Dubstep Warz: How Mary Anne Hobbs Changed The World

Electronic music changed forever when Mary Anne Hobbs presented Dubstep Warz one January night in 2006 on her Breezeblock show on BBC Radio 1. Over a decade after the epic back-to-back set first aired, the historic transmission remains as relevant as ever. Give it a listen and just try to argue that the Dubstep Warz didn’t change the world (or at least mark a turning point in dance music).

The 2006 event’s epic lineup featured Mala with Coki (AKA Digital Mystikz), Skream, Kode9 with the Space Ape, Vex’d, Hatcha, Loefah with Sgt. Pokes and Distance. In addition to their own classics, these godfathers of dubstep dropped cuts by Burial and Benga among others.

That lineup was considerably influential. However, Dubstep Warz is far more important than its lineup. The two hour event distills a genre-defining moment in musical history when the dubstep sound and its scene had just about reached critical mass.

When Loefah takes his turn on the decks about an hour and twenty minutes into the mix, he describes the scene: “no one’s watching each other really, they’re just in their own space having a good time.” Although people aren’t running around hugging one another, the dancefloor was “actually quite sociable.”

Loefah further explains that one doesn’t attend a “dubstep rave” to “check out girls.” He asserts that it’s not really a drug scene. In other words, the dance floor isn’t a traffic jam of those kinds of interactions.

He adds: “we don’t really have MCs over it so there’s not that ego-clashing there. It’s just purely sound.”

Much as that sound has remained constant over the years: it is syrup-paced, bass-heavy and requires proper subwoofers. However, there were many differences from the genre as we know it today.

The 2006 UK dubstep sound bore indications of the genre’s intersections with grime. It seemed like “dub” had somehow influenced “dubstep.” There was an experimental vibe to the sound. There was less emphasis on the drop. It was more about the often tribal-influenced syncopated wobbles tuned to sub-bass frequencies.

The atmosphere Loefah described evolved rather quickly soon thereafter, as did the sound. By the time Hobbs’ follow-up Generation Bass special aired in 2008, those changes were already in motion.

For the sequel, Hobbs invited the each producer on the original Dubstep Warz lineup to pick the new lineup. Generation Bass featured Joker with MC Nomad, Starkey, Kulture, Silkie and Conquest, Chefman, Oneman and Cyrus. They dropped their own tracks as well as cuts by Rustie, Flying Lotus and Kode9 among others.

The next phase of dubstep is epitomized by Rusko and Caspa, followed soon thereafter with the advent of brostep. The genre and the movement surrounding it evolved at a faster pace than experienced before in dance music, thanks to tastemakers like Mary Anne Hobbs and the advent of the internet. The sound and scene continue to evolve and turn up in new and surprising ways even today.


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Alexandria Wojcik