New Chapter

9 August 2012 | 8:59 am | Cyclone Wehner

Today dubstep is ubiquitous. In the UK Chase & Status are a pop – and, importantly, album – act, as are Nero and, of course, Magnetic Man

Dubstep pioneer Benga (AKA Adegbenga Adejumo) is reinventing himself. And Australians will hear audacious material from the Brit's upcoming album Chapter 2 when he brings his live set to Parklife 2012. “Obviously, a lot of people haven't heard my album, it's not out yet, [but] I play a majority of songs from my album – I also play a lot of new things that I've created for this live show,” Adejumo reveals. “I think people will be surprised. There's one song in it that people have heard – and that's Night [2007's anthem with Coki]. But, other than that, no one's heard anything from it… It will surprise me how people react to the music from my live show. Every time I hit people cold with new music, I get an honest reaction, so this shouldn't be any different. I'm ready!”

The DJ/producer is a regular visitor to Australia. “I love it!,” he extols. Adejumo was here only last summer alongside childhood pal Ollie “Skream” Jones, while their supergroup Magnetic Man (with mentor Arthur “Artwork” Smith) hit Parklife 2011. “That shit was crazy.” This time Adejumo is again joining a sizeable bass contingent that includes Labrinth, Nero and Rusko.

Adejumo revels in the challenge of conquering new “territory” – for himself and dubstep. Except that, with dubstep now a global phenomenon, Adejumo is in the throes of “removing” himself from it. The Londoner recently generated controversy online over his apparent ambivalence to the genre in a video interview with the rock-oriented NME – belatedly picked up by ClashMusic: “I've been seen to say that dubstep is the music of our generation, but that's now changed,” Adejumo said. “I believe now that certain artists are the future. I don't want to be any part of dubstep anymore.” The mellow Adejumo has since clarified his stance, downplaying the negativity. But, now a man of 25, he is looking to move on. If nothing else, Adejumo wants to keep things fresh. As such, Adejumo's second album proper, Chapter 2, out in October through Sony, will be kinda post-dubstep. Adejumo issued Diary Of An Afro Warrior on Tempa in 2008 (and prior to that, Newstep). Where is his head at in 2012? “I have just finished doing [Chapter 2],” he starts, “and it's been really hard for me to kind of play out my music because it moves around in tempo strangely – and the music doesn't fit in one place, either. It goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. But you're asking me where my head's at – I don't know where the fuck my head's at! Oh my gosh.”

Adejumo excitedly talks about specific tracks on an album that's “just very Benga”. There's the vocodery Runnin'. Click & Tap, with no drums, is “really home listening”. And Unthinkable is “guitar-based”. Fans will have heard the transitional lead single, Icon, featuring Bebe Black. And so Adejumo really does “move around”. “I always have done that,” he maintains. “It's almost like I'm a rebel from any type of music scene.” Of Chapter 2, he concludes, “You just can't put it anywhere, if you ask me.”

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Today dubstep is ubiquitous. In the UK Chase & Status are a pop – and, importantly, album – act, as are Nero and, of course, Magnetic Man. That grime MC Tinie Tempah was an early convert, Labrinth helming his break-out Pass Out. However, dubstep's impact has been particularly consequential in the US mainstream – not a market traditionally open to dance music. Adejumo was meant to work with Rihanna a couple of years back. Now even Justin Bieber has cut a dubstep track, As Long As You Love Me – an event more disturbing to some purists than the rise of bro-step. Adejumo is not surprised, nor is he pissed off. “I've always seen this coming,” he says. ”As soon as music gets this popular, and people seem to like it at all ends of the spectrum, then it's only a matter of time before the artists at the top start working on it. They've had opportunities to work on beats forever, but the people at the top never really had the guts to pull things out at an early stage – they wait until it's accessible and people know what it is before they do it. But people now do know what dubstep is and it has penetrated the charts… So it's time for them to start jumping on board.”

Adejumo is unperturbed that the American Skrillex, a failed punk rocker, should be proclaimed dubstep's 'King'. After all, Adejumo, not Skrillex, attended the music's birth in Croydon, South London. At just 15, the aspirant producer, already clubbing at FWD>>, debuted with Skank on DJ Hatcha's Big Apple Records – attached to the fabled store of the same name. (Ironically, the term 'dubstep' was first used in the US magazine XLR8R in 2002.) When British producers jumped on techno in the '80s, the Detroit innovators were not so sanguine. They felt their music had been co-opted. Does Adejumo truly feel no resentment? “No, not at all,” he responds easily. “I love people's interpretations of dubstep.” He does have one concern. “America's such a big country – such a big country – and you just get a lot of copycats,” Adejumo says. “When a music's UK or European, it's not as big as America. So you might get Benga, and Benga is doing his own thing, and you get Skream, and Skream's doing his own thing, and there's not a million other Bengas and Skreams. But as the music gets bigger, and as it crosses over in America, it's so big – so you get Skrillex and a million Skrillexes. It's mad.”

Following Chapter 2 will be another Magnetic Man album. Adejumo cautiously hopes that it'll surface in the first half of 2013. “It's really hard to say, especially with people like me involved – where I start working on it and then I decide, 'Hold on a minute, I wanna watch Entourage.' So now all I'm doing is watching Entourage (laughs guiltily). True story!” Smith has been the one mostly in the studio.

Adejumo has the potential to become a producer-for-hire, having masterminded Katy B's signature Katy On A Mission. Could they reunite? “I hope so, but we've both got two different managements and they've kinda got to work it out first – and then, after that, who knows?” In the interim, Adejumo has made beats for Example's fourth LP. The neo-soulster John Legend was an unexpected guest on Magnetic Man – and Adejumo, who's admitted he “blew” initial opps to collaborate with “big names” due to partying, plans to hook up with other US urban artists. “I like the sound of what is going on in America at the moment.” He digs Philly MC Meek Mill – and would love to lay down a track for A$AP Rocky and “maybe” Drake. “Once I write an instrumental, and it goes to these artists, it's always funny to hear how they interpreted it,” Adejumo enthuses. “Yeah, I just can't wait. That's the next on the list. After I've done this Magnetic Man album, I'll actually be sitting in the studio working with these artists and see what we come up with.”