What is Dubstep?

JD Rinehart

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What is Dubstep

There are many genres in music, and they keep growing as technology advances throughout the years. Many decades ago, music could only be produced using musical instruments.

As technology evolved, people started experimenting with computers and created music with them.

This is how music produced by DJs came to light. People experimented with electronic music more and made several new beats and flows. The results of this experimentation soon flourished into many other genres that people enjoy listening to.

Electronic music tends to be linked to dance music because it often sounds upbeat and loud with jarring bass drops. However many people wonder, what is dubstep?

What is Dubstep?

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in the early 2000s in London, England. It is characterized by its heavy basslines, syncopated rhythms, and use of wobble and filter effects. Dubstep has evolved into many sub-genres and has gained a dedicated fanbase worldwide.

Dubstep finds its signature in between the drum’s glitchy beats and dark reverb of Jamaican dub music. Dubstep is defined in simple terms as the fast beat that you feel as a slow groove and flow.

The most distinctive and specific characteristic of Dubstep is its heavy reliance on bass. Every Dubstep genre of music will indeed have lots of bass in it.

It is well-known that Dubstep would not even exist without the bass that fluctuates and drops in between the tunes. Dubstep is a music genre that is an adaptation of UK Garage, which is also a mix of 2- step garage, techno, and reggae.

It branches out from the Drum & Bass genre too. This influence results in the bass being used in Dubstep, and it becomes one of its most essential aspects.

Why is it Called Dubstep?

After people have asked What is Dubstep, the next obvious question is Why is it called Dubstep? The name ‘Dubstep’ originated from the two names of the sub-genres that Dubstep evolved from.

The term “dub” refers to a technique used in reggae music where the original vocal track is removed from a song and replaced with an instrumental version that emphasizes the bass and drum rhythms.

The word “step” originated from the phrase “2-step garage“. Dubstep evolved from these genres; however, Dubstep is a stripped-down form of the “2-step garage” genre. “Step” in the word Dubstep means something like “dance move” and or “rhythm”. It can also be thought to refer to the use of step sequencing software in the creation of the genre’s distinctive rhythms.

So, Dubstep actually comes from the genre’s roots in the UK garage and dub music scenes.

Key Features of Dubstep

Dubstep is characterized by its heavy basslines, dark soundscapes, and syncopated rhythms. Dubstep often incorporates elements of other electronic genres, such as garage, drum and bass, and dub reggae.

The genre is known for its aggressive, high-energy sound, and its influence has been felt in a variety of other musical styles, including pop, hip-hop, and rock.

What Year did Dubstep Start?

The earliest prototype of Dubstep could be traced back to the year 1999 to 2000.

Who Invented Dubstep?

While there is some debate over who actually invented dubstep, the most commonly cited producers include Oris Jay, El-B, Steve Gurley, and Zed Bias. Regardless of who created it first, dubstep has become one of the most popular genres of music in the world. Thanks to artists like Skrillex and Bassnectar, it has spread to countries all over the globe.

The beat’s basis stemmed from the growth of the sound system party scene in the early years of 1980 in Jamaica. The famous duo – Digital Mystikz (Mala & Coki) are widely recognized as the fathers of Dubstep. They ran the record label DMZ and pioneered the club night of the same name.

Types of Dubstep in the Scene

Dubstep is a sub-genre that branches out from the electronic music class. Electronic music was first mixed with Drum & Bass genre, resulting in the birth of the Dubstep sub-genre. Music never stops evolving, though, so more sub-genres of Dubstep continue to be created.

There is no approximate number of sub-genres of Dubstep because it is always changing. The sub-genres with the most popularity have their own names, such as classic Dubstep, filthstep, wobblestep, glitchstep, chillstep, neurostep, robostep, techstep, deathstep, ganjastep.

It may seem hard to memorize each one of the names for these sub-genres, but they all have their own unique characteristics in the sound.

There are actually twenty-five or thirty types of sub-genres resulting from experimentation, but limiting it to the top ten would be best.

