Women in dubstep

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From Mary Anne Hobbs to Sarah Souljah, Kate Hutchinson finds that women are coming into their own in the world of dubstep

  • Women in dubstep

    Look, we're really girls! A mixed crowd on the dubstep dancefloor (© Georgina Cook)

  • These days, dubstep is as commonplace in clubs as the post-smoking ban pit-pong. It’s still wobbling out of south London basements, but Meltdown’s Dubstep Chronicles event on June 17, which pulls together the scene’s main players for the Southbank Centre’s young professional bohos, proves that it can only get trendier. Noticeably, however, there’s not a sniff of oestrogen between the big guns (Kode 9, Mala, DJ Pinch) on beastie bills like this.

    Women are hugely influential in Berlin’s techno scene, and there’s a plethora of female vocalists/MCs within dubstep and tough electronic music scenes, so why are female DJs and producers so invisible in the dubstep and grime scenes? Even queen bee, Radio One’s Mary Anne Hobbs (arguably the only well-known female DJ outside of dubstep’s inner circle) hasn’t included any lady beats on ‘Evangeline’, the follow-up to her now-legendary ‘Dubstep Warz’ compilation.

    But Hobbs, who first broke the sound on mainstream radio, disagrees that dubstep is an impenetrable ‘boy’s club’, especially punter-wise. ‘In the past two years many more women have been attracted by the sound and feel much more comfortable in the environment – they know they’re not going to go to dubstep raves and get bothered,’ she explains. ‘Grime and drum ’n’ bass raves tend to be quite aggy. People in dubstep clubs tend to have a more meditative approach, which is inviting to females. You see the female-to-male ratio constantly going up – it’s got the potential to be 40:60.’

    She checks London producer Subeena, who is ‘coming on in quantum leaps’, and co-runs the Immigrant label with Dot, as a lady to pay attention to. In addition, there’s the ‘very unusual, very beautiful’ sounds of hardcore rock-influenced Ikonika, signed to Kode 9’s label Hyperdub and whose track ‘Please’ was included on Soul Jazz’s ‘Steppas’ Delight' compilation (put together by writer Emma Warren) this year. ‘They’ll probably be ready quite soon,’ says Hobbs, contemplating when to unleash their feminine wiles on the airwaves, ‘but to have booked them early on the basis of their gender would be doing them a disservice. It’s much better to allow people to cut their teeth in a less pressurised environment first before they stand up against the cream of the world’s electronic music.’

    Hobbs also nods to the US scene, where Hot Flush’s Vaccine is based. She’s widely recognised as the first female dubstep producer – she’s already done an exclusive mix for Hobbs’s show.

    Women do play instrumental roles in dubstep, but mostly it’s behind the scenes. Pioneering night FWD>> (and its spin-off label, Tempa) is hugely important to dubstep producers. It’s masterminded by Sarah Souljah, without whom, reckons Hobbs, there would be no dubstep scene.
    Furthermore, dubstep club Drumz of the South at Plan B in Brixton (next on July 11) is run by photographer and blogger Georgina Cook, and writer Melissa Bradshaw is the gal behind the word-of-mouth House Party raves. In Shoreditch the all-girl drum ’n’ bass and dubstep session Feline, which began as a backlash against the ‘raw deal’ that female DJs received in drum ’n’ bass, returns to Herbal on June 13. Stateside, DJ Kozee, another female dubstep DJ of note, runs Makeout Sessions with her girly mates in San Francisco.

    These women all agree that the scene operates on a level playing field between the sexes. Ikonika and Subeena are adamant that there aren’t divisions between people within dubstep, which makes the relative lack of female producers up to now more perplexing.

    They add that producers aren’t judged on gender, or even genre. It’s an approach Hobbs has taken on ‘Evangeline’ as it seamlessly links the finest in underground dubstep, grime, shadowy electronica and elemental beats. It’s disappointing that girls lag behind in the controls department and are still in support slots on big urban bills, but as dubstep blossoms (it’s still a relatively young genre) perhaps this will be the genre through which females radically change their allotted role in beat making.

