Skream & Benga, the founding fathers of the dubstep genre made the trip from England to play for an eager Vancouver crowd at Fortune Sound Club on Wednesday night. These guys really did create the modern dubstep sound out of reggae and jungle in the early 2000’s in Britsol, England. They both have different styles; Benga is definitely more about shuffling beat patterns, often with many jungle type percussion pieces. He uses his bass as more of the main synth that carries the melody, whereas Skream tends to use more higher pitched synths or instruments for his melodies and the bass synth more to carry the beat. When the two collaborate on songs it works so well because their differentiating styles work as puzzle pieces that fit together really well and balance each other out. They have been friends since childhood and really grew their roots and style together, as a collaborative effort. These two producers are usually regarded as the two most influential people on dubstep today, a genre that absolutely exploded in the past year or so, even into the main stream world.
On Wednesday night, Skream & Benga did play some newer stuff, but also stuck with their roots by playing old classics like “Midnight Request Line”, “Dutch Flowers” and “Night”. “Midnight Request Line” is considered to be the first successfully known dubstep song, meaning it was the first to be really be played on underground radio stations in England, the first song out of the genre, to see Skream play it was pretty special, knowing how influential it is. They also played a bit of drum and bass as well, which obviously goes really well with jungle, a faster upbeat style that can catch a crowd off guard. Their transitions between their old and new stuff were really smooth, they would mix in riffs from their old songs with the new stuff and then progress into the older song. The crowd would get really into it when they played an older song, so I knew these were legitimate fans, not a group of ravers who wandered in from a Facebook invite. You see that at shows sometimes and it’s frightening, I think that’s more for the trance scene. With the massive popularity of dubstep, the genre has taken quite a large shift from what it used to be, if you look up some early Skream & Benga songs (like the ones I mentioned earlier) they will sound much different than your modern day dubstep song, it is hard to imagine it is even the same genre.
The two ground-breaking albums from which most of these classic songs are from are, “Skream” by Skream and “Diary Of An Afro Warior” by Benga. I highly recommend listening to them if you want to discover the bridge between reggae and electronic music. The constant evolution of the genre since those albums were released has understandably created some tension within the scene. In North America, even in more local places like San Fransisco, California and Kelowna, BC you have the growth of a more electronic sounding dubstep with heavy distortion and huge drops that is becoming very commercially successful, whereas in England the scene has evolved as well with artists like Flux Pavilion, Doctor P and Rusko, but the underground scene has remained underground and just keeps growing the dark jungle sound that producers like Skream, Benga, Mala, Loefah, Digital Mystikz any many more created. Between the artists there is no bad blood, they all respect one and another and congratulate each others success and the expansion of the genre, it’s more amongst the fans, it’s kind of known as the Skream vs. Skrillex debate, the old vs. the new.
I think the best dubstep shows are the ones with the real fans of the genre, and a show like this will bring out the true fans. It’s almost better to go to a show on a weekday than on a weekend if you’re really into the artist. Sometimes when artists get really famous they tend to draw in a lot of people who aren’t really there for the music, as it becomes more of a party scenario, and I think the true old school dubstep scene that Skream & Benga represent is the counter culture to that.