The History of Rock Music: The 2000s

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi)

DJs and Rappers

(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Rock and Dance Music")

Hip-hop and the digital producer

TM, ®, Copyright © 2008 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Hip-hop dominated the charts during the first decade of the 21st century. That represented a dramatic change from 50 years earlier, when black music had been segregated to the "race" charts. The reason why rap artists appealed to such a broad audience was probably that they boasted, on average, the best producers. Music (whether popular or classical) in the second half of the 20th century had been increasingly focusing on the soundscape, on sculpting the atmosphere, rather than on the melody. Hip-hop music completed that trend by mostly disposing of the melody and setting the lyrics in a purely atmospheric context. The producer (the sound director and sculptor) was clearly more important in hip-hop music than in other genres. Competition among producers in turn led to a generation of more and more sophisticated producers. Very few rock producers could compete with hip-hop producers in terms of instrumental creativity.

It was the black producers of the 2000s who inherited the mantle of the white producers of the 1960s (Joe Meek, Phil Spector, George Martin, Brian Wilson) who had coined the concept of the studio as an instrument.

Another appeal of hip-hop music rested on the fact that the lyrics of rappers tended to be less pompous and indulgent than the lyrics of rockers. It made sense to listen to the raps in a way that did not make sense in rock music. Rockers were largely speaking to an older audience that was still interested in personal existential journeys (the same way that country singers had been speaking to an older audience when rockers were speaking to a younger audience). The younger generation (especially in the middle class) was often more attracted to the down-to-earth lyrics of black rappers.

Hip-hop music after the message

TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

As white hip-hop became more competitive, black hip-hop reached a creative crisis that forced the new generations to focus on sound manipulation rather than on messages. At the turn of the century, hip-hop music was borrowing from other musical genres as well as recycling its own vocabulary of breaks, samples, and themes. New technology allowed producers to wrap everything into an original art of atmosphere/ambience sculpting. The "message" was becoming less and less important. The sociopolitical landscape was also radically changed by the 2001 terrorist attacks against New York and Washington: the debate shifted from class conflict to religious conflict, which contributed to neutralize the original sociopolitical fuel of hip-hop music.

The deluge of hip-hop albums at the turn of the century continued with works such as: Ben "Ty" Chijioke's Awkward (2001), an original Afro-funk-jazz-rap fusion from Britain; Quality (2002) by New York's Talib Kweli (Greene); Exit (2003) by Canada's K-OS (Kheaven Brereton); The End of the Beginning (2003), by veteran Los Angeles rapper Murs (Nick Carter), a former member of 3 Melancholy Gypsys (or 3MG) and, after relocating to Oakland, of the Mystik Journeymen's "Living Legends" collective, produced by 9th Wonder; Dudley Perkins' A Lil Light (2003), another oneiric production by Madlib; Black Mamba Serums (2004), by former Company Flow rapper Justin "Bigg Jus" Ingleton.

Little Brother, the North Carolina-based duo of rapper Phonte Coleman and producer Patrick "9th Wonder" Douthit, joined the ranks of soul-tinged rap music with The Listening (2003). Phonte then hooked up with Dutch producer Matthijs "Nicolay" Rook and the duo, under the moniker Foreign Exchange, released Connected (2004), an even more baroque attempt at transposing the fluidity and smoothness of classic soul into hip-hop music.

Virginia-based production team The Neptunes (Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), already among the most successful hip-hop producers, formed N.E.R.D. (1) with rapper Sheldon "Shay" Haley. In Search Of (2001), remixed the following year with live instrumentation, and especially Fly or Die (2004) indulged in a neurotic melange of sonic stereotypes and production techniques of metal, funk, soul and pop. They also produced the albums by Clipse (1), the duo of Virginia brothers Gene "Malice" and Terrence "Pusha T" Thornton, two of the sonic jewels of the decade: Lord Willin' (2002) and Hell Hath No Fury (2006).

Northern Californian duo Blackalicious (1), i.e. rapper Tim "Gift of Gab" Parker and producer Xavier "Chief Xcel" Mosley, crafted a lyrical and nostalgic style with Nia (2000).

