I had a lot of fun researching this one. I have an inexplicable soft spot for dubstep and these songs really got into my head; I think my girlfriend got very sick of hearing me constantly singing, “our GOD is an AWEsome god, he reigns…”
Here’s the audio from today:
Dubstep is an electronic genre that grew out of the South London underground music scene in the late 1990s, but it’s only made an emergence in mainstream culture globally in the last few years. It’s a mix of the heavy drums and bass from DnB with the syncopated rhythms of 2-step. (Thanks Wikipedia). The style is characterised by sparse rhytms, omnipresent sub-bass, wobble bass – wub wub wub – and, of course, the bass drop: that amazing moment when the song crashes into sublime, insane bass wobbles and freaky ear-splitting screeches.
Most dubstep is pretty light on lyrics, but it’s possible to make a dubstep remix of basically anything (if you click on one link in this post, make it this one). This is where the Christianity comes in. Christian dubstep – let’s call it Godstep – is basically producers making dubstep remixes of Christian worship music.
Awesome God, which we played on air, was originally a pop worship song written in 1988 by Rich Mullins. With its simple, catchy melody it’s been picked up by heaps of people since then, and Robert DeLong was really only fulfilling the inevitable when he made the dubstep remix. The word ‘awesome’ was originally intended in its traditional, Biblical sense of ‘awe-inspiring,’ but setting it to the epitome of 21st Century pop culture makes it hard not to think of it as just plain awesome. DeLong’s music does not generally display a strong Christian influence; it seems his foray into Christian music was limited to this song. But it displays all the hallmarks of dubstep so I just had to play it; that first bass drop is incredible.
Plenty of other producers out there, however, do draw explicitly on their Christianity in crafting their dubstep. As with Buddhist Death Metal, there’s a whole series of websites that act as gathering spaces for Christian electronic dance music culture: christianremix.com, GodsDJs.com, and so on. The logo for the latter is a crucifix with headphones on. A frequent comment is that most dubstep deals with ‘bad things’ or dirty themes, with numerous people calling for or thanking people for creating clean dubstep devoted to ‘the good.’ We see throughout these websites that independent producers situate their music creation firmly within their religious journey; they are “worshipping God through the music,” and celebrating each other’s “dubstep for Christ.” According to one forum poster, it is a “serious blessing to hear the dubstep sound represented with Christ as the focus.” “Jesus wubs you,” others say.
Now the most popular Christian rock right now – especially in Sydney but it’s booming globally – is coming out of the Hillsong Church. Hillsong music has gone far beyond its own church’s walls, being picked up by, played in and sung along to in a wide variety of Protestant churches. Hillsong itself is a Pentecostal megachurch in Sydney’s north-west suburbs, and one of their ‘ministries’ is Hillsong UNITED – a pop-rock band. Its official aim is evangelical and theological – to “create music that reveals the truth of who Jesus is” – and this is done using contemporary music styles. In the words of the band’s Creative Director, “The message of Jesus Christ is eternal, yet He continues to reveal Himself in new ways … giving us what we need to be followers and disciples of Christ for this time in history.” The band clearly sees itself as directly enacting God’s will, using the God-given tools of contemporary music.
It’s not clear if Hillsong would include dubstep among God’s tools, but Jon Bulack – a young producer from Philadelphia, USA who has done remixes of Hillsong tracks – definitely does. He’s known by many names, including THREE:SIXTEEN, DevoShun, and Poppin’ Jon (in his incarnation as a hip-hop dancer). His adoption of the name THREE:SIXTEEN is clearly a reference to John 3:16, perhaps the most frequently cited summary of the Christian faith: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Jon comments prolifically on his YouTube channel and videos and makes it clear that his Christianity deeply inspires his artistic expression and his relations with other people, frequently warmly thanking positive commenters and saying “God bless you.” Some quotes that demonstrate how fundamental the union of dubstep and Christianity is for Jon include:
- I pray that this video blesses you and expresses to you a fraction of how much Jesus adores you!
- Jesus Christ is Lord and this page is dedicated to Him.
- I just made a remix as the LORD lead me to!
- Let’s obey Jesus, and walk as He walked! Or else we have no assurance of salvation!
- Whatever is good in this song is directly from God the Father!
Check out Jon’s remixes of Hillsong UNITED’s tracks Father and Like an Avalanche. I also wish I had a chance to play some stuff by WaveDude on air, he’s another producer dedicated to making worship dubstep. Check out some of his tracks here, including a Switchfoot remix.
But I’ve got to finish with another quote from THREE:SIXTEEN, which just sums up everything about Rad Religion: God created Dubstep, and He wants to use it for His kingdom!
Edit 22/6/12 – thank you to whoever found this post by Googling the phrase, ‘for god so loved the world that he gave his only son dubstep’. Amazing.