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British producer Rusko played a major role in popularizing dubstep during the 2000s and 2010s, elevating it from a niche U.K. club style to a festival-ready international phenomenon. He's also responsible for helping push the genre to its extreme, with his fierce, wobbly bass lines paving the way for the more aggressive style of dubstep pushed by North American producers such as Skrillex and Datsik. However, Rusko's work has always remained true to U.K. sound system culture and its roots in reggae, hip-hop, and the rave scene, and he's always pursued his own artistic vision rather than merely following the latest trends. After creating an underground buzz with early tracks such as 2007's "Cockney Thug," Rusko and then-associate Caspa mixed the acclaimed FabricLive.37, which helped gain the fledgling dubstep scene a wider audience. Aligning with Diplo's Mad Decent stable, Rusko released 2010's O.M.G.! and 2012's Songs, a more eclectic effort described by its creator as an "anti-brostep album," in reaction to dubstep's more commercial variant. Since then, he's primarily operated independently, releasing several EPs exploring garage, drum'n'bass, electro, and other styles.
Christopher Mercer was born in Leeds in 1985. He graduated from Leeds College of Music with a degree in Music Performance, and discovered dubstep through an event called Sub Dub. He started crafting his own brand of dubstep under the name Rusko, utilizing quirky, often home-recorded samples and heavy bass frequencies in addition to the commanding beats. He moved to London and began working with Caspa's Sub Soldiers and Dub Police labels, releasing early EPs like 2006's SNES Dub and the following year's Babylon: Volume 1. The latter contained "Cockney Thug," an aggressive yet humorous track which became an underground hit. Caspa & Rusko mixed FabricLive.37 that year, and the mix CD became one of the series' biggest sellers, greatly expanding dubstep's exposure. The mix's success led to an increased touring schedule for both artists, and Rusko was soon tapped to remix songs by Adele, the Prodigy, Basement Jaxx, Kid Sister ("Pro Nails"), and others.
After releasing Babylon: Volume 2 on Sub Soldiers in 2009, Rusko signed with Diplo's Mad Decent, releasing debut full-length O.M.G.! in 2010. The eclectic album, which ranged from rave and jungle flashbacks to funk-infused hip-hop, featured guest appearances from Gucci Mane and Amber Coffman (then of Dirty Projectors), and singles such as "Woo-Boost." Rusko also worked with M.I.A., mixing and co-writing tracks for her third album, MAYA. Following 2011's Everyday/Lick the Lizard EP, Rusko released second album Songs in 2012. The album was designed to shift dubstep away from its more aggressive tendencies, instead focusing on its roots in reggae, drum'n'bass, and rave.
Following the album's release, Rusko left Mad Decent. Cypress X Rusko EP 01, a collaboration with West Coast hip-hop legends Cypress Hill, was released by V2 and included the Damian Marley-featuring single "Can't Keep Me Down." Rusko's self-released Kapow EP also appeared in 2012. Lift Me Up appeared on Skrillex's OWSLA imprint in 2013, and two volumes of ! arrived on FMLY the following year. Rusko reunited with Caspa in 2015; the pair played their first American show together, and began releasing new material on Sub Soldiers, starting with 2015 single "Blouse an Skirt." EP 1, EP 2, and the single "Cheese" all followed in 2016.
Rusko took much of 2017 off after being diagnosed with gastric lymphoma. Following the completion of his chemotherapy treatment, he resumed performing in February 2018. Several singles and EPs followed, including 2018's Has Made 5 More Songs (Circus Records) and 2019's Megarad (Deadbeats). ~ Paul Simpson
- Leeds, England
- Jan 26, 1985
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