Since its immersion onto electronic music’s spotlight in the mid 2000s, dubstep has proven to be one the scene’s most understated and controversial sub-genres, as many of today’s electronic music enthusiasts will gladly jump at the chance to declare it “dead”. If “dead” means having fallen off the mainstream radar, then yes, in this sense, dubstep is dead. But when one delves deeper beyond the veil of popular preferences, projects like Wobbleland, Excision’s Executioner Tour, and Skrillex‘s continued interest in heavy dubstep productions all serve as undisputed proof that dubstep is as alive as ever for those who still hold a true passion for it.
Many fans would argue that this raw passion is the key that solidifies dubstep as their electronic music genre of choice, as one’s excitement and enthusiasm for it can no longer be faked or imitated. From it’s humble, underground beginnings in the UK to its global explosion and dynamic present-day evolution, dubstep continues to serve as a unique artistic outlet for the on-the-fridge masses. It’s meant to celebrate and embrace only the truest of head bangers, bass enthusiasts and lovers of all things filthy, dark and unorthodox.
In order to pay homage to dubstep’s understated, yet undeniable, power over those who hold all things mysterious, deep and innovative close to their hearts, EDMTunes compiled a list of our favorite 15 dubstep tracks from over the years that best highlights the genre’s most noteworthy and trailblazing tracks.
1. Emalkay – “When I Look At You”
Although this song isn’t the heaviest dubstep track out there, it’s one of the most passionate ones and that’s why it deserves the number 1 spot on the list. The track starts off with a spacious and haunting melody with the complimentary, eerie vocal sample, “when I look at you.” Once the song drops, it boasts the perfect balance of enchantment, chaos and and mysticism that emotionally grips the listener. As the drop seamlessly interchanges between whimsical airy tones and jagged jarring daggers, it digs deep and layers together effortlessly. Emalkay‘s “When I Look At You” isn’t like any other dubstep track we’ve heard; it’s heavy in its own unique way and loaded with feeling.
2. Ill.Gates & Captain Hook – “Open Your Eyes (Bassnectar Remix)”
What would a dubstep list be without the one and only ‘Bass Head’ himself appearing at the top? Within the first few seconds, it’s easy to see why this song deserves such a high ranking, but the sludgy grittiness of the intro and the echoing, cranking roller coaster of the first drop are only the tip of the iceberg to this pristine heavy hitter. The cherry on top that almost single handedly earns this track the #2 spot on the list comes at the second drop. Bassnectar created a dramatic lul in the middle of the track with a zero-gravity-feel. He ceased this dramatic change in the track to create an epic amount of tension as he slowly coaxes the music upward and leaves listeners on the edge of their seats. Once the build up pinches, it releases in an explosive way by taking a sudden downward plummet into an epic, head-banging, swampy assembly line of guttural bass tones. Between Bassnectar’s carefully informed production style, thought provoking vocal sample work and sounds that perfectly ebb and flow in complementary ways, this “Open Your Eyes” remix has solidified itself as a timeless dubstep masterpiece.
3. Datsik – “Jenova Project”
Datsik expertly achieves the ideal type of darkness with this track; it’s a suave dubstep assassin: sneaky, lethal and gorgeously twisted. The seemingly vulnerable introduction adds an extra unique element to the song and provides the perfect framework for the drop (with an incredible amount of bass). The drop suddenly sweeps in unannounced in a wave of tightly explosive and dark mechanical sounds that are all manipulated and interchanged perfectly. The sequential order of sounds is extremely sharp and keeps the track interesting and dynamic. This sneaky and unapologetic killer is the answer to any true dubstep lover’s prayers.
4. The Prodigy – “Take Me To The Hospital (Rusko Remix)”
This song hits the top of the list for quite a few reasons, namely due to the fact that it is the fusion of one incredibly talented and influential electronic group inspiring another, newer, highly iconic UK dubstep artist. First of all, The Prodigy played not only a pivotal role in the American electronic boom back in the late 1990s, but has been credited with influencing the careers of many of our favorite producers in the electronic game today. Now take that gigantic talent and blend it together with the wonky mind of Rusko, a huge name associated with the UK dubstep boom both over the pond and in America. The result is an extremely fun, quirky and surprisingly swaggy dubstep track that never loses its unique charm.
