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The triumphant return of Drum and Bass to the US [Opinion]

Credit: Mat Zo (https://www.facebook.com/matzomusic/)

With no shortage of time on our hands, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the future of the electronic dance music scene. The collaborative nature of the musical landscape, especially now, leads us to wonder what trends are going to pick up over the next couple of months. Could it finally be time for the United States to lean on our neighbors across the pond and embrace drum and bass? 

The Weeknd brings DnB to the mainstage

The Weeknd’s latest album, After Hours, surprised the mainstream charts with a liquid drum and bass track, Hardest to Love. The third song on the current #1 album in the world, Hardest to Love offers why it should appeal to the U.S. masses. It’s no secret that The Weeknd heavily relies on 80’s and 90’s styles of synthpop, which this track blended perfectly with the U.K. garage and drum and bass influences in this album. With the largest album debut on Billboard, numbering a staggering 221 million streams, a vast number of people have been reminded of the forgotten drum and bass appeal since its peak in the mid-to-late 90’s.

Mat Zo and the divisive MC debate

Another huge inflection point for the visibility of drum and bass music is due to the virtual Countdown festival Insomniac threw this past weekend. Longtime EDM fans universally recognize Mat Zo’s talent and diversity, and his set on Saturday was no exception. Playing a set bursting with drum and bass, complete with an MC, he paid homage to his U.K. roots in a big way.

While not everyone loves the background grandmaster’s fast rapping, it’s instrumental to the roots of not only drum and bass, but of electronic music. The earliest Jamaican influences of dub and reggae note similarities between styles of music, including using an MC. In terms of performing live, it certainly adds an exciting component to a scene that began underground. Soapbox rant aside, Mat Zo’s intentional use of drum and bass has been noticed by the millions of viewers and provides some context for the subgenre.

Labels with a renewed interest

Other labels and artists have taken notice of drum and bass music’s resurgence in the US. PLS&TY noted that he grew up an avid listener of the genre during an interview with DMNW. Flume’s The Difference with Toro y Moi hints at a garage-based beat, but in the experimental fashion he’s known for.

Zeds Dead frequently features drum and bass throughout their live sets, and air themed podcasts on their Deadbeats channel. Artists like Urbandawn, Rusko, and the Delta Heavy Lights Out collaboration cases Zeds Dead’s interest in the genre. The Deadbeats label highlights the crossover potential dubstep and heavier songs hold with drum and bass.

Unique to the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest has an additional unique foothold in the drum and bass field. Known as a bass mecca already, the visibility Shambhala Music Festival and the Monstercat label provide is a bonus. For one, Shambhala routinely rinses attendees with a slew of drum and bass music at The Village stage. Northwest roots are firmly established in the scene, as it annually pulls in an impressive lineup. Vancouver-based Monstercat’s roster brimming with new drum and bass talent only further confirms this.

What’s next?

In the time of many unknowns, the only certainty is the musical landscape will be completely different in a few months. An abundance of time and creativity is going to further push artists to create unique and new content. While it seems impossible to predict, the high exposure to drum and bass makes us hopeful for its resurgence.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Aikhan

    April 9, 2020 at 12:59 am

    “…forgotten drum and bass appeal since its peak in the mid-to-late 90’s.” Wot! The genre has been evolving and picking up steam since the 90s. Both the music and the scene are better than they’ve evere been. While other electronic music comes and goes D&B soldiers on!

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