With dubstep gaining acceptance among the Burning Man crowd, in the Pioneer Square club circuit, and at this year's Decibel Fest, the genre has acquired a derogatory handle from purists: brostep. Two producer/DJs who could be classified under that dub(step)ious rubric appear in Seattle this week.
L.A.-based Rusko (aka Chris Mercer, originally from Leeds, England) creates some of dubstep's most blatantly fun tracks—which shouldn't surprise, if you know that he's a disciple of late funkateer genius Roger Troutman (of Zapp). Playfulness runs rampant throughout Rusko's voluminous discography, especially in cuts like "Da Cali Anthem," which incorporates mainstream hiphop's ultrabright synth tones and places a sample of 2Pac/Dr. Dre's (and by extension, Zapp's) "California Love" in a stolid dubstep context, and "Cockney Thug," which threads movie dialog from David Thewlis's rogue-philosopher character Johnny in Naked into a strident dubstep march. Rusko also deploys a panoply of rave-sound signifiers that give dubstep's trademark leadfootin'-it-through-bogs-of-bass a sprightlier gait and a neon-light-festooned festivity.
A frequent collaborator with UK DJ/producer Caspa (see their fine FabricLive.37 mix), Rusko seems destined to become one of the genre's most popular breakout artists. His productions consistently flaunt exciting dynamics and memorable hooks while maintaining dubstep's characteristic rhythm & bruise low end. If sometimes Rusko stoops to cheesiness and a clownsteppin' goofiness (MC Hammer vocal snippets in "Hammertime" and mocking his haters in "The Moaners"), he also rarely fails to hold interest—even when he attempts risky gambits like merging Burial's desolate, soulful aura with Moby's "Go" in "Love Is Real."
Brooklyn-via-Philadelphia's AC Slater (aka Aaron Clevenger) brings a glossy, bustling thrust to dubstep, revving up the bpms and diva samples to pitches resembling fever. It's no shocker to learn that his labels, which he founded in 2000 and 2008, are called Pitched Up and Party Like Us, respectively. It's also not too unbelievable to note that Slater remixed Rick Ross's ubiquitous rap hit "Hustlin'," although, to his credit, he turned it into an ominous, militaristic stalker of a number. A remix of Moby's "Stars," however, plays to the cheap seats (and sensibilities), combining melodramatic, megaclub production gestures (rushing piano motifs, yearning vocals) with standard-issue dubstep bass wobble.
The materialization of brostep was inevitable, as nearly all avant-garde musical styles mutate and branch off in more accessible directions over time. If it survives long enough, your precious underground, cutting-edge microgenre eventually will be used to peddle cars and computers and will appeal to LCD douches. Whether you sourly fold your arms (and spew hate in online forums) or move your ass on the dance floor is, of course, your choice, bass sickly.
Rusko performs Thurs Dec 10, Trinity, 9 pm, free, 21+; AC Slater performs Sat Dec 12, Motor, 8 pm, $10–$75, 21+.