Rolling Stone



for years, the truism ran that drumand-bass, despite pockets of true believers across the nation, would, in America, remain a specialty taste within electronic music, never mind in pop. But recently the sound has risen sharply in visibility. The believers can at least partially thank TikTok.

The young British vocalist and producer PinkPanthe­ress sampled Adam F’s drum-and-bass classic “Circles” for her viral hit “Break It Off,” and Piri, whose sprightly, slinky, liquid D&B single “Soft Spot” has more than 13 million plays on Spotify.

Still, the revival has been slowly bubbling over within the DJ world. “I was fortunate enough to have packedout rooms with people absolutely losing their shit,” says London DJ Sherelle, whose 2020 edition of BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix was voted the top set of the year, the day after her U.S. tour finale in New York. “People might [once] have said, ‘You can’t go to the U.S. and play this.’ Now, you can absolutely do it.”

When it began three decades ago, drum-and-bass was known as jungle. It was built on rolling break beats that were considered wildly fast because it pushed past 140 beats per minute, far above house music’s 120-BPM groove. By the Nineties, the music began paring down to rhythmic basics — a staggered two-step beat replaced the rolling breaks — and sped up to 170 BPM, allowing dancers to skank along to the sludgy, half-time bass lines.

U.K. artists have long offered interpreta­tions of imported Black musical styles. But drum-and-bass was Britain’s first indigenous­ly produced Black genre. “When it’s music of Black origin, you feel a sense of pride,” says Sherelle. “Drum-andbass is very intrinsica­lly a part of the U.K. blueprint, the DNA of it all.”

Drum-and-bass also lives comfortabl­y in a U.K. musical lineage that encompasse­s Soul II Soul, Amy Winehouse, and PinkPanthe­ress. “You could go to a majority-Black club tonight and hear dancehall, R&B, U.S. hip-hop, and drum-and-bass classics as part of a standard night out,” says Joe Muggs, author of the U.K. soundsyste­m’s oral history Bass, Mids, Tops. In Britain, he adds, “drum-and-bass was always part of pop culture — you would hear it on TV bumpers, idents on adverts.”

That’s integral to D&B’s intergener­ational appeal. “I’ve just been on a film shoot, and somebody said, ‘My dad played me this music,’ ” actor and D&B pioneer Goldie recalls with a warm laugh. It’s more evidence that in the U.K., drum-and-bass has become, as he puts it, “the new Motown.”

It’s not just in the U.K. Crucial to drum-and-bass’ increasing American profile is a greater understand­ing of it as Black music in the U.S. “Drumand-bass experience­d the same thing as Detroit techno — a whiter audience embraced it, and it got written off as a ‘white’ genre and dismissed by the Black audience here as such,” says Sinistarr, the popular Detroit drum-andbass DJ and producer. “Nowadays, there are way more American Black D&B producers than ever, and that group is constantly growing.”

So are the number of women. A key factor has been EQ50, a female collective in London dedicated to gender parity in the drum-and-bass world that launched in 2018. “That’s been a beautiful thing to watch,” says Sherelle, who credits EQ50 for having “allowed people like myself and others to feel super comfortabl­e in the scene. D&B has been quite a male-dominated scene for a very long time.” Now, she says, there is a “new wave of women and nonbinary people coming through.”

The D&B surge is also part of a general loosening of genre in dance music across the board. “My generation got it like, ‘You’re in your micro-genre and you’re not leaving it,’ ” says L.A.-based producer-DJ Claude VonStroke (Barclay Crenshaw), who has regularly booked D&B at his Dirtybird Campout parties since 2015. (Goldie is appearing this year.) “I don’t think it’s like that anymore.” Multi-genre DJ’ing has “become the default — I’d say it’s more of an anomaly to have a DJ known for just one style lately,” says Kristin Malossi, a.k.a. DJ Voices, a resident on Brooklyn’s the Lot Radio.

Increasing­ly more than genre, beats per minute tend to regulate what and how DJs play. For years, techno tended to be played in the 130- to 135-BPM range, but starting in the late 2010s, DJs began pushing it past 150. (For reference, Avicii’s “Levels” is 126 BPM and Darude’s “Sandstorm” is 136 BPM.) A signal moment came in 2019, when the Boiler Room DJ set by Sherelle, one of D&B’s most prominent flag flyers, went viral. It showed, she says, “that people have an appetite for things going faster.”

 ?? ?? Goldie, PinkPanthe­ress, and London DJ Sherelle (from top) have been speeding up the beats — and their music is getting more and more popular.
Goldie, PinkPanthe­ress, and London DJ Sherelle (from top) have been speeding up the beats — and their music is getting more and more popular.
 ?? ?? The U.K. dance genre could be ‘the new Motown’
The U.K. dance genre could be ‘the new Motown’

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