The decadence of West-Coast rap was well represented by the groups that were supposed to rejuvenate it, and that, in fact, failed to: Dilated Peoples, whose The Platform (2000) featured beats created by Los Angeles' producer Alan-Daniel "Alchemist" Maman, and Jurassic 5, whose enthusiastic and amusing Quality Control (2000) and especially Power in Numbers (2002) amounted de facto to a revival of old-fashioned rap (despite Cut Chemist's presence). Even Madvillain (1)'s Madvillainy (Stones Throw, 2004), the much publicized collaboration between New York-based rapper Daniel "MF Doom" Dumile (the former "Zen Love" of KMD) and Los Angeles-based producer Otis "Madlib" Jackson, was mostly an impressive tour de force of production techniques; the same skills that Jackson had already displayed on several of his own recordings, notably Quasimoto (1)'s The Unseen (2000) and Yesterdays New Quintet's Angles Without Edges (2001), frequently blurring the border between psychedelic, jazz and hip-hop music. MF Doom, on the other hand, lent his rapping skills also to Dangerdoom's The Mouse And The Mask (2005), a collaboration with Danger Mouse.

New York's producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, better known for mixing together vocals and beats from Jay Z's Black Album and snippets from the Beatles' White Album to create his Grey Album (2004), formed Gnarls Barkley with Goodie Mob's vocalist Cee-Lo Green. The soul, pop and hip-hop hybrid of their St Elsewhere (2006) signaled a shift towards a reappropriation of the past.

On the lighter side, Los Angeles' rapper Regan "Busdriver" Farquhar, mixed goofy energetic scat-tinged rapping and eclectic beats on Temporary Forever (2002).

Chicago's Kanye West (2) produced Jay-Z, Talib Kweli and Alicia Keys and then fashioned one of the most personal concepts of the era, the soul-infected The College Dropout (2004). Hyper-chromatic three-dimensional arrangements turned Late Registration (2005) into a stately hip-hop fresco and a distillation of the genre's existential legacy.

The combination of Gershwin "BlackBird" Hutchinson, a versatile West Coast rapper and singer, and the quasi-psychedelic imagination of producer Paris Zax yielded Bird's Eye View (2005).

Philadelphia-based producer and MC Jneiro Jarel (born Omar Gilyard) added a new dimension to the fusion of jazz and hip-hop music with the digital collage of Three Piece Puzzle (2005).

G-Side, a rap duo from Alabama (Stephen "ST 2 Lettaz" Harris and David "Yung Clova" Williams), owed much of the charm of Starshipz And Rocketz (2008) not to their simple lyrics but to the hypnosis created by beatmakers/arrangers Block Beattaz, a production style that virtually invented a new hip-hop genre, "trance-rap".

Boston's white rapper Edan Portnoy fused acid-rock and hip-hop on Beauty And The Beat (2005), the same way Sly Stone fused acid-rock and funk music four decades earlier.

Minnesota's white quartet Kill The Vultures wed punk, jazz and hip-hop on Kill The Vultures (2005).

Why? debuted with Oaklandazulasylum (2003) in the vein of San Francisco's numerous freak acts that bent genres and derided stereotypes. With the romantic Elephant Eyelash (2005) and the tragic Alopecia (2008), though, two albums that mirrored each other three years apart, Why? perfected an unlikely fusion of rap, minimalism and rock while using it as the scaffolding for frontman Yoni Wolf's brutally vivid and earnest lyrics.

Florida-born white rapper Astronautalis (Andy Bothwell) attempted a Beck-like fusion of the figures of rapper, blue-collar bard, singer-songwriter and folk-singer on The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters (2006) and on Pomegranate (2008).

Prolyphic & Reanimator, i.e. the duo of Chicago's producer Reanimator and Rhode Island's rapper Prolyphic, refined their mentor Sage Francis' introspective and multi-layered style on The Ugly Truth (2008).

Cadence Weapon, the moniker chosem by Western Canada's white rapper Rollie Pemberton, utilized a broad (and still cohesive) palette of beats and virtuoso claustrophobic studio arrangements on Breaking Kayfabe (2005).

