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Future bass is an electronic music genre that combines 1980s sonic aesthetics with 2010s composition style.



What Is Future Bass?

Future bass is a twenty-first-century electronic dance music genre that closely aligns with trap music and dubstep. Its early origins date back to the mid-2000s, but it became a popular dance genre in 2010 thanks to Scottish future bass producers Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.

Following in the vein of trap EDM, future bass songs often borrow elements from hip-hop and soul music. In artistic opposition to this soulful sound, future bass producers lean heavily on synth-generated bass lines that mimic the glitchy sound of 1980s video game music. Most future bass tracks have a tempo between 130 and 160 beats per minute (BPM).

A Brief History of Future Bass

Future bass is a new and evolving genre. Its story has not been firmly defined by music critics and historians, as it continues to take new directions.

  • Early roots: The groundwork for future bass music was laid in 2006 when Los Angeles-based producer Steven Allison released the album 1983 under the name Flying Lotus. The record used the Roland TR-808 drum machine that is popular in many dance music genres from electro-pop to acid house. It also showed clear influence from dubstep and chill trap music, which would be foundational to future bass.
  • A landmark decade: The years following 2010 saw the true blossoming of future bass as a musical genre. Scottish producer Ryan Whyte—recording under the name Rustie—released the genre-defining albums Sunburst (2010) and Glass Swords (2011). The first future bass producer to score a mainstream hit was Flume, with a 2013 remix of "You & Me" by Disclosure. Other key records from the decade include Void (2014) by RL Grime, Joytime (2016) by Marshmello, and Mirror Maru (2012) by Cashmere Cat.
  • New directions: In 2015, Japanese producer Snail's House introduced a subgenre called Kawaii future bass with the Kirara EP. Kawaii future bass incorporates Japanese pop culture, including audio samples from anime and video games.
  • Bigger and bigger hits: New York-based duo the Chainsmokers formed in 2012 and have since managed to exceed the commercial success of the original future bass hit—the Flume remix of "You & Me." Wearing influences from hip-hop, dubstep, and trap music, the Chainsmokers have scored major hits including "Roses," "Closer," and "Who Do You Love." Illenium (the stage name of Chicago DJ Nicholas D. Miller) scored his own hits with remixes of the Chainsmokers and Flume, exemplifying how future bass has built on its own successes.

4 Characteristics of Future Bass Music

Future bass playlists tend to feature songs with several notable characteristics.

  1. Trap music influences: Many future bass producers come from the world of trap music, a southern EDM style that is closely linked to hip-hop.
  2. Syncopated 808 rhythms: Like many dance genres, future bass makes ample use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine (or a software simulation of the 808's sounds). It is known for syncopated hi-hat patterns over a steady 4/4 pulse.
  3. Danceable tempos: Future bass music typically clocks between 130 and 160 beats per minute (BPM). The best future bass for dancing tends to fall toward the low end of this range.
  4. Buzzy bass lines: Future bass producers use keyboard synths, or synthesizers, to generate their bass lines. Most of the genre's bass sounds are created with low-frequency oscillators and detuning effects. This recalls the bass sounds of 1980s electro-pop, house, and techno music.

7 Notable Future Bass Artists

The 2010s saw the emergence of several major future bass artists who have helped define the genre.

  1. Rustie: This Scottish producer is famous for his 2011 Glass Swords album on Warp Records, which helped define the future bass genre.
  2. Flume: The Flume remix of "You & Me" by Disclosure is the biggest future bass hit to date. The remix provided a striking sonic palette for Disclosure vocalist Eliza Doolittle.
  3. The Chainsmokers: Major stars of late 2010s future bass, the Chainsmokers are known for songs like "Don't Let Me Down," "Roses," and "Beach House."
  4. Illenium: This Chicago-born DJ is known for his late 2010s remixes of the Chainsmokers and Flume, his collaborations with the vocalist Daya, and the single "Good Things Fall Apart," featuring the vocal chops of Jon Bellion.
  5. Louis the Child: Louis the Child is the name for the duo Robby Hauldren and Frederic J. Kennett. They are known for introducing future bass to an audience of students at their alma maters, New Trier High School and University of Southern California.
  6. Martin Garrix: This Dutch progressive house and future bass producer is famous for the songs "Animals" and "In the Name of Love."
  7. Mura Masa: The stage name of Alex Crossan, Mura Masa embraces the hip-hop and funk roots of future bass on tracks like "Lovesick."