Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Under and over



It’s been a busy few months on the music front, between one thing and another but recently it occurred to me that a common idea kept appearing again and again.

First there was my Dizzee review for eMusic, as I came to terms with the changes he’d made to his sound and his message. In last month’s Pitchfork column I interviewed Skepta. The week before last I was invited to a “dubstep round table” for music marketing magazine Frukt, that featured MJ Cole, Plastician, Del from Drum & Bass Arena, Geeneus from Rinse and Dan Hancox from Dot.Alt. Then last week I was interviewed by Mary Anne Hobbs for a forthcoming Radio 1 dubstep documentary, due to go out at the pretty much peak time slot (for dubstep) of 9pm. It was in talking to Mary Anne that I realised the common thread that united all these events.

Both dubstep and grime are, by and large, underground phenomena. Dubstep is currently in an unprecedented growth period and grime has, in aspiration, always aimed high. In all four events, the Dizzee review, Skepta interview, the Frukt round table and the Radio 1 interview, the issue came up of what happens to underground scenes when they reach for the mainstream.

I’m not intrinsically against the mainstream. I love hearing Timbaland’s or Ryan Leslie’s weird beats on the radio and it was incredible when Dizzee won the Mercury Music Prize with “Boy In Da Corner.” Kanye does confidence on a global scale. And yes, while it’s true that I struggle to relate to most mainstream music, it’s fair to generalise that most artists would like their music heard by the widest possible audience: for them to think otherwise would be irrational. But increasingly reaching the widest possible audience comes with some very large terms and conditions, ones that like a straight jacket, tend to restrain.

First off there’s my eMusic “Maths + English” review, the closing paragraph of which reads:

“Much of what made Dizzee so utterly compelling has been discarded, a unique message replaced by the everyday urge to entertain. “A couple of years ago in my road-yout days/I was into pirate radio I guess it was a phase…” spits Dizzee on “Pussyole”. It’s a tragic admission. While the track as a whole lays into his former mentor Wiley, those bars cheaply dismiss pirate radio, the medium that first afforded him a voice and that continues to function as the voice of inner city London that mainstream radio will not allow. If Dizzee has fought his way to the heart of commercial media only to loose his message, did the end justify these means?”

Skepta, alongside his brother JME, has done more to work with mainstream media than any other unsigned grime act (they played at celebrity socialite Peaches Geldoff’s birthday party – that’s breaking serious cultural boundaries!). Speaking to him, prior to the launch of his self-released debut album about his strategy on reaching a wider audience, it was interesting to hear some compromises he makes. From the start, one of the appeals of grime has been its unique use of language. Even in my first Dizzee interview for Hyperdub.net almost five years ago, I spent time with him clarifying what the slang terms he used meant (“shotters/blotter/HMP…”). The slang itself evolves within the grime community and takes dedicated listening by an outsider to decipher. Talking to Skepta, his approach seems to be a process of lyrical self-clarification, both in vocabulary and delivery, to ensure his message is heard and understood. It’s about knowing your audience, he believes: speaking to 50 grime fans on London pirate radio is not the same as MCing to 1000 clubbers in Russia or wherever.

I mentioned this at the Frukt round table and Plastician, who’s tight with Skepta and has spent time on tour with him, attested to this change in approach by Skepta when facing audiences abroad. Lots of the Frukt debate centred around “what’s next for dubstep?” with many inevitable comparisons to drum & bass. “Will dubstep become ‘coffee table’ music?” went on line of questioning. Will we see dubstep-lite on adverts like we saw drum & bass-lite selling shampoo and conditioner in the late ‘90s?

Whether we will or won’t can only be speculation. The bigger question is, will it still be dubstep if it is? How much do you have to compromise for it no longer to be recognisable and furthermore, if the price of compromise is a complete loss of everything that made your art form unique and interesting in the first place, was it worth it?

The Mary Anne Hobbs interview was a strange experience. Putting headphones on in a broadcast studio so you can hear your own voice – and only your own voice – reverbed, and then being asked emotive questions you feel deeply about, gives the an effect that’s not unlike having the entire room be able to hear your deep, near-subconscious thoughts.

During the interview this “future of dubstep” question came up and also “should dubstep go down the ‘live’ route” and I thought back over the Skepta, Frukt and Dizzee encounters. Then an analogy came to me, that I’d been mulling over for some time, that applied to all the situations.