Octavius, i.e. Los Angeles-based African-American vocalist and digital producer William Marshall, took the art of sampling to a higher level on Audio Noir (2003), that augmented trip-hop with techniques borrowed from musique concrete, dada collages, industrial music and ambient music. This vast arsenal of influences showed up again a decade later on Laws (2012), another sophisticated essay on the interplay between abrasive noise and brainy dance, between industrial music and techno music.

Soul music, 2004-2008

The new star of soul music was Raheem DeVaughn, who debuted with The Love Experience (2005) and broke through with the more traditional Love Behind the Melody (2008).

The rhythm'n'blues diva of the decade was Beyonce Knowles, now a solo artist after dropping the best-selling female group of all time, Destiny's Child, and on her way to setting solo records after the success of I Am Sasha Fierce (2008).

Barbados-born Robyn "Rihanna" Fenty emerged with the poppy SOS (2006), produced by Jonathan Reuven Rotem, Umbrella (2007), produced by Terius "The-Dream" Nash, and Don't Stop the Music (2007), produced by Stargate (the Norwegian duo of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen), peaking with S&M (2010), her tenth number-one hit, composed by Stargate and French producer Sandy "Vee" Wilhelm. The-Dream

Atlanta's singer-songwriter Terius "The-Dream" Nash (1) debuted solo with Love/Hate (2007), a poignant kaleidoscope of melodies, orchestrations and beats.

Georgia Anne Muldrow (2) debuted with the EP Worthnothings (2004) and with the 21-song Olesi - Fragments Of An Earth (2006) in a highly innovative style of soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop music that was both intimate, lush and irregular. After the even more experimental (and funky) EP Sagala (2007), credited to Pattie Blingh and the Akebulan Five, she delved into another tour de force, Umsindo (2009), whose 24 jarring electronic songs were sonic equivalents of neurotic implosions.

Instrumental hip-hop, 2001-2008

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Detroit's white producer Dabrye (Tadd Mullinix) created a new instrumental format out of hip-hop, funk, jazz and electronica on One/Three (2001).

In Los Angeles, Busdriver's white producer Alfred "Daedelus" Roberts (1) painted the disjointed murals of Invention (2002), setting collages of samples to hip-hop beats, mixing sci-fi electronica and orchestral kitsch; an art that he refined and culminated with the elegant retro parade of Exquisite Corpse (2005), where the samples of orchestral music of the 1930s came to constitute the musical equivalent of a collective stream of consciousness.

Inspired by New York's "illbient" scene, a number of djs aimed for a hip-hop that could transcend hip-hop, that is for a new (ambient, psychological, free-form) form of art founded on the marriage of poetry and sound. Ohio-born dj Boom Bip (Bryan Hollon), a self-described "anti-dj", well impersonated the sound sculptor and collage assembler of the new wave of hip-hop with the mind-boggling exercise in hip-hop counterpoint of Seed to Sun (2002).

RJD2, the project of white Ohio-based producer Ramble Jon Krohn, turned Deadringer (2002) into a tour de force of cinematic collages of samples and wicked stuttering beats, dilating and deforming Sixties soundtracks, smooth jazz, soul themes and gloomy atmospheres.

Los Angeles' producer Paris Zax tried to fuse hip-hop and acid-rock on the all-instrumental Unpath'd Waters (2005).

Jurassic 5's turntablist Lucas "Cut Chemist" MacFadden (1) rediscovered the joyful childish art of audio collage on The Audience's Listening (2006), one of the most hilarious albums of the genre.

Detroit's producer James Yancey upped the ante of instrumental sample-based (and schizophrenically fragmented) hip-hop with Donuts (2006), credited to both his nicknames J Dilla and Jay Dee, a parodistic fresco of the consumer society.

Los Angeles-based producer Steven Allison, better known as Flying Lotus, was emblematic of a generation that was employing laptop computers to generate sounds that were impossible before, both in terms of (noisy) arrangement and in terms of (convulsive) rhythms. 1983 (2006) also displayed a broad range of influences, Los Angeles (2008) integrated them into a seamless futuristic collage, and Cosmogramma (2010) was de facto a progressive symphony for laptop, sampler, drum-machine and live instrumentation.

Trap Music

Trap is a style of rap music that is characterized by the Roland TR-808 hi-hat triplet snares, an iconic sound first introduced by DJ Mantronik's single Bassline (1986).

Afrika Bambaataa had used the Roland TR-808 in Planet Rock (1982) but the device mostly failed to find a market, precisely because it didn't sound like real drums. Ironically, in 1983 Roland had stopped making it. Luckily this meant that the device could easily be found in second-hand stores or just purchased new at discount prices. And poor djs started using it to create distinctive sound effects. For example, Los Angeles' dj Egyptian Lover (Greg Broussard) used it to create sound effects for his signature song Egypt Egypt (1984). When he performed in Miami, he taught the trick to 2 Live Crew, who used the TR-808 to shape their Throw The D (1986). They then found a way to boost the decay knob and created Me So Horny (1989) and Banned in the U.S.A. (1990). Among those who learned the trick from 2 Live Crew was a young dj from Atlanta, DJ Toomp, who went on a tour with them. New Orleans' dj Mannie Fresh (Byron Thomas) too pioneered the frenzied hi-hats with Juvenile's album 400 Degreez (1998). Atlanta's producer Shawty Redd sculpted Terence "Drama" Cook `s debut album Causin' Drama (2000) with frenzied hi-hats.

Trap music lay dormant for a few years. Texas' posse UGK (short for Underground Kingz) initiated trap music on Too Hard to Swallow (1992) with tracks such as Pocket Full of Stones, followed in Memphis by both the duo 8Ball & MJG with On the Outside Looking In (1994) and the group Three 6 Mafia (1) with Mystic Stylez (1995).

Three 6 Mafia also launched the subgenre of Memphis crunk with the album Chapter 1: The End (1996) that featured the song Gette'm Crunk. Cruck predates the boom of trap music with a similar sound.

At first trap music didn's spread at all, but Atlanta producers and rappers turned it into a sensation. First came Aldrin " DJ Toomp " Davis through his partnership with rapper Clifford "T.I." Harris that began on I'm Serious (2001) and climbed the charts with Trap Muzik (2003) and the platinum-selling King (2006).

"Trap house" was also the word by which drug users referred to the buildings where drug dealers sold their ware; and T.I.'s lyrics focused on the trap house, just like the lyrics of UGK, 8Ball & MJG and many others, but T.I. popularized the term, a term already used by Goodie Mob in Thought Process (1995) and by OutKast in SpottieOttieDopaliscious (1998).

Then came rapper Mario "Yo Gotti" Mims with Life (2003). Then came Atlanta's rapper Jay "Young Jeezy" Jenkins with a mixtape titled Trap or Die (2004), produced by Tyree "DJ Drama" Simmons, and with Let's Get It - Thug Motivation 101 (2005), mostly produced by Demetrius "Shawty Redd" Stewart except for Standing Ovation produced by the classically-trained Chris "Drumma Boy" Golson. Shawty Redd also produced Trap House (2005), the album that launched the career of rapper Radric "Gucci Mane" Davis. Jeezy and Gucci collaborated on the single Icy (2005), produced by Xavier "Zaytoven" Dotson.

Note that at the same time a similar hi-hat pattern was becoming popular in metalcore.

Drumma Boy released the mixtape Welcome II My City (2009). Lexus "Lex Luger" Lewis produced the crunk/trap album Flockaveli (2010), including the hit Hard In Da Paint, by Juaquin "Waka Flocka Flame" Malphurs, characterized by supercharged 808 hi-hats. Luger then produced several trap hits such as Rick Ross' B.M.F. (2010) and the Kanye West and Jay-Z collaboration H.A.M. (2011). The careers of younger producers such as Leland "Metro Boomin" Wayne and Michael "Mike WiLL" Williams started in trap music.

Trap's subgenre drill was launched by Chicago's producer Tyree "Young Chop" Pittman with rapper Chief Keef's I Don't Like (2012).

