Magnetic Man's self-titled debut album

Dubstep is to the recently concluded decade – whatever we’re calling it – what “trip hop” was the 90s. That is: a dubious, and ill-defined (though distinctly British) sub-sub-genre hybrid of electronic dance music, dub, and hip-hop. Like trip-hop (and “garage”, “two-step”, “grime”, etc.) before it, dubstep has largely failed to find a footing here in the States, but that doesn’t mean its practitioners aren’t gonna try their damnedest to get Americans’ attention. And the genre has found some pretty high profile American R&B singers to make nice with.

For example:

Magnetic Man – a London-based partnership of djs Benga, Skream, and Artwork – recruited John Legend to sing the lead on a song called “Getting Nowhere”, the closing track of their debut album and a brooding electro-dirge that he sings the shit out of. It’s a long way from last year’s Wake Up!, Legend’s socially conscious retro-soul collaboration with The Roots, and the singer seems absolutely (and good for him!) unchastened by the lukewarm reception given his more clubby Evolver album (or by the volumes of vitriol spewed at his pal and fellow Chicago scenester Common‘s defiantly Euro 2008 album Universal Mind Control, whose whole-hearted, damn-the-fan-base embrace of its sound I admired, but many others regarded as nothing short of a betrayal.) But then, John Legend has always been about moving musically forward and backward at the same time. “Getting Nowhere” has just been released as the third single from the Magnetic Man album, and the group has put out a beautifully disturbing, urban-apocalypse video for it.