In today’s age of global communication, new levels of artistic collaboration and influence are possible. With the spread of more artistic content over the internet, music is becoming more eclectic and evolving at a rapid pace. Accordingly, no form of music has evolved or spread as rapidly as EDM and other synthesizer-based music—from the simpler times of synth pop all the way to heavier, more aggressive, modern genres like future bass and other types of bass music. Also, with the influence of the internet, genres like dubstep have gained previously unfathomed mainstream exposure and immense popularity over the past decade or so, with special thanks to artists like Skrillex. With the widespread popularity of the genre, artists have drawn in influence from other non-EDM genres to make their music even more unique.
Riddim, for example, takes its name from a sub-genre of reggae, with which it often shares its triplet percussion arrangements. The breakdown sections, like any dubstep production, are usually filled by a modulating dissonant synth melody. Most riddim tracks also contain continuous synth drones, or pulses, with chorus filters, as well as lots and lots of flanger that make the tracks so vital and alive. Riddim tracks are known for being sparsely arranged, containing only enough layering to build a soundscape. Although this is a popular and expanding genre, most people are probably not familiar with riddim. But fear not, for those who wish to check it out, there are some awesome riddim artists you need to hear.
Starting off strong with one of the biggest names in the music industry, and proof of the global reach and impact of electronic dance music, is French superstar disc jockey, DJ Snake. He has been producing electronic music for a number of years, including one of the most featured tracks of the past five years. If you have never heard of DJ Snake before, you have almost definitely heard his music on the radio. Known best for his 2013 hit “Turn Down for What,” a joint with rapper Lil Jon, he is one of the latest artists who have gotten into riddim. If that track doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you have heard new hit “Taki Taki,” which features pop stars Selena Gomez and Cardi B, as well as Latin singer Ozuna. Given the nature of “Turn Down for What,” it is no surprise that DJ Snake would take on riddim. His early works, especially, share a lot of compositional and tonal elements with that of riddim. In fact, DJ Snake recently made a big splash with the release of his 2018 single “Magneta Riddim,” a wild track that, indeed, embraces the genre.
Louisiana is a state often closely associated with a number of different genres of music that have helped influence almost seemingly every form of American music. New Orleans, and its surrounding areas, have been famous for jazz, blues, funk, zydeco, and even hip-hop genres like bounce. With that said, however, most people would not associate Louisiana with electronic dance music—let alone riddim. Yet, one of the hottest DJs right now, Boogie T, grew up there, and it is hard to ignore the influence that it has had on his music. In interviews, Boogie T talks about growing up seeing little other than blues shows, though he acknowledged the impact of funk on his music as well. Boogie T’s musical style and rise to prominence exemplify the global spread of culture in our time.
A track to listen to is “Bad Motha (with Whiskers),” a classic example of riddim composition with its repetitive refrain, a pulsing chorus-filtered synth bass, modulating, flanger keyboards, and sparse trackage.
When tracing the roots of electronic music, it is a long and vast road, though there are some distinct places where these scenes first emerged. With the rise of Kraftwerk and their work with the earliest synthesizers, few countries are as closely associated with early electronic music as Germany. While the country is known for its early influence on most forms of electronic music, it is also home to numerous up and coming contemporary EDM stars like Christian Valentin Brunn, also known as his stage persona Virtual Riot. Previously releasing music under the moniker Your Personal Tranquilizer, Virtual Riot has had his fair share of hits, but likely his most known success was his Chemistry EP, that which featured many collaborations including fellow riddim artist Dubloadz.
Named after the giant prehistoric shark monster, Megalodon is surely something different from what you are used to. Megalodon (Cory Artsay) is based out of Los Angeles, CA, easily one of the biggest hubs for the music industry in the United States and the world. There, he works as a producer and creates his own riddim tracks. Though most associated with the recent spread and rise in popularity of the riddim dubstep genre, Megalodon has been actively making electronic music for just over a decade. One notable track is “Get Down,” which starts with driving, but atmospheric percussion and ramps up with ascending synth tones and pulses that build further to a classically dissonant and mechanical dance breakdown. The track seems to be the soundscape of some sort of robot apocalypse with its intermittent voices, some of which are heavily modulated. The very nature of the track is instilled in the conventions of the riddim genre.
