So far, dubstep hasn’t lend itself very well to a pop translation. Where its musical predecessor, 2-step/garage, dominated the UK charts for a brief while around the turn of the century, dubstep has largely remained moody and instrumental. That doesn’t get you very far on daytime radio and music television. I have a feeling this is going to change. UK dubstep supertrio Magnetic Man (made up of producers Skream, Benga and Artwork) is about to release “I Need Air” and as far as I’m concerned, it has the words “crossover smash” written all over it. It is #nowplaying on 22tracks’ pop playlist (!), and you can hear Redlight‘s remix on the electro playlist.
If there’s an immediate predecessor for “I Need Air”, it’s Skream’s “Lets Get Ravey Remix” of “In For The Kill” (2009), a mix that is almost as well-known as La Roux‘s original version. Like “I Need Air”, it features a high-pitched female vocal and a foreboding beat:
Skream and Benga are two of the best know DJs and producers in dubstep, so let’s talk about the other people involved in the making of “I Need Air”. First, Artwork, AKA London producer Arthur Smith. His name may not ring a bell, but he is one of the originators of the sound. Teaming up with Skream and Benga is like the teacher joining his pupils. Back in the day, Smith used to work in the Big Apple record shop in South-London, and operate a studio on the second floor. There has only ever been one Artwork release (the Red EP from 2002), but Smith has been involved in several seminal garage releases by D’n'D (“Diamond Rings“, 1999) and Menta (“Sounds of da Future“, 2001, and “Ramp“, 2002), amongst others.
The featured singer on “I Need Air” is Angela Hunte. You think you don’t know her, but you do. Everybody does. She co-wrote and co-produced “Empire State of Mind” for Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. Even though she is a New Yorker, Hunte has strong links with the UK music scene, thanks to her longtime association with hip-hop producer Salaam Remi. He was called in to produce UK garage sensation Ms Dynamite‘s debut album A Little Deeper (2002), and brought her along. She stayed. A year later, Angela Hunte sang on three tracks from DJ Zinc‘s album Faster. I guess word travels.
This summer, Magnetic Man are playing festivals in Japan, England, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands.