Pub date June 17, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

REVIEW Twenty-two-year-old South London producer Beni Uthman, a.k.a. Benga, gave dubstep its first crossover hit with last year’s "Night," coproduced with the artist Coki. The track caught the attention of British radio tastemakers like the BBC’s Judge Jules, Gilles Peterson, and Mary Anne Hobbs, and was played relentlessly by Europe’s biggest club DJs. With its marching cadence and hypnotic lead bass synth, "Night" signaled that dubstep’s moment had arrived, and that 1990s dance music producers had serious competition from the PlayStation generation. So what could Uthman do to top this success? Make a new beat.

Since his 2002 debut 12-inch, "Skank" (Big Apple), Uthman’s artistic output has been prolific. According to an XLR8R article, he made 250 songs in 2007 alone. Uthman’s broader success is due in part to his music’s recognizable fusions: electro, techno, drum ‘n’ bass, and dubstep’s UK garage roots all mingle on hyperkinetic rhythms that reflect South London’s urban-tribal sonic milieu. These elements shine through on the mostly instrumental Diary of an Afro Warrior (Tempa), an album that is best absorbed through uninterrupted, start-to-finish listens.

Opener "Zero M2"’s delicate Rhodes notes recall Bristol jungle producer Roni Size’s jazz-inflected work, but Uthman’s growling digital bass pulses quickly dispense with any chin-stroking. Elsewhere, skittish tracks like "Emotions" and "E Trips" mimic club drugs’ racing heartbeats with start-stop kick drums and swirling acid-laced keyboards, while "The Cut" employs chainsaw bass notes and cut-up funk samples. Diary‘s otherworldly compositions and signature programming should establish Uthman alongside Underworld, Aphex Twin, Goldie, and Orbital as the UK’s next great dance music innovator. That might seem like a lot to put on a twentysomething’s shoulders, but based on Diary‘s strength, it’s not beyond this bass warrior’s capabilities.

BENGA With Skream. Wed/18, 9 p.m., $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. (415) 626-7001,