Confusingly, a subgenre of house music originating from Chicago was also called "trap". Influenced by the chopped-and-screwed technique of DJ Screw, this electronic trap became popular after Flosstradamus (the Chicago-based duo of Curt Cameruci and Josh Young) released the EP Total Recall (2012) and remixed the Major Lazer single Original Don (2012), and after New York-based dj Harry "Baauer" Rodrigues had a hit with Harlem Shake (2012). They also influenced the "chilltrap" scene pioneered in Los Angeles by producer Henry "RL Grime" Steinway of the collective WeDidIt with singles such as Trap on Acid (2012) and in New Hampshire by Gabriel "CRNKN" Baer with the EP The Clearing (2014).

Initially, trap music was rap music fascinated by the power of the 808 to rattle subwoofer speakers, but soon it came to bridge the worlds of hip-hop and electronic dance music.

Crunk had been launched by Three 6 Mafia's Chapter 1 - The End (1996) in Memphis and by Jon "Lil Jon" Smith's Get Crunk Who U Wit - Da Album (1997), co-produced with DJ Troomp in Atlanta. Crunk became a national sensation with Li Jon's best-selling album Kings of Crunk (2002). Crunk hits began to climb the charts, notably Crime Mob's hits Knuck if you Buck (2004) and Rock Yo Hips (2006), and Chris Brown's Run It (2005).


In the early 1980s Jamaican production duo Steely and Clevie (keyboardist Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson, who had played with influential dancehall band Roots Radics, and drummer Cleveland "Clevie" Browne, who had introduced the drum-machine into reggae) revolutionized dancehall reggae with drum-machines and synthesizers. In 1989 they created a beat, or, better, "riddim", for the Poco Man Jam sung by Jamaican dancehall vocalist Gregory Peck. This came to be known as the "dembow riddim"). Jamaican producer Robert "Bobby Digital" Dixon used it in the anti-colonialist anthem Dem Bow (1990) sung by dancehall singer Rexton "Shabba Ranks" Gordon. The song became an underground hit in Spanish-speaking Central America and led to increasingly sophisticated and lengthy remixes released as mixtapes incorporating elements of hip-hop and dancehall, and adopting Spanish lyrics (instead of the original English lyrics).

Meanwhile, starting in the mid-1980s, there were two musical centres that were popularizing Spanish-language versions of English-languages genres: Panama was the place where reggae became popular in Spanish (notably with Chicho Man, Nando Boom and El General) and Puerto Rico was the place where rap became popular in Spanish (notably with Vico C).

Meanwhile, Domincan immigrants had introduced their merengue music in Puerto Rico, and Jorge Oquendo, owner of a record label specializing in Spanish rap, had the idea of mixing Spanish rap and merengue and launched the international careers of Luis "Vico C" Cruz, whose first album was La Recta Final (1989), and the 14-year-old Marlisa "Lisa M" Vazquez, whose first album was Trampa (1989).

Oquendo met Edgardo "El General" Franco who was doing something similar in Panama and helped him become the first international star of Spanish-language dancehall reggae thanks to the hit single Tu Pum Pum (1991).

In 1992 Vico C's dj, Felix "DJ Negro" Rodriguez, opened a night-club in Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, the Noise, that became a legendary school for aspiring turntablists and singers of Spanish reggae such as DJ Nelson and Ivy Queen who experimented with the new synthesis of hip-hop and reggae.

This is the club where reggaeton came into its own, as documented on DJ Negro's cassette The Noise (1994) and on Pedro "DJ Playero" Torruelas' cassette 37 (1994), the cassette that made Daddy Yankee popular, and a little later on Martha "Ivy Queen" Rodriguez's album En Mi Imperio (1996). Nelson "DJ Nelson" Martinez produced The Original Rude Girl (1998) for Ivy Queen Los Reyes del Nuevo Milenio (2000) for Wisin & Yandel (Juan Luna and Llandel Malave). At that time reggaeton began to infiltrate the night-clubs of Miami. Persecuted by the authorities for its incitement of violence, drugs and sex, reggaeton didn't have a radio station until Mix 107.7 was launched in 1999 in San Juan.