5. Datsik & Excision – “Deviance”
No proper dubstep countdown would be complete without an appearance from the dubstep dino himself, Excision rounding out the top of the list. The type of mechanical dinosaur dub that Excision is notoriously known for certainly isn’t for everyone, but this song should serve as an exception. It’s hard to figure out exactly what makes this Datsik/Excision collab tick so nicely. Maybe it’s the expert use of vocal sampling, or the fact that you can’t help but feel like a finely-tuned piece of machinery once you press play, but whatever it is, it works. Once the song begins, the listener is immediately slingshotted through a vortex into Datsik and Excision’s perfectly crafted, weird world of mechanical attitude. The interplay of mechanical sounds with slimy accents are layered together perfectly, as each intricate twist and turn of the melody adds a new and exciting listening experience.
6. The Pixies – “Where Is My Mind (Bassnectar Remix)”
Bassnectar‘s remix of The Pixies‘ “Where Is My Mind” is one incredibly thoughtful and heartwarming piece of music. He carefully incorporated the best moments from the original track by using its beautiful electric guitar melody and vocals samples and repackaged them to deliver a rendition with an entirely new electronic feel. He used these aspects from the original and layered them over of his quintessential melodic prowess and signature accents of heavy bass. Bassnectar managed to keep the personality of the original track in mind while simultaneously giving it an uplifting, electronic makeover. This remix also has a lot of feeling and emotion behind it, as it invites us to find solace in its message.
7. Excision & Space Laces – “Destroid 7 Bounce”
Although this track is well known by most bass enthusiasts across, it manages to maintain an extremely attractive raw underground feel to it. Each intricate and thoughtful piece of this song works in harmony together: the perfectly timed vocal samples that command listeners to “bounce” and “shake”, its innovative dubstep spin on the electric guitar and a buildup that can literally be heard building upon itself. Once the drop is tipped off by the cheeky phrase “make ’em bounce”, it unleashes an irreversible whirlwind of in-your-face, down on the ground madness. The interplay of the drop’s disgustingly low tones and high-pitched wailing electric dubstep guitar is guaranteed to trigger anyone’s most genuine bass face. As if the first drop wasn’t enough to tickle your bass pickle, the second round takes this impossibly heavy song one step further as Destroid unleashed a merciless rendition of the first drop onto the track (it is too heavy…).
8. Zeds Dead – “In The Beginning”
If anyone is qualified to give a crash course in effortless swag, it’s the boys of Zeds Dead. With an introduction that seems to trickle in from the depths of shadows, the song explodes with a muffled growling bass tone that becomes a key platform for the evolution of the rest of the track. Although the song isn’t overly complicated by any means, its infectious melody gradually undergoes subtle transformations in its perspective, sound and shape; resulting in a track that is incredibly dynamic, yet simple and straightforward. What makes this song even sweeter is that the DC and Hooks are experts in both the art of innovative and dark sound design and effortless, yet attention grabbing simplicity. It’s undeniable that “In The Beginning” is a professional dubstep work; it doesn’t appear to be forced or overly showy by any means, but rather, is successful by its own nature.
9. Datsik & Excision – “Vindicate”
Between the unexpected 110 BPM drum beat that signals an impending dance track and an other-worldly synth melody that sets the vibe for the rest of the song, there’s something to be noted about the intricacies contained within the first minute of “Vindicate” alone. But there’s a lot more to be said about what gets unleashed after the minute mark when the drop hits. Once the song’s introduction descends from its zero-gravity build up, Datsik and Excision “drop the bass”, taking listeners for a gritty nose dive with legendary sound design that creates a sonic illusion of an oozing dubstep bazooka of swampy bass. The success of this collaboration is found in its perfect balance between extremely danceable and undeniably heavy. The track’s bouncey grime interplays surprisingly perfectly over the danceability of its moombahton-inspired tempo to deliver a unique dubstep experience that delivers head-bobbing filth.