Classic Dubstep  

Classic dubstep uses all of the wobbly sound effects, with touches of glitch and sound twitches you would commonly hear in most other genres of electronic music.

This is the most basic form of Dubstep, without tweaks that alter its original sound. As always, it consists of lots of bass sounds.


Filthstep is Dubstep but altered so that it would sound lo-fi. It sounds like sounds from 16bit computer games from the 90s. This is one of the reasons why it is called “filth”.

The other reason is that it contains a lot of banging and noisy sounds. The music often sounds aggressive in terms of rhythm and usually lacks melody. 


Wobblestep focuses on the wobble aspect of Dubstep. Wobble is the name of the sound made from heavily synthesized bass sounds integrated with pitch bends that tackle the frequency spectrum’s low pitch. 


Glitchstep emphasizes the sound of a glitch inside the tune, just like how the name implies. Glitchstep puts aside the heavy bass and wobbles and mostly makes glitch sounds. Glitches sound quick and high-pitched.


Chillstep is another sub-genre of Dubstep that people could actually enjoy. Chillstep reminds you and makes you live a dream as if you are inside a calm and peaceful forest.

The perfect portrayal would be something like the forest in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It makes you feel like you are inside a kingdom in a fantasy-themed video game.


Neurostep has a science-fiction-influenced sound rather than being mechanical. It sounds more philosophical and meditative. This sub-genre originated from Neurofunk, Drum & Bass, and Dubstep.

Neurostep often has a cold feeling and atmosphere in its sound. It incorporates mechanical sound. It may sound like Robostep or Deathstep, but Neurostep contains a deeper sound design. 


Robostep makes the listener feel as if they are inside a science fiction story. It features robotic sounds. Imagine hearing sounds from a rusty robot joint and sounds made by robots in a robotic movie.

This sub-genre incorporates many metallic, mechanical sounds, which you may enjoy if you are into these themes.


Techstep’s most unique characteristic is its influence by techno music. The music primarily consists of abstract, synthetic noises.

Like Robostep, Techstep integrates clunky mechanical sounds and a post-apocalyptic atmosphere. 


Deathstep is what you would get if you mixed the vocals from Death Metal with the beat of Dubstep.

This sub-genre is the most different from the others. It consists of Screamo vocals from Death Metal and distorted electric guitar sounds, too. 


Ganjastep is created when you mix Dubstep and Reggae. Ganjastep has a quick beat, but listeners can still enjoy it while relaxing.

Just imagine beats from Reggae-type music but incorporated with the drum and bass sounds from Dubstep.

Popular Dubstep Artists

Many famous DJs are also Dubstep artists. Some of their names have appeared on a lot of music billboards. They tend to make other kinds of electronic dance music, but most of them create Dubstep too.

  • Skrillex
  • Diplo
  • Major Lazer
  • DJ Snake
  • Zeds Dead
  • Flux Pavilion
  • Krewella
  • Borgore
  • Seven Lions
  • Kill The Noise

These are considered ten of the most famous DJs that make dubstep music. 

Dubstep’s Impact on Pop Culture

Dubstep was initially an underground movement, but soon gained popularity and began to influence other genres of music, as well as fashion, art, and even advertising.

Dubstep’s heavy bass and rhythmic patterns have been used in popular TV shows, movies, and video games, and its influence can be heard in a wide range of musical genres, from pop to hip-hop to electronic dance music (EDM).

Dubstep has also had a significant impact on fashion, with its distinctive style of dark and edgy clothing becoming popular in urban streetwear. Overall, dubstep has been a major force in shaping the sound and style of popular culture in recent years.

Dubstep’s impact on pop culture can be seen in several examples:

Influence on Mainstream Pop Music

Dubstep’s influence on mainstream pop music: Dubstep’s influence on pop music can be heard in the work of artists such as Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry, who have incorporated dubstep elements into their songs.

