When an obscure sound like dubstep infiltrates such mainstream events as last week’s Super Bowl and this Sunday’s Grammys, it’s safe to say an invasion has occurred. In recent months, the riotous dance music craze has spread like wildfire, leaving hardly a coffee shop or a commercial break untouched in its path.
Among the artists leading the way is Los Angeles DJ 12th Planet, born John Dadzie, who has produced dubstep since it drifted stateside a few years ago from Britain. Yes, he even preceded Grammy-nominated Sonny Moore, also known as Skrillex, whom he toured with last fall.
During his Wednesday night show at District nightclub, the sixth stop on his “The End is Near” tour, Dadzie was full of energy. He hurled his body around like a kid on a jungle gym, pounded his fist to the floor when the bass dropped just right and fired his fingers in the air like toy lasers. Cartoon images of aliens, robots and flashing neon patterns pulsed on the screen next to him.
If Mars had a nightclub, it might look and sound like this.
But move beyond his dizzying hijinks. Dadzie is an artist widely considered to be one of the genre’s pioneers. He’s one of the few producers to straddle the British-American dubstep divide, mingling with Flux Pavilion, remixing MSTRKRFT and always indulging in a little rap. Wednesday’s set opened with Juicy J’s bouncy “Geeked Up Off Them Bars.”
Late in his set, Dadzie gave a shout-out to DC’s own Dave Nada and spun a track of bass-heavy mooombahton, Nada’s signature sound.
Those who roll their eyes at American dubstep (or “brostep” as it’s less-affectionately called) can rest easy. This isn’t frat-party music; it’s far too dark for that. This is escape- from-prison music. Haunted house, zombie outbreak, impending apocalypse music. There’s no pop or flash involved.
Instead, Dadzie’s sound is deliciously sinister and very precise, curling around the creepiest corners of the imagination. Close your eyes during his Datsik collaboration, “Texx Mars,” and the bass morphs into a hungry beast stomping through a dark jungle.
Ultimately, Dadzie is a beast best observed in his element: on stage. That’s where he unleashes his inner maniacs who rap and hiss and sing and growl. You never know what unearthly creature will jump out and bare its ugly fangs, and that’s half the fun.
His alien alter egos may help explain the name 12th Planet. Dadzie based it on a 1976 book by historian Zecharia Sitchin that argued that some ancient humans stemmed from extraterrestrials. Those aliens, Sitchin proposed, hailed from the undiscovered planet Nibiru, which was called the 12th planet because ancient mythology often counted the sun and moon.
It’s possible that Dadzie subscribes to Sitchin’s theories. Or, maybe he has a hunch that we’re not the only ones enjoying this treacherous racket we call dubstep.