Imagine a political party with a brilliant, nation-changing idea. They do everything to gain power, except in doing so, have to compromise the one idea that made them unique and important. You’d have to ask, as a voter, was it all worth it? The same question applies to dubstep and grime.

I try wherever possible, to remain positive and idealistic about music. But I appreciate that with a few exceptions (Dizzee’s “Boy In Da Corner”, Burial’s “Burial” and Lethal B’s “Forward Riddim” aka “Pow”), access to the mainstream audiences – if an artist wants to go down that route – requires some degree of compromise. I guess then, the crux of this arguments then reduces itself to, what compromises are acceptable for the two genres if they’re to retain what makes them unique, vital and interesting?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice job on this one martin.

my personal (quick) opinion is that dubstep is in a "lose/lose" situation right now.

go big and you might alianate some of the older-core 'fans' or be crucified for selling out.
stay low and you may regret not going for it and getting your name out there.

i live in the states, in a bigger city and have been following dubstep and grime for a good 3 years now. i would prolly say 1 out of 100 people i talk to specifically about music have a tiny amount of knowledge about either genre.

personally i think dubstep in particular is peaking, and maybe even on the downward slide. the quality of releases compared to the amount of releases is ridiculous.
hopefully when the popularity peaks alot of the "scenesters" will leach onto something else, this goes for producers and dj's aswell as fans.

but in saying that, if there is one person who i think is making all the right moves its kode 9.he's not my favortie producer or dj but he seems to be making smart decisions.

dubmugga said...

oh so we're back to playing this game again huh...

*yawn*

...but like i said you made ya bed now lie in it

sizzle said...

Nice piece Martin.

I was out last night at dubwar in NYC and it was a great rave. Great sound, vibes, people were losing their shit. At one point a bunch of dudes up at the front started basically fully moshing. I was surprised but it was cool (although it pissed off some of the girls who were nearby trying to dance).

Mala and Loefah played back to back. I like both, although I find loefah's halfstep military music a bit trying in a club I can really enjoy it on radio or whatever, even without the right sound system. It's stark and interesting.

Mala however, I really enjoy all around. Specifically his melodic sense and the deepness he brings to his sets. I came hoping to hear an hour of 'changes' and 'anti war dub' type flavors. Instead he played back to back with Loefah and basically played a lot of big crowd pleasing tunes that often were really not that deep at all, and I was a bit disappointed.

I guess now that these guys are moving into bigger arenas they feel that this is what they need to be competitive but it does feel like a loss to me.

Tom White said...

The mainstream of culture will always absorb aspects of the underground tributaries that feed it - this is the nature of culture. Of course, for those who have been part of a particular artistic movement long enough to remember the days when nobody seemed to know or care about it will always be distressed by the dilution that occurs when it enters a wider arena.

However, there will always be artists and audiences who produce/appreciate forward thinking and/or high quality examples of the artform; who allow it to grow and evolve and maintain some sort of 'quality control' on the culture they know and love.

It is formulaic, second rate imitations and homogeneous pandering to mainstream popularity which will kill the energy of the art. The more people are aware of it, the greater the risk of this happening. But it is this risk itself that pushes people to asses an artform and push it's boundries in order to keep it fresh and new. Hence Dubstep (for example) owes it's existence in part to the mainstream incursions made by Drum & Bass and Garage. What these music forms lost in the process fueled the birth of another, one with roots in both.

So I welcome this, and can only hope that in the end, quality music will prevail and just under the surface of the mainstream, the underground will always bubble with creativity.

hannah sakura said...

losts of deep things to think about there... i saw skream at deviation in east london last night & the crowd were really feeling it... it gave me hope that dubstep can grow into something bigger actually, but if it evolves into something else i like what tom white says about quality music always prevailing... so something good will keep growing... let's keep moving fwd...

name said...

Thanks to author.

fgeegf said...