Dubstep in Films and TV Shows

Dubstep in films and TV shows: Dubstep’s popularity has also made its way into popular movies and TV shows. For example, the song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex was featured in the 2011 film “Project X” and the TV series “Breaking Bad.”

Comedians Key & Peele also have a famous skit on Dubstep:

Dubstep in Fashion

Dubstep has also had an impact on fashion, with many people incorporating the genre’s bold and edgy aesthetic into their clothing and accessories.

Criticisms of Dubstep Music

While not universally held, there are some criticisms of dubstep as a whole. Such criticisms include:

  • Lack of musical diversity: Some critics argue that dubstep relies too heavily on the same formulaic sound and doesn’t vary enough from track to track.
  • Overuse of bass drops: Dubstep is known for its powerful bass drops, but some people feel that they can be overused to the point of being gimmicky.
  • Negative influence on youth: Some people have criticized the violent or aggressive themes that can be present in some dubstep tracks, and worry that it could have a negative influence on young listeners.
  • Cultural appropriation: Dubstep originated in the UK, but has since become popular around the world. Some people feel that non-UK artists who produce dubstep are appropriating a cultural sound and style that doesn’t belong to them.

A Decline in Mainstream Popularity

Each music genre usually has its own followers and fans as everyone has their own personal tastes in music. Sometimes, other genres of music are easier to listen to than others.

Not everyone can listen to Dubstep or every style of electronic music in general. DJs that specialize in Dubstep also need good technical skills to make it sound good, so it is crucial to make it genuinely enjoyable to listen to.

In the mid-2014s, mainstream popularity showed a drastic decline in the genre. People in the mainstream community tended to listen to other genres more. Popular influencers like Skrillex and Skream shifted to making music for other genres too.

At the same time, other Dubstep artists like Mount Kimbie and James Blake evolved their music by adapting it into more soulful electronic-influenced music.

The Future of Dubstep

So what is the future of dubstep? Some argue that it has peaked in popularity and is no longer as influential as it once was, while others believe that it continues to evolve and adapt with the times.

Some dubstep artists have already begun experimenting with new sounds and styles, incorporating elements of other genres such as trap, house, and techno. This fusion of genres has the potential to introduce new audiences to dubstep and broaden its appeal.

It is also worth noting that while the mainstream popularity of dubstep may have peaked, the genre still maintains a strong underground following. Dubstep continues to be featured in festivals, club scenes, and online communities dedicated to the genre. As long as there are artists and fans who are passionate about dubstep, its future remains bright.

Additional Resources

Check out the additional resources we have on Dubstep:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do they call it dubstep?

The term “dubstep” is derived from a combination of “dub”, which refers to a type of reggae music that originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, and “2-step”, a style of UK garage music that was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Who is the king of dubstep?

There is no universally agreed-upon “king of dubstep” as the genre is diverse and has had many influential artists over the years. Some of the most well-known and respected artists in the genre include Skrillex, Benga, Rusko, Mala, and Burial, among others.

Final Remarks

From studying the history of Dubstep, we can conclude that Dubstep is one of the great results of experimentation with music. It remained underground for quite a long time because not everybody could listen to it.

Other audiences or listeners who enjoyed it could see how much value dubstep music has for the creativity garnered to create it. It is unlike other music, as Dubstep is instrumental and has no actual lyrics in it.

Dubstep is considered a form of music like no other because of its rigorous but accurate beat, making the right people want to dance to it.

The creation of Dubstep has opened the opportunity for DJs to create many new things. It has also opened new perspectives for audiophiles.

While people tend to argue about whether to consider computer-generated music as real music or not, it is best to settle down and listen to what our ears are most comfortable with.

People worldwide have different tastes, so it is quite difficult to marginalize everybody’s music tastes. Race, environment, upbringing, and social aspects affect how people enjoy music. Dubstep is just one of many genres of music that bring people that enjoy listening to it together.

Dubstep is yet another fantastic invention in the history of music. We hope this has answered the question What is Dubstep?