RISKY DOCUMENTS

The Bug on dstep, d&b, and the asphyxiation of influence:

Because for me the beauty of dubstep were the producers that I met in the beginning, the fact that they were influenced by a lot of different music; Kode 9, Mala, influenced by jungle, influenced by dub, influenced by classical music, soundtrack music. That’s brilliant, I could hear that on the tracks but now i think that there are new producers that are coming into dubstep and they only listen to dubstep and for me that’s when jungle became drum n bass, that was the problem then. Drum n bass producers were just listening to drum n bass producers so there weren’t as many interesting influences on the music and I think of course with dubstep now, its amazing the progress in the last year but I don’t see why I should say everything’s positive when its obviously not really.

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from a thoughtful twopart interview with Kevin.

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Mosca’s comment on my Durrrty Goodz post:

dubstep is still so studiously documented and recorded in the annals of bass history that it needs decent artwork to accompany it like monarchs’ portraits in history books, but grime exists mainly on mp3/ phone/ whites and is accordingly easy to delete from memory. most grime producers are more concerned with bringing out new beats than accumulating a ‘respectable’ archive to be remembered by.

this is a good point. i drafted a post on something similar when Andy sent me 2 or 3 clips to dubstep documentaries on YouTube. but we shouldn’t overlook Risky Roadz and all the grime DVDs! These are thrilling, self-produced documents both from and of a scene, completely visible but hardly a ‘respectable’ archive.

the subject of a grime DVD is a whole lot of things – lyrical beef, strutting, DIY cameraboy aesthetics, skyhigh testosterone levels, etc., whereas the subject of a dubstep documentary – any documentary – is ‘dubstep’ itself (the integral objecthood of the docu’s subject); not the content of the scene but only its most obvious, exterior shell, the part of it which has hardened into visibility and no longer moves (maybe the dead part). Once people outside your scene recognize your scene as such, (talking in money terms here) they recognize you as a potential market, something they can invest in or advertise to: you exist.

London dubstep documentary

I’m not criticizing (dubstep) documentaries at all, i simply feel that these are interesting ways to think about the way scenes get remembered or forgotten or overlooked, the durability of its artefacts – cultural visibility – and how well (or poorly) these aspects of a scene can flourish as mainstream media narratives.

and then there’s another thing, about the way ‘quality’ (usually a long-term consideration) and ‘newness’ are very different production goals.

Roll Deep in session

Nearly everybody in the docus (big respect to all involved!) talks about dubstep’s diverse and hard-to-pin down nature, but the nature of a documentary is that by the time that we see it, the subject’s been killed a bit. Things move on. And self-conscious diversity rarely stays diverse for long. In the interview above, Kevin says:

I cant really help but take a look back as well to try and assess what’s sort of going on in the scene because when DMZ had its first anniversary, when it moved upstairs, that night was a turning point for me and not just a positive one. Its great for Mala and its great for Digital Mystikz for all the hard work they’ve put in these past three years but for me, at that night, suddenly the audience seemed more like a drum n bass audience, it seemed more white, it seemed more male, the formula seemed to be almost there then so that was the first night I really noticed there was emerging a really strong formula like in drum n bass, like all the tracks were starting to sound a bit like Coki or Skream. And Skream also that night was rewinding every track which i thought, well the crowd weren’t even generating so much interest for him to do that, so it seemed like a lot of hype and an audience that I thought were maybe a little too closed.

Bristol dubstep documentary trailer

…but it’s true: scenes need anthems, they just shouldn’t become formulas. (I’ve enjoyed watching Team Shadetek’s Brooklyn Anthem become itself, a Brooklyn anthem! – even the crowd up in Denmark knew it when i dropped Ghis’s rmx last Friday).

You can think about Risky Roadz as grime’s Pyrrhic victory in translating itself across media. It is much better at being itself on YouTube then dubstep is (massive physical bass weight doesn’t translate across YouTube clips; instead dstep vids give us people explaining what we’re missing). But grime videos’ success at, well, being grimy means a lot of shouting, a lot of confusion & swears, angry artistic city kids, no voice-over or talking-head explanation since there’s no assumption of curious outsiders looking in who should be catered to or created…

Risky Roadz freestyle clips

but who cares about dialectic when we’ve got this?

5 thoughts on “RISKY DOCUMENTS”

  1. Grime is personality-driven though, the joy of grime DVDs is navigating your way through who knows who, who’s associated with who’s being dissed etc. Dubstep, a largely instrumental scene, driven by faceless producers, can’t really hope to compete. I’ve seen some dancehall DVDs that feature no interviews whatsoever, just footage from clubs – maybe a dubstep DVD should follow that formula: what else is there in the dubstep ‘scene’ that doesn’t happen on the dancefloor? (that isn’t a rhetorical question) Ultimately, you learn more about the early days of hip-hop from watching ‘WildStyle’ than any number of documentaries on the subject.

    Kevin’s fears about dubstep going the way of drum n’bass are valid too – years ago, imitators of a new sound were always worth paying attention to because it was kids aping sounds they loved with limited means. Nowadays, pretty much anyone can download software that will allow you to ape Skream or Burial to a professional (and boring) degree – Venetian Snares’ new Sabbath Dubs 12″ illustrates just how easy it is to ape the style convincingly.

  2. i think dubstep has become a genre (ushering in the derivative productions that distinction encourages) not just because of journalists or market forces, but also because questions of genre seem very important to a scene trying to articulate its place in a bass canon, the act of articulation being driven by a kind of zealous evangelicism, the constant knowledge that i’ll want and need to explain this to someone. i find i can’t bear to listen to Mary Anne Hobbs for this reason. photography, the act of recording a scene (and maybe even legacy-building) is gets equal standing with producer interviews in the first clip.

    the grime videos seem less keen to unversalise their own knowledge of their own position – It’s a given, I’m the baddest, I don’t need yr approval or engagement. of course, this makes them much more engaging.

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