As previously noted, Germany has long been a hub of innovation and revolution in electronic music of all sorts over the many decades. Though Virtual Riot has certainly made an international name for himself coming out of Germany, there are other artists who have been working far longer and also contributed to this new form. At the “elder” age of 34, Ken Kruse, better known by his stage moniker Bukez Finezt, has worked his way up through the music business, starting as a producer of rap and other genres in the late 1990s. Though you still may be unfamiliar with the name and even the music, Bukez Finezt occupies a special space in EDM’s culture. Not known as widely as a lot of higher profile riddim DJs, Bukez Finezt is sort of a DJ’s DJ, a sort of Bill Hicks of electronic dance music, if you may. As a favorite among his musical peers, Bukez Finezt has made a great deal of impact on riddim and dubstep at large.
Though some of the best riddim artists have been around making music in some form for years, there are also a number of rising stars who cannot be ignored. With the support and assistance of many established electronic artists, Dubloadz is one of the rising EDM artists of quite recent introduction. Experiencing a period of great public exposure with musical success, Dubloadz also goes by Dave Nardollilli, and is known for his own tracks as well as his production work with other artists. Dubloadz has also made fans of several successful and celebrated EDM superstars, including the legendary Skrillex, with his unique and unsteady sound. Tracks like his “Fight Music” VIP have a sort of “wobbly” ambling cadence—almost like a spinning wheel slowly coming loose from a bent axle. Dubloadz has also collaborated with numerous other riddim artists such as 50 Carrot and the aforementioned Virtual Riot.
While Germany is one of the most important origin points of electronic music, the very roots of dubstep can actually be traced back to the UK. Though we think of it as contemporary music, dubstep arose from a particular music scene in southern London as far back as the 1990s, which is in particularly fascinating being a musician in London… that ain’t easy. Reflecting the British roots of riddim and dubstep, UK-based artist P0gman has been on the steady rise in the electronic and dubstep community for a number of years now. P0gman has taken the genre and given it a slight spin of his own. A great introductory track into P0gman is “Soldier” featuring Avance and Mikey Ceaser in a lively and wonky soundscape. Where the lead synth expected in a dubstep breakdown is usually stereotypically and incredibly dissonant, P0gman manages to be very subtly melodic and harmonic in his breakdown—and yet, still maintains the chaotic, brash, and mechanical essence of the true riddim record.
While the music scene that arose to morph into dubstep was based in the London area, this does not mean that there have not been major contributions and innovations in the genre from artists in other areas of the United Kingdom as well. With the internet as a valid and powerful tool for promotion and distribution, artists no longer have to move to a major music city to make a living and a name. One such contributor is the rising star 50 Carrot, who has managed to catch the ears of other great British artists like P0gman and many other fans and creators. And all thanks to the power of global communications, building a fanbase that allows him to throw raves all across Europe (though the history of raves has changed). Hailing from Leeds, 50 Carrot has made quite a splash in both his local scene and across Europe. There is probably no bigger name, and likely no better riddim artist, who’s currently coming out of the Leeds region (maybe even at any point in time).
While most of the action going on in electronic dance music for the last 20-plus years has occurred in the UK, Germany, France, and more recently, the US, the broad reach of the internet has also allowed people all around the world to get involved and create their own unique genres and sub-genres while contributing to and evolving those that already exist. With most of the notable and high-profile European EDM artists coming from countries in Western Europe, there are talented DJs and other electronic artists on the other side of the former iron curtain, too. With the evolution of dubstep occurring a bit after the fall of the Soviet Union, there was very little barrier for entry into EDM. Polish artist Dawid Bednarczyk, far more easily identified by his more succinct professional name ALGO, is one such Eastern European riddim artist whose music is unique and especially not to be overlooked. Before releasing music under his own monicker ALGO, Bednarczyk had been working as a music producer since 2008.
While different riddim artists have different styles and sounds, most have one crucial thing in common: A cool stage name. Seriously. It’s so true. Another English producer and DJ, Badklaat has been active in the dubstep community since 2010. A talented music producer and artist in his own right, Badklaat is one of the many burgeoning riddim and electronic artists to be signed to the label Never Say Die Records. Accordingly, Badklaat has made it in with many of the preeminent names in dubstep and EDM, many of whom are staples of the label. And having now been around making tracks for over eight years at this point, Badklaat has a surprisingly long and extensive discography of tracks, collaborations, and production credits to delve into. If you’ve heard of the name Badklaat before… well, remember his name for the future, for the history of the DJis being written, rewritten, and rewritten again before our very eyes.