Hardstep is a drum and bass subgenre that sprung up around 1994. A rough production style with a city-like atmosphere characterizes this style. In 1994, Grooverider referred to the music he was creating as hardstep. According to the urban legend, a friend gave it the moniker as he attempted to dance to these new tunes but was puzzled by their complexity. Because of the Kickin’ Records label, which has been there since the active British hardcore days, the vernacular adopted the term. Grooverider released his first hardstep collection in 1994.

The Evolution Process That Created Hardstep

Hardstep was the next evolution of ragga in the jungle, although, in this style, the emphasis shifted to the music rather than the toasting and rapping. Although the cover claims that the music is a “combination of drum & bass and ragga jungle genres,” hardstep is more accurately a post-ragga jungle. In general, musicians employed vocal samples in hardstep to compliment the chaotic execution of the music and to create a unique mood.

Once ragga evolved from syncopated rhythm patterns, there seemed to be an impenetrable concrete wall between ragga jungle and hardstep. However, Jamaican melodies made their way into the music. The producers anticipated the imminent split of the musical scene and sought openings for withdrawal, believing that it was inevitable.

Hardstep was a transitional style between jungle and drum & bass. With the demise of Jungle music, hardstep was the new sound that pioneers in those days attempted to create. Hardstep opened the door for drum & bass. 

Notable Legends

Ray Keith published his single Terrorist in 1994 under the moniker Renegade, and it serves as hardstep’s anthem. Ray Keith again changed drum & bass when he sampled a Reese bassline from the single “Want Another Chance” by Kevin Saunderson, nicknamed Reese. This low-frequency buzzing sound replaced the brisk basslines that resembled Jamaican dub so closely. In 1995, Alex Reece included it in his renowned two-step single Pulp fiction, and subsequently, the  Reese bassline became a must-have for techstep and drum & bass. 

Hardstep doesn’t have a heavy or aggressive sound despite what the name indicates. The kick drum was rarely used in jungle music since producers had developed the practice of leaving it out in the genre’s early years. Because of this, the jungle beat became lighter and appeared to bounce off the ground.

The breaks feature more straightforward, quicker electronic melodies than old-school jungle and are less choppy. However, the kick drum, frequently and intricately sampled, is the most crucial component of hardstep. The sample is replayed throughout the music, complicating the rhythm and making it difficult to dance to it. In addition, it suddenly enters and repeats for perhaps, 5 seconds, further complicating the rhythm.

Another characteristic is a prominent but light percussive rhythm. The most vital aspect of hardstep overall is the combined rhythm pattern.

If you enjoyed this article, check out these: