"Brostep" isn't a real genre -- it's a tongue-in-cheek term for dubstep's most aggressive wing, which has a propensity for serrated bass riffs and, sometimes, a reform-school sense of humor. Like chillwave, witch house and crabcore, it's a tag with which few artists wish to be identified. But that doesn't keep it from being a useful shorthand for dubstep at its gnarliest and tooth-gnashingest. (It just as well could have been called chainsaw 'n' bass, or perhaps testoster-tone.)
"Brostep is sort of my fault, but now I'm starting to hate it, in a way," admitted Rusko, the mohawked dubstep upstart, at the end of last year. "I kind of took it there, and now everybody else is taking it too far. It's not heavy metal. I've been in America touring for a long time, and even more so, they just want it as hard as you can. They're like, 'Rusko, I want you to melt my face off tonight! Play the hardest, hardest, hardest you've got.' I'm like, it's not about playing the hardest, hardest tracks for an hour and a half, it's like someone screaming in your face for an hour -- you don't want that. A lot of dubstep fans just come because they want to hear the most disgusting, hard, dirty, distorted music possible, and that's not what it's about."
Rusko has certainly contributed his share of face-melting tunes to the canon: his "Cockney Thug," overlaid with a snippet of dialogue from Guy Ritchie's gangster film Snatch, is something like the scene's founding anthem. It's an unambiguous expression of brostep's adolescent, cheerfully rude-boy attitude, using the F-word the way other producers might deploy a powerful snare drum, dropped with gusto at the end of every four bars. (His buddy Caspa, meanwhile, laces his tracks with horny braggadocio sampled from Larry Clark's Kids.) But Rusko tracks like the G-funk-influenced "Lick the Lizard" show how, even at his most punishing, he still knows how to be elegant, even sexy.
Acts like 12th Planet, Excision, Datsik and Flux Pavilion, on the other hand, appear to be engaged in a bass-fueled arms race, with every release more lacerating than the last. With that testosterone-fueled swagger sometimes comes a sniggering, puerile sensibility. Flux Pavilion's "How Rude" features a female voiceover proclaiming a fondness for sodomy, while Borgore's "Love (Gagging VIP Mix)" is so unabashedly misogynistic, it makes Odd Future look like Woody Allen. If Rusko invented brostep, Israel's Borgore must be the poster boy for its most Neanderthal wing. His "Delicious" is a sneering rebuttal to "haters" ("Haters gonna hate, haters gonna hate / But I'll be f**king models while they sit and masturbate"), and he embraced his role as a scene villain with the two-part EP Borgore Ruined Dubstep, featuring still more invective against sisters, mothers, women in general, haters and pretty much anyone that isn't Borgore. (As tracks like his "Thoughts" show, he's a talented producer; it's too bad he's also such a dick.)
Despite the bad rep that brostep has gotten, there's plenty to recommend its most inventive specimens, at least if you have a penchant for the cartoonish; like the latest Transformers film, it's in-your-face, over-the-top and not to be taken too seriously. You can explore the genre with Rhapsody's 90-minute playlist, Brostep: A Gentlemanly Introduction. In keeping with the title, I've excluded the genre's nastiest examples (sorry, Borgore). But there's still plenty of strong language, abrasive frequencies and general misanthropy, so if you're at work, you might want to keep your headphones on.