10. Rise At Night feat Mc Zulu – “Armed And Dangerous (Datsik Remix)”
For lack of a better word and temporary disregard for political correctness, Datsik made this Rise At Night remix his bitch. Although Rise At Night’s original version didn’t really need much help, Datsik took it upon himself to transforms the already bass-heavy, reggae infused dance track into an alarmingly heavy dubstep statement piece. Datsik’s rendition borrows the reggae vocal samples and dance-inspired drum rhythm from the original, then quickly escalates the track in his own way from a build-up that is bound for domination. Like an atomic bomb, the drop explodes with a massive, slow entrance, leaving nothing but a mushroom cloud of bass. From there, the remix is flooded with an especially filthy and deep execution of Datsik’s signature sounds. The second drop pushes the low-end envelope even further with the addition of insanely impactful vocal sample work. This remix proves that in the game of dubstep production, Datsik is truly armed and dangerous.
11. Emalkay – “Fabrication”
“Fabrication” is yet another oldschool dubstep homerun from Emalkay that makes our list. What makes tracks like “When I Look At You” and “Fabrication” so continuously spot-on are their refreshingly timeless perspectives on dubstep. Emalkay manages to collide the lines between the two best worlds of dubstep: monotonous, deep dubstep and thrashing, high-octane dubstep, under the command of his unique style. This heavy-hitter opens with a haunting introduction that gradually transforms seamlessly into a heavy build up. After a naturally progression, yet abrupt turn of events, the song drops with a head spinning barrage of explosively popping bass, in-your-face kicks and a pulsating, garing melody. Emalkay carefully treated all aspects of the melody with each subtle variations in its shape and sound, while never losing the heavy underlying impact.
12. Zeds Dead – “Rude Boy”
As demonstrated by the 11th track on our list, there’s nothing that makes dubstep shine quite like perfectly placed reggae vocal samples over top of the natural swag of dubstep’s heavy basslines and creeping tempo. Something curiously intriguing happens when producers manage to successfully marry these two elements together in a song and it’s only fitting that the Canadian swag masters themselves, Zeds Dead, be the ones to execute this balance properly. “Rude Boy” delivers dubstep lovers the perfect blend of infectious reggae vibes and grinding, gnawing basslines. With an understated attitude, subtle creeping piano melody and an effortless drum pattern, “Rude Boy” personifies the pinnacle of underplayed cool.
13. Datsik & Excision – “Swagga”
It’s no secret that this Datsik-Excision collaboration helped spearhead the dubstep boom with its release in 2009. It’s also no secret as to how or why this track held such great power in introducing the world to the exciting, up-and-coming genre of its time. Long story short, if your vocal sample includes the phrase “guess I got my swagga back”, you better be able to follow it up with a whole lot of truth. And, to no one’s surprise, Datsik and Excision knew how to execute and deliver. What makes this collaboration extremely stellar, besides the fact that it still stands as a continual source of inspiration in the dubstep world, is that it delivers listeners an incredible balance between two seemingly opposing features: mechanical and fluid. Although the sounds in this track are extremely rigid and mechanical, the shapes that Excision and Datsik managed to create when stitching them together are incredibly flowing and fluid. As the track unfolds, its bursting, bubbling mechanical noises unravel and morph into different contours as they are stitched effortlessly, creating an in-your-face sound with naturally flowing twists and turns.
14. Excision, Datsik, Space Laces – “Destroid 3 Crusaders (Funtcase Remix)”
There’s nothing more mind blowing than hearing an incredibly talented producer successfully work their magic on an already near-perfect track. Such is the case with Funtcase’s remix of Destroid’s “Crusaders”. Although the original version is already a maddening dubstep feat in itself, Funtcase’s demented and merciless spin delivers listeners a refreshing repackaging that highlights the most notable moments from the original while still allowing his musical perspective to drive the personality of the track. Funtcase used only the most unforgiving sounds while creating a drop with insane, roller coaster-like effects. From the use of the original’s heavy metal guitar melodies and the addition of Funtcase’s infamous growls, to the head-banging, mosh-pit inducing breakdown at the end, this remix is plenty filthy for any and every dubstep aficionado.
15. Skism – “Experts”
This is a dubstep song with a purpose, as it serves as a direct demonstration of the wrath that a person feels when they’re defending something they love. This defensive passion was clearly the driving force behind the inspiration for “Experts” (and its equally epic music video), as it aims to silence the so-called “music experts” (dubstep haters and internet trolls) by simultaneously proving the awesome capabilities of the dubstep genre. Skism accomplishes both of these tasks with his blatant and reoccurring “fuck these experts” message, a fast-paced slimy, revving drop and head-spinning breakdown.