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[Written by: Brandon Missig]
While many trends have come and gone in dance music over the years, one concept continues to push the music scene forward in creating new and innovative ideas. This is the concept of “hybrid” dance music. It might seem pretty straight forward but when you start exploring the different motifs at work in each genre the differences between them start to fade away, leaving something entirely different instead. It becomes clear that the most popular artists might release trendy music, but what makes them successful are the trends they set themselves through this process of experimentation.
One of the most prominent examples of how genres can come together to completely change the scene is how Hybrid Trap became massively popular around 2012. I think we all remember the first time we heard Baauer’s Harlem Shake, or RL Grime’s Core. Harlem Shake even transcended, in a way, a year after its release in 2012 when it hit #1 on Billboard’s chart and stayed there for 5 weeks. Even now it remains an iconic sound from this era of dance music.
Listening to hybrid trap over time you can hear how it began relying less on typical conventions of the club-oriented trap. The early sounds have a focus on large drops and complicated instrumentals instead of lyrics, verses, and vocals. Eventually, hybrid trap became something that sounds much closer to dubstep with its use of granular textures and heavily distorted sounds. This wave seemed to be simultaneously influenced and diminished by the rise of the riddim. Riddim strips dubstep down to its core elements: heavy bass and unique sound design, putting aside more complex arrangements and drum patterns. Still, riddim being so popular invited more opportunities to make Hybrid arrangements, Herobust’s Vertebreaker, which came out in 2016, stands out as one of the most memorable Hybrid Trap/Riddim tracks from the earliest peak in Riddim’s popularity.
From 2016-2018 riddim truly seemed to dominate most bass music stages. There was inevitably a shift away from it, and not really towards anything else. In a more open format, multi-genre artists became immensely popular such as Zeds Dead and Black Tiger Sex Machine, while riddim splintered into subgenres which are essentially classified by how heavy and distorted the sounds are (tearout), or whether the track is more melodic (melodic riddim).
I think this movement away from riddim is made more apparent by Never Say Die shutting down their Black Label on March 16 of 2021, which was originally dedicated to sharing the underground artists who were making the heaviest riddim. One of the reasons they offered in a statement was that the line between subgenres was becoming increasingly blurred.
Outside of the bass amalgamation of dubstep/brostep/riddim there is a ton of unique and interesting genre-bending going on. As artists have developed their sound and worked with more collaborators it almost feels like we expect producers to essentially invent a genre of music over the course of their career.
Think about how REZZ‘s career took off because her music is so fresh and different from the fast techno-esque tracks we were accustomed to. New music is increasingly motivated by the desire to catch everyone on the dancefloor off-guard by taking risks while also delivering on the expectation the audience has in the artists.
Freeform Bass, which may or may not actually be a genre, has artists making conventions out of breaking them. Artists like Freddy Todd or GRiZ, are injecting elements of funk, soul, even freeform jazz into their music. At some point, the music itself starts becoming more cerebral and less club/party-oriented. As electronic artists become more experimental the idea of genre itself becomes more of a series of tools for creators and less of an actual description of the music itself.
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