Editors' pick

Rusko

Dance/Electronic
'

Editorial Review

It's a scenario that has played out repeatedly in the past two decades: Electronic music genre becomes a sensation in Europe. Breathless journalists insist it will be the Next Big Thing in the United States. Proclamations are made that it will storm our shores and dominate the airwaves and charts.

American audiences shrug indifferently.

Rusko, the 25-year-old producer and DJ who has helped popularize the throbbing, bass-heavy dance genre dubstep, may break that cycle.

Maybe he already has.

Even if you haven't heard "O.M.G.!," his instant-party of a debut album that absolutely deserves its exclamatory title, Rusko's fingerprints are increasingly smudged all over the pop music landscape. He has worked with the likes of Rihanna, Gucci Mane and M.I.A. He's a featured artist on "Blow Your Head: Diplo Presents Dubstep," a disc compiled by tastemaking producer Diplo that could serve as a wider introduction to the fledgling genre. He has even been tapped by Britney Spears to help with her latest musical reinvention. And he's more than happy to help bring new sounds to the forefront, especially in the United States.

"I think American music has been so cookie-cutter for so many years," says Rusko, born Christopher Mercer in Leeds, England. "All the bands and rappers on the radio sound exactly alike. And dance music in America has been like the black sheep. I never knew 'rave' or 'raver' to be a negative term until I came to America."

But that attitude is changing, and dubstep is a big reason. It's an easily likable genre that isn't too complicated - find a good bass line, make it as loud as humanly possible, throw in a memorable vocal hook - and is an appropriate soundtrack to a night of rambunctious revelry.

"It's familiar enough so the audience can relate," he says, citing speed similarities with rap, "but dubstep just brings in a whole new swagger." (It's not so familiar that just anyone can do it, he's quick to add: "It takes more than a wobble noise and a Cockney sample to make a proper dubstep tune!")

He's very matter-of-fact about why so many people want to work with him: "I think people are intrigued by my style of music and know they are going to get something fun and bassy and a little off the wall."

And he's similarly straightforward when it comes to how he accepts offers. "I listen to the music, and if I like it and get inspired, I'm down to do it," he says.

Working with M.I.A. on her divisive new album, "Maya," was a longer partnership, and Rusko is quick to defend her during a year when many others - including her former colleague Diplo - haven't done the same.

"I think she has been getting a bad rap," he says. "She is an experimental artist, and not everyone who likes 'Paper Planes' is going to like her album. She is very loud musically and verbally. She doesn't sit in a corner and let things happen. She makes them happen. Sometimes she may put her foot in [her mouth], but we all do. That's just her."

For now, Rusko is more synonymous with getting feet moving on dance floors. And while it remains to be seen if dubstep will crossover to the mainstream, he's confident, and his casting it as the ultimate party genre makes it hard to argue with him.

"People all over the world just want to get [wasted] and listen to great music, have fun with their friends and maybe get laid at the end of the night," he says.

That's something even Americans could enjoy.

--David Malitz, Oct. 2010