Will Drum & Bass Blow Up In America In 2020?

One of the most common sayings at the end of a year is "(insert the next year) is my year." I see every rapper, DJ, and wannabe influencer on that wave on the reg. I never thought it'd be uttered about drum & bass in America...nor would it start from a dubstep producer.

"In 2020 can we get more dubstep DJs to play a bit of dnb in their sets?" Downlink asked on January 1, going on to say that, "[a]s a collective we have the ability to influence whats poppin, and I think the headbangers could enjoy a bit of dnb as they become more familiar with it. Its also fun to change it up from a mixing perspective." He isn't wrong; the world of dubstep and drum & bass aren't that separate; hell, 10 years ago(!) the dnb world started experimenting in dubstep sounds via the drumstep genre, which is still kinda vibing to this day (although on a much lower level, which a number of smaller artists). In any case, that tweet turned into a conversation (using the #dnb2020 hashtag) that's still going on in some segments of the internet: How can we get drum & bass to blow up, particularly for the EDM mainstream? Currently, there's no right answer, as it's hard to pin down exactly where the issue is.

On the onset, it's not like dnb hasn't had its time in the sun in the American mainstream. Roni Size/Reprazent's "Brown Paper Bag" video got some prime-time MTV rotation, most memorably (for me) on MTV's 12 Angry Viewers program back in the late '90s—they were also doing their American tours around that time as well. The biggest EDM festivals in America—Ultra and EDC—have had everyone from Pendulum to Andy C rinsing their stages 15-16 years ago, and seem to always have some kind of representation on their massive lineups. And some of the bigger UK artists, including Subfocus and Chase & Status, have name recognition among ravers. So what gives?

To this junglist—who's lived in America all of his life and has been listening to jungle and drum & bass since '95—it sounds like there are a number of factors, based on what a number of producers, DJs, and writers have been bringing up:
  • There's no room for newer/smaller artists when the same bigger acts are being booked. This is no surprise; the same big name DJs I was going to see in 2000 are more than likely the same big DJs I'm seeing on flyers for Miami Music Week dnb events, or just at the biggest shows across the country. Some have said that the gatekeepers are holding certain acts or artists back, which we can't say isn't true, although we'd need to dive deeper to know the who, what and why.
  • There's not enough of a scene here. This is a weird one; there's always pockets for dnb across the country, including NYC, parts of California, Philly, and a number of other states. The thing is, it's always the same big cities with people flocking to the same lineups. There could be a dope producer in your local town, but if your local promoters can't get enough people to come through to a venue on a regular basis, you can't really nurture a thriving scene.
  • There's not enough knowledge about the scene. This is a tough one; As a guy who ran a fairly strong EDM website for a few years, one that concentrated on the bigger festival sounds as well as everything from footwork to dnb, the appetite for drum & bass was definitely lower, no matter who was making the tunes.
I'd assume there are other reasons, but it feels like the real problem is a combination of those factors, plus a bunch more. I'm more leaning to the side of Americans not giving a fuck about music clocking in at ~170BPM compared to other styles, but it seems like at a festival, people playing the hardest drum & bass should be getting ravers hype. Sounds like it should be easy...so how do we get past this?

Personally, I recommend there be some united front. No shade to the dubstep scene, but I think the American dnb scene really needs to build a new foundation. I'd love to see a situation where a dedicated group of people start a site that has multiple purposes: educating newcomers from the EDM scene about drum & bass as a whole, while highlighting American acts who are killing it, both here and abroad. This can include podcasts, a mix series, interviews and profile features, and more. And it shouldn't discriminate; it needs to be about the music, regardless of gender, race, or anything like that. If it's dope, it's highlighted. Simple. I also think we need some new life in the scene, a new outlook, or some new personalities. People outside of the scene always call it elitist, which it has been and can be; it's a huge turn off for newcomers looking to go from being ignorant about the sound to becoming card-carrying junglists. I'm not saying be a Dillon Francis or anything, but we gotta lighten up and have some fun the way we know how.

Again, that's just me. I want the scene to win, but I've wanted the scene to grow off the backs of the Sutpen's Jungle shows Goodie Goodie and the Substitution crew threw back in 2000. Loads of UK talent, but also the heaviest hitters stateside. And those are still the greatest sets I'd heard as a raver. With acts like The Burner Brothers set to drop their first album in 2020, along with artists like Ownglow and Flite getting a bigger name on the strength of their productions, now can and should be the time.

Or things will just go the way Alix Perez said.

Either way, we'll still be here.

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