Bostown dubstep

When Tim Haslett talks, Leggo listens; plus, drones at BCA
By DAVID DAY  |  June 1, 2006

Rob Buschgans, Billy Kiely, Tim Haslett of Leggo Dub

For new electronic sounds, Boston is considered behind the times. Ultimately, though, nothing could be further from the truth. Consider LEGGO DUB, the new Tuesday night sound at the Middlesex Lounge, where dubstep rules. A next-level amalgam of hip-hop, reggae, dub, and grime — already primed by MCs like Dizzee Rascal and labels like Vice — UK dubstep is probably the hottest subculture in the world. Here in Boston, on a recent night when the Sox were battling the Yankees on high-def TV, three US experts held court.

“Essentially dubstep comes from South London, Brixton, Chelsea, Clapham, and the acres of concrete of Council Houses in the UK,” says Leggo Dub resident DJ TIM HASLETT. “It wasn’t dreamed up by some label.” Haslett is one of the unsung heroes of the Boston scene. An original employee of DJ Raffi’s Boston Beat shop back in East Boston circa 1986, Haslett sold disco 12-inches and original house singles alongside DJ Bruno to crusading record shoppers. Always current, he now pushes the new reggae-fueled hip-hop style that’s killing it in the underground. “There’s nothing anti-commercial about it,” he says. “It’s experimental, but only to a degree. It’s got rhythm, melody, harmony and it’s not assonate or dissonant.”

“I’m excited about dubstep because to me it’s like Motown, it’s like Detroit techno,” says Leggo Dub resident UFO (neé BILLY KIELY), who grew up in Quincy and is the head of sales at Boston-based record distributor Forced Exposure. (Full disclosure: this author is also a FE employee). “It’s like this autonomous black music homegrown from the UK, and to me that’s really exciting.” Haslett, a graduate student of Afro-American culture, identifies dubstep as a link in the Jamaican diaspora: “With the generations of Jamaicans in the UK, it’s always a love of reggae and dub. They would hear it everywhere they went. It’s as if the influences are a hereditary trait.” Kiely, one of the few distributors importing the sound direct from the UK, says the Leggo Dub night is designed to draw the clear connection between Jamaican dub reggae and the hot new sound. “It’s really reggae-conscious. Dubstep producers call on sounds from Middle Eastern music and from UK garage culture and it has a great flavor.”

“When I first heard it, I thought it was the coolest shit I’ve ever heard,” says club-goer Cindy Chen, as a remarkable low-end fills the club. “The beats are so minimal and it’s extremely different, with badass basslines. The fact that you can feel it is also fucking hot.” Adds Kiely, “it’s all low end. It’s paced like dub records, it’s more tracky. Reggae music is apocalyptic . . . and apocryphal, too. And I think dubstep has really called upon that.”

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