    ‘Evangeline’ (Planet Mu) is released on Jun 16. Feline is at Herbal on Jun 13. FWD>> is at Plastic People on Jun 15. Dubstep Chronicles is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Jun 17.

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10 comments
Ariel
Ariel

@ Dub Apostle Yay for the Christian EDM scene! 100% support. Also, it is very rare to find female Dubstep DJ's around. I know of one woman (do not know her name) who occasionally DJ's in Houston, however, that is all.

Dub Aposlte
Dub Aposlte

I am a female dubstep artist. Though my vision was to make christian dubstep, which may be a diff story. I have never been able to figure out why DJing in general has been a bit of a more musical art ran by more men as it holds no gender direction to me. well thanks for the article as it was informative and hopefully more woman will explore the art of producing muzik. peace Dub Apostle

Oliver Clasper (Time Out Hong Kong Nightlife Edito
Oliver Clasper (Time Out Hong Kong Nightlife Edito

Nice piece. Not much of a dubstep scene here in HK. And what does exist consists mainly of DJs playing tracks solely from, well, the States and Europe - and the harder kind. No room for Orbison, Roughquest, Martyn, Scuba etc etc. And certainly not much in the way of original production: the only female dubstep DJ has moved back to Germany. Anyway, I mainly wanted to write just two words: Cooly G. http://www.timeout.com.hk/clubs/

toby godwin
toby godwin

this article is really interesting as its one of the 1st journalistic articles that actually respect females in terms of their music rather than, their sexuality (appearance, looks, image) i think because the identity of the dubstep artist is not primary to the music unlike pop or rock music.

dq
dq

every woman named there is a don, and so is pandaia. biggin up the ladies!

Pandai'a
Pandai'a

Please leave Jamal's comment below posted. I think myself and others in Boston have found it to be quite 'illuminating'.

Incyde
Incyde

Jamal, the mere fact that you're bringing this up shows that you clearly DO have a problem with it. Stop talking shit and accept reality.

Jam-2
Jam-2

The topic of Gender has been hotly debated here in the states. I've clearly been on the receiving end of some harsh words due to some not so "politically correct" comments I made on the disparity between females and males in relation to receiving PROMO's and exclusive released of tunes from producers, as well as Booking opportunites. The gist of my commentary was that women seemed to have the upper hand as more of the male producers seemed much more willing to share their music with budding female DJs as opposed to more established ( skill, longevity, etc) male DJ's/Promoters. I am NOT taking anything away from the women, I simply want to note that MEN (in general) will behave differently towards women ( especially those whom they find attractive) then they would a Male. This difference seemed to me to be evident in relation to Dubstep producers distribution of pre-released material. Am I sour because of it, well no, I'm simply exploring the matter. I've always supported up and coming DJ's (male and female) at my parties and gender is never a factor, I've never publicized an event as "the first female..." it was about giving the dj an opportunity to get some immediate "crowd" feedback on their development once they got the basics down. This is an interesting yet sensitive topic but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. the best bit for me was [quoute] "...but to have booked them early on the basis of their gender would be doing them a disservice". It would have been very easy for Ms. Hobbs to immediately showcase women solely based on gender but she chose to let quality and skill, dictate the invite, not gender. I question the rationale behind the choices made by male producers and promoters who are in a similar position. While I agree that gender should not be a factor, I believe that it does play a part for some. Now, before I get a bunch of male producers/ promoters and women in the scene calling foul, let me say that my commentary is strictly an observational view on the subject. This is not about right or wrong, I am not discrediting those women who receive those "gifts" and/or the opportunity to play big events. I'm simply holding male behavior in relation to this subject up to the light. Kate thank you again for a thoroughly enjoyable article. Jam-2 [Jamal Kirk] is a Promoter/Producer/DJ who host's Boston's Monthly Mixed genre party called OPERATION UNDERGROUND" in Boston Massachusetts USA he also maintains the bostondubstep.com blog and can be found on myspace at the address listed below. www.myspace.com/operationunderground