Starting from the year 2000, a similar Caribbean-hop hybrid was concocted by the production duo of Luny Tunes (Francisco "Luny" Saldana and Victor "Tunes" Cabrera) who had moved from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, and DJ Nelson discovered them and brought into the Noise circle.

Puerto Rican rapper Tegui "Tego Calderon" Rosario's debut album El Abayarde (2002) and Ramon "Daddy Yankee" Rodriguez's album El (2002) launched the new wave of reggaeton, followed by Luny Tunes' and Norgie Noriega's album Mas Flow (2003), Ivy Queen's album Diva (2003), William "Don Omar" Rivera's album The Last Don (2003), with its singles Pobre Diabla and Dale Don Dale, and Zion & Lennox (Felix Torres and Gabriel Pizarro)'s Motivando a la Yal (2004).

Reggaeton spread outside the Spanish-speaking world, and especially in the USA and Europe, when Luny Tunes produced Daddy Yankee's hit single Gasolina (2004), pop star Shakira recorded La Tortura (2004), and Dominican-born producer Edwin "SPK" Almonte produced New York rapper Victor "N.O.R.E." Santiago's hit single Oye Mi Canto (2005), featuring both Tego Calderon and Daddy Yankee. It climbed the charts with Don Omar's album King of Kings (2006), with Daddy Yankee's album El Cartel III - The Big Boss (2007) and with Wisin & Yandel's Wisin vs. Yandel - Los Extraterrestres (2007). Its popularity would steadily increase in the next ten years until Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee would top the US charts for several weeks with the poppy cumbia-influenced Despacito.

British styles of the 2000s

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London's Dylan Mills, better known as Dizzee Rascal (1), a member of the "Roll Deep Crew", promoted a new genre ("grime"), an abrasive version of "garage" (itself a variant of drum'n'bass), with Boy in Da Corner (2003).

The other British "next big thing" of the era was Sri Lankan-born agit-prop chanteuse Maya Arulpragasam, or M.I.A. for short, whose Arular (2005) simply mixed hip-hop, reggae and pop, while fostering a hard-line ideology that embraced both the political and the sexual, part Jello Biafra and part Madonna. Kala (2007) was less immediate but more visceral, a giant cauldron of artificial, natural, social and musical sounds.

Streets, the project of Mike Skinner, a white British rapper, jumped on the bandwagon of the latest dance fads ("garage" and "two step") and turned them into tools to construct generational anthems. Original Pirate Material (2002) turned Streets into the English equivalent of Eminem.

Dubstep originated in London (probably in a club called "Forward>>" in 2001) as a bass-heavy instrumental dance music derived from garage, a sort of middle ground between two-step and dub. Unlike grime, that was fundamentally orientated towards the vocals, dubstep was more about the atmosphere. Digital Mystikz, Loefah and Kode9 were among the pioneers of the scene, but it was Skream with Midnight Request Line (2005) that established it as a major force in dance music.

The first artist to emerge from the British dubstep scene and reach a broader audience was Will "Burial" Bevan (1). Burial (2006) actually seemed rather an evolution of the gloomy trip-hop ambience of the 1990s shaken by post-jungle breaks; but it included metallic post-industrial polyrhythms, miasmatic electronics and "concrete" collages of noise, voices and beats. Reintroducing the vocals, its follow-up Untrue (2007) wed dubstep with soul music, a program that peaked with the EP Kindred (2012), a creative puzzle of glitchy soundscape, spastic rhythm and wailing vocals.

Steve "Kode9" Goodman bridged the world of drum'n'bass (his musical roots) and dubstep on Memories Of The Future (2006).

Vex'd, i.e. Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter, with Degenerate (2005) helped dubstep transition from the Burial's dejected spleen to a more truculent and menacing mood (more akin to industrial than dub music).

