all words: Marcus Dowling
all photos: Kevin Hulse
In an ideal world, life for all of us is as joyous as it appears to be for dubstep DJ and producer 12th Planet. The most impressive component of his headlining set at Adams Morgan’s District Nightclub on Wednesday night had absolutely nothing to do with the music, but everything to do with his smile. It’s a brilliant, wide mouthed invitation to have fun, the iconic “Buddy Christ” of 2012’s most hotly debated mainstream pop sound. A t-shirt announcing that the DJ, like Jesus, is our homeboy thus makes sense. Delivering electronic dance nation from the stress of everyday life into the salvation of a soulful sonic soundclash, it’s quite possibly the heaviest booming rapture in the history of the universe.
Wednesday night probably wasn’t the best night to hold a party in an American dubstep scene dominated by teenage excitement. District was well under capacity, but the energy was honest, palpable and real. If DJs are the new rock stars, then 12th Planet is Living Color,a different brother at a different time with a wild groove.
Dubstep’s mainstream hierarchy works as such. Skrillex’s pop in a meat grinder sound is king. Rusko’s wobbly take on ear-worming melodies maintains a semblance of dubstep’s history with a moshing bro’s adidas sneaker stomping on the face of the long established underground scene. 12th Planet? With a history steeped in a love of soul and hip-hop, and already having experienced a top career in drum and bass, dubstep is an incredibly simple transition. Dubstep is reggae redefined, and if you look at reggae as soul in new clothes, the circle is complete and everything makes sense.
12th Planet’s latest Scion A/V EP The End is Near is tremendous fun. Track “Burst” featuring Skrillex and Kill the Noise is particularly radio friendly without upsetting dubstep’s old school standards. It’s heavy on the noise, light on the wobbles, high on the swagger and bowel-shifting with the bass. In the live realm, it’s everything top 40 radio wishes it could never be but has been forced to embrace. In short, it’s walloping fun in the key of dirty. The DJ’s remix with fellow dubstepper Flinch of Little Jinder’s Trouble and Bass Records released single “Youth Blood” is transcendent. The use of a pitch shift to replicate a saxophone’s wail is notable, making it to many the genre’s finest and all-time pop moment.
Dubstep shows in 2012 will rarely ever be about the beauty of anything. Foremost, the sound is intentionally based in a grime-ridden reality. As well, it’s mainstream pop, and even when fun, the over-information age tells us that pop is a foul corruption of the soul and should be avoided at all costs. But 12th Planet? When supported by Flinch and Kastle? A night both powerful and heartfelt, proof that even the worst boys have a soft side.