinic that included ladders, speakers, and the girls from the “Pon de Floor” video, a performance which would probably be illegal in most states. Between the dance antics onstage and the tripped-out visuals behind the booth, Diplo managed to recreate the Major Lazer album in three dimensions. Also joining him were guests from the album: Mr. Lexx, Nina Sky, Ricky Blaze, and indie it-girl Santigold. While the twisted dancehall of “Pon de Floor” and Hold the Line” were on every DJ’s playlist this summer, the biggest hit from the album may be cross-over surprise “Keep it Goin’ Louder,” which proves Diplo and Switch can produce just about anything better than most.

Crookers, the Italian Stallions of electronic music, had the unenviable position of following Diplo and the gang, and no matter how hard they cranked it, they couldn’t recapture the energy the crowd had during the preceding set. If Diplo/Major Lazer had headlined, I’m sure their set would have been better received. With a full length expected later this year, Crookers are still in the running to be the next European dance duo to break through, a la Daft Punk and Justice; their remix of Kid Cudi’s “Day n Nite” is the definitive version of the song, and it’s still heating up dance floors nearly two years after its initial release. Their current single, “Put Your Hand On Me,” featuring Kardinal Offishall and Carlie Marie, has the potential to do the same thing. That is, if the video doesn’t turn too many people off (spoilers ruin it, so if you haven’t seen it, give it a shot… and then surprise your friends).

After the show, I ventured downtown for something that only happens in New York: a team of top DJs turn a dim sum restaurant into a late-night club. For the one year anniversary of Flashing Lights, the monthly party thrown by top selectors DJ Ayres, Nick Catchdubs, and Jubilee, the special guest was Sheffield DJ Toddla T, who brought a mix of hip-hop and reggae to the smoky, crowded dance floor. And if dominating one show wasn’t enough, Diplo even crashed the party. It was the kind of night that reminds me why I occasionally subject myself to 10 hours on a Megabus.