Other milestones of the grime/dubstep scene included: Richard "Wiley" Cowie's Treddin' On Thin Ice (2004), Virus Syndicate's The Work Related Illness (2005), Kane "Kano" Robinson's Home Sweet Home (2005), Maxwell "Lethal Bizzle" Ansah's Against All Oddz (2005), Steve Milanese's Extend (2006), Barry "Boxcutter" Lynn's Oneiric (2006), Louise-Amanda "Lady Sovereign" Harman's Vertically Challenged (2006), Steve "Kode9" Goodman's Memories Of The Future (2006), Greg "Distance" Sanders's My Demons (2007), Jan "Disrupt" Gleichmar's Foundation Bit (2007), Rob "Pinch" Ellis' Underwater Dancehall (2007), Beni "Benga" Uthman's Diary Of An Afro Warrior (2008).

Expanding the horizons of dubstep, Sam Shackleton (1) evolved towards techno music that is both tribal and ethereal, pivoting around warbling viscuous sub-bass lines. The elegant productions of Three Eps (2009) ran the gamut from dub-jazz psychedelia to Goa-esque frenzied trance, often immersed in a mystical jungle atmosphere and sometimes bordering on abstract electroacoustic chamber music.

There were few musicians left who were worthy of the great drum'n'bass innovators of the past. Shitmat (1), the brainchild of British producer Henry Collins, specialized in spastic drill'n'bass and digital hardcore peppered with Jamaican-style ragga shouting on Killababylonkutz (2004), that contained multiple remixes of the same song in completely different directions, and on Full English Breakfest (2004), originally released as five EPs; and then converted to madcap breakcore collages with Hang The DJ (2006), a wild and witty merry-go-round of samples from such diverse sources as heavy metal and orchestral pop.

Neil "Landstrumm" Sutherland's Restaurant Of Assassins (2007) offered an original fusion of drill'n'bass, dubstep and glitchy noise.

Albums such as Body Riddle (2006) by English electronic musician Chris Clark provided a diligent summary of English electronica of the previous decade with its fractured rhythms, moving arias, frantic lullabies, and swirling machine music.

British pop stars of the end of the decade included the Sugarbabes, a female trio (Heidi Range, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan), with Push the Button (2005), and Aimee Duffy, with the soul-tinged Mercy (2008).


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Shadow Huntaz, formed by Dutch producers Don and Roel Funcken and three USA rappers, delivered a delirious fusion of glitch music and hip-hop music, influenced by the iconoclastic jams of both acid-rock and free-jazz, on Corrupt Data (2004).

In Japan the most intriguing work was perhaps Neutrino (2004), by Japanese duo Neutrino (Atsuhiro Murakami and Hideki Kuroda).

Inspired by Shitmat, DJ Scotch Egg (Japanese producer Shigeru Ishihara, based in Brighton) used a handheld video game console to shape dance-music of the gabber genre, as documented on KFC Core (2005).

Goth-Trad, the project of restless Japanese keyboardist and instrument builder Takeaki Maruyama, secreted a hybrid electronic dance style made of dubstep, drum'n'bass, dub and techno.

Drum'n'bass Fusion

One of the most intriguing takes on the whole scene came from Australia. Terminal Sound System (Halo's bassist Skye Klein) probed the landscape of dubstep, drum'n'bass and trip-hop, sculpting glitch-ambient music over a bed of chaotic breakbeats on albums such as Compressor (2007) and Constructing Towers (2008).

Sote (Iranian dj Akta Ebtekar) started out with breakcore singles but then concocted an electronic hodgepodge of world-music, drum'n'bass, dubstep and grime on Dastgaah (2006).

Dutch drum'n'bass producer Noel Wessels, aka DJ Hidden (1), broke new ground with the sound of The Later After (2007) that was smooth and sleek despite the acrobatic rhythmic inventions, and that exuded a melancholy futuristic atmosphere akin to liquid ambient funk-jazz.

Evol Intent (1), the trio of Atlanta-based drum'n'bass producers The Enemy (Ashley Jones), Knick (Nick Weiller) and Gigantor (Mike Diasio), delivered a highly political work, Era of Diversion (2008) that employed a broad range of styles, a work of extreme complexity and depth that can be interpreted at multiple levels.

Xanopticon (1), i.e. San Francisco's producer Ryan Friedrich, indulged in harsh and violent breakcore on the exhilarating instrumental album Liminal Space (2003).

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