成人電影,情色,本土自拍, 成人網站, 成人論壇, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, 成人聊天室, 成人小說, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色聊天室, 寄情築園小遊戲, AV女優,成人電影,情色,本土自拍, A片下載, 日本A片, 麗的色遊戲, 色色網, ,嘟嘟情人色網, 色情網站, 成人網站, 正妹牆, 正妹百人斬, aio,伊莉, 伊莉討論區, 成人遊戲, 成人影城,
ut聊天室, 免費A片, AV女優, 美女視訊, 情色交友, 免費AV, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 色情影片 成人影片, 成人網站, A片,H漫, 18成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人電影, 成人, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊美女, 視訊交友, 視訊聊天, 免費視訊聊天室, a片下載, aV, av片, A漫, av dvd, av成人網, 聊天室, 成人論壇, 本土自拍, 自拍, A片,成人電影,情色,本土自拍, 愛情公寓, 情色, 舊情人, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 情色交友, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 色情遊戲, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 色情a片, 一夜情, 辣妹視訊, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊, 視訊美女, 美女視訊, 視訊交友, 視訊聊天, 免費視訊聊天室, 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室, 視訊交友90739, 成人影片, 成人交友, 本土自拍, 美女交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, A片, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, UT聊天室, 尋夢園聊天室, 男同志聊天室, UT男同志聊天室, 聊天室尋夢園, 080聊天室, 080苗栗人聊天室, 6K聊天室, 女同志聊天室, 小高聊天室, 情色論壇, 色情網站,

uhfdf said...

咆哮小老鼠影片分享區, 金瓶梅影片, av女優王國, 78論壇, 女同聊天室, 熟女貼圖, 1069壞朋友論壇gay, 淫蕩少女總部, 日本情色派, 平水相逢, 黑澀會美眉無名, 網路小說免費看, 999東洋成人, 免費視訊聊天, 情色電影分享區, 9k躺伯虎聊天室, 傑克論壇, 日本女星杉本彩寫真, 自拍電影免費下載, a片論壇, 情色短片試看, 素人自拍寫真, sex888影片分享區, 1007視訊, 雙贏論壇, 爆爆爽a片免費看, 天堂私服論壇, 情色電影下載, 成人短片, 麗的線上情色小遊戲, 情色動畫免費下載, 日本女優, 小說論壇, 777成人區, showlive影音聊天網, 聊天室尋夢園, 義大利女星寫真集, 韓國a片, 熟女人妻援交, 0204成人, 性感內衣模特兒, 影片, 情色卡通, 85cc免費影城85cc, 本土自拍照片, 成人漫畫區, 18禁, 情人節阿性,

做愛的漫畫圖片, 情色電影分享區, 做愛ㄉ影片, 丁字褲美女寫真, 色美眉, 自拍俱樂部首頁, 日本偷自拍圖片, 色情做愛影片, 情色貼圖區, 八國聯軍情色網, 免費線上a片, 淫蕩女孩自拍, 美國a片, 都都成人站, 色情自拍, 本土自拍照片, 熊貓貼圖區, 色情影片, 5278影片網, 脫星寫真圖片, 粉喵聊天室, 金瓶梅18, aaaa片, 免費聊天, 免費成人影音, 彩虹自拍, 小魔女貼影片, 自拍裸體寫真, 禿頭俱樂部, 環球av影音城, 學生色情聊天室, 視訊美女, 辣妹情色圖, 性感卡通美女圖片, 影音, 情色照片 做愛, hilive tv , 忘年之交聊天室, 制服美女, 性感辣妹, ut 女同聊天室, 淫蕩自拍, 處女貼圖貼片區, 聊天ukiss tw, 亞亞成人館, 777成人, 秋瓷炫裸體寫真, 淫蕩天使貼圖, 十八禁成人影音, 禁地論壇, 洪爺淫蕩自拍, 秘書自拍圖片,

fgeegf said...

言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊美女, 視訊交友, ut聊天室, 視訊聊天, 免費視訊聊天室, a片下載, av片, A漫, av dvd, av成人網, 聊天室, 成人論壇, 本土自拍, 成人電影, 成人, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 情色視訊,

免費A片, 本土自拍, AV女優, 美女視訊, 情色交友, 免費AV, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, A片,H漫, 18成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 自拍, A片, 愛情公寓, 情色, 舊情人, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 情色交友, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 色情遊戲, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 色情a片, 一夜情, 辣妹視訊, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊, 視訊美女, 美女視訊, 視訊交友, 視訊聊天, 免費視訊聊天室, 情人視訊網, 影音視訊聊天室, 視訊交友90739, 成人影片, 成人交友,