How the #DNB2020 and #USDNB Movements Can Help Drum and Bass Stateside
The trending topics have led to strong opinions from artists all across the EDM spectrum.
In 2020, a simple tweet can open up a line of conversation between thousands upon thousands of people. Some of the loudest of these conversations take place in the world of EDM Twitter, where there always seems to be a new hot button issue with differing opinions and viewpoints being shared – in addition, of course, to Twitter beef.
One such instance took place recently when L.A.-based dubstep producer and DJ Kompany (real name Kyle Hagberg) tweeted that he’d like to see drum and bass “thrive” in 2020. This single tweet stirred up a whirlwind of opinions from artists, promoters, and fans across the entire spectrum of electronic dance music.
Many in the European drum and bass scene took offense to the tweet, arguing that drum and bass was already thriving and needed no help from artists outside the genre. Other established figureheads within the community expressed that opinions like Hagberg’s were a dime a dozen, and wouldn’t help spark any real interest in drum and bass.
Hagberg’s tweet generated so much buzz in fact, that he deleted it shortly thereafter.
Later, in a reply to another Twitter user who came to his defense, Hagberg explained that he may not have been clear enough on what he meant by the original tweet. He explained that he was specifically referring to the drum and bass scene within the United States.
The United States jungle and drum and bass scene did indeed thrive in the late 1990s and early 2000s when American artists like AK1200 and Dieselboy – along with U.K. legends like Aphrodite and Goldie – perhaps generated the most buzz within the realm of electronic music. Since then, however, interest in genres like house and dubstep has taken the forefront Stateside, while DnB remains a mainstay in European electronic music culture.
Kompany’s original tweet may have garnered a much bigger response than most expressing the same opinion, even bringing about a #DNB2020 hashtag that many artists in drum and bass and beyond have adopted (along with the previously established #USDNB). The #DNB2020 hashtag was trending shortly after Hagberg’s tweet, expanding the chatter surrounding a new United States drum and bass movement.
The conversation about drum and bass becoming successful within the United States once more isn’t exactly anything new, though. Over the years, we’ve seen many artists both within drum and bass and beyond sharing the same opinion as Hagberg.
The implication of his tweet – and many statements in recent years from bass artists like FuntCase, PhaseOne, UFO! and more – remains hotly debated. Many think that dubstep is a potential gateway to more exposure for drum and bass within the United States. After all, dubstep did come about with influence from genres like U.K. garage, breakbeat, and of course, drum and bass. The similarity between the two genres seems apparent enough that many believe dubstep artists can do a lot for the United States drum and bass movement.
That very movement has indeed existed for quite some time now, but admittedly without a real direction. No one has championed a true group effort to make stateside drum and bass explode in popularity once again, as it did back at the end of the millennium and into the early aughts.
Rising Texas-based star Flite (real name Justin Hellier) has sought to change that. Since early 2019, Hellier has amassed a multitude of drum and bass producers, DJs, promoters, and more within a private Discord group chat, with the goal of lifting stateside drum & bass back to its former glory. With the help of Ownglow (real name Sam Reeves) and others who joined the chat early on, it has now grown to exceed 200 members.
Among them are veterans like DJ Craze, 12th Planet (A.K.A. Infiltrata), Bro Safari (A.K.A. Evol Intent), Reid Speed, the aforementioned Dieselboy, and AK1200, among others. The chat also includes rising drum and bass stars like Des McMahon, Boxplot, Nvrsoft, and Reaper, along with a diverse assortment of newcomers looking to take their craft to the next level.
The Discord chat, simply named DNB North America, includes many types of channels for all purposes. The #general channel is of course the main hub for discussion, but among the other more focused channels are #musicproduction, #branding, #goals, #events, #dj-promo-tunes, and even one for #gaming.
Hellier’s goals are simply to gain stateside exposure for drum and bass, get more shows and stages at festivals, and see North American drum and bass artists become successful in the music industry.
“There’s an immense number of talented producers in North America who have produced drum and bass their whole career or are just becoming interested in it,” Hellier told EDM.com. “Unlike most Europeans, we suffer from a major distance between each other and our cities’ scenes.”
“I love what we have here and the artists that have come up within the North American community, and sometimes what we lack is a little communication and organization, something taken for granted across the pond,” Hellier went on. “This Discord was one of the solutions I’m hoping will help artists and industry connect and learn together, and generate ideas on how to expand our movement and grow ourselves.”
The importance of this communication within the North American scene is paramount, according to Hellier. “A lot of knowledge can be exchanged in a green room with a legend, even if you’re an opener,” he said. “So why not make our own internet green room? I want nothing more than success and sustainability within the drum and bass community here, and connecting with growth-oriented people is one of the fundamentals of a healthy system. It’s been very refreshing!”
Hellier’s DNB North America server is perhaps the fastest growing force within the stateside drum and bass movement at the moment – and it grows bigger every day. His goal is to get every single drum and bass artist and promoter in the U.S. into the chat.
Nonetheless, some don’t see much of a point to the whole thing. Certain artists and industry figures within the scene simply don’t see drum and bass returning to the spotlight anytime soon, for a multitude of reasons. Denver-based DJ and promoter Fury (real name Steve Blakley) spoke with EDM.com about why he doesn’t see a full-fledged stateside drum and bass renaissance in the cards for 2020.
“The first problem is that people are remembering 15 years ago very differently,” says Blakley. “The drum and bass scene here wasn’t as successful as people think it was. Even the biggest shows I threw didn’t pull enough people.” He recounted that the only successful shows he put together in that era were with Dieselboy or DnB supergroup Planet Of The Drums (of whom Dieselboy is a member, along with AK1200, Dara, and MC Messinian).
Blakley also asserted that promoters aren’t getting the youth involved enough. “Making tunes is great, but you still have mostly the same people making the music,” he said. “There are some young kids making good drum and bass, but promoters aren’t willing to take a chance on them when the old heads barely even show up anymore.”
Hellier’s goal is to see that change, and the DNB North America chat may be one of the first steps in that direction. By adding young talent to the group, along with promoters whom they may not have reached otherwise, the pieces are in place. Now, it’s only a matter of growing the stateside drum and bass movement from within, and getting it the attention it needs.
Kompany’s tweet was just one among many that have shaken things up over the years, but it seems that true progress is yet to be seen with the stateside DnB movement. Blakley reacted positively to Hagberg’s tweet: “I love that the dubstep guys are trying to get drum and bass some more exposure,” he said. “Now it’s just time to get the youth involved and let them own the drum and bass scene.” True progress, according to Blakley, needs to come from young people who will both create the new Stateside scene, and own it as they have done with dubstep.
Hellier shares that sentiment, and the #DNB2020 and #USDNB movements can’t hurt the cause. The more established artists that are using the hashtags and supporting the movement, the better. This continued support and exposure is a good thing for Stateside drum and bass – and it will lead to younger people discovering the genre, some of whom will fall in love with it.
Though Kompany got some undeserved flack for his statement, his intentions appear to have been pure. Drum and bass has been popular for a very long time in Europe and across the world, but Hagberg, along with Hellier and a slew of many other artists, are right to hope for a revival in the States. #DNB2020 and #USDNB, along with the DNB North America Discord, just might be the tools needed to make that breach into the United States EDM scene and see a true revival for drum and bass therein.
The DNB North America Discord is an invite-only chat. Producers, DJs, promoters, and others who want to get involved with the movement can directly message Flite on Twitter, or seek more information from the aforementioned artists.