Meet Your Moombahtonistas #9 – Smutlee

smutlee

This Special Edition of Meet Your Moombahtonistas combines some of my favorite things from across the pond: Smutlee, Neil Queen-Jones, and moombahton.  Smutlee produced one of my first and all-time favorite moombahton tracks – an edit of Mescal Kid & Ms Kid’s “Majik”.  This carnival-esque jam led me on the craziest Internet goose chase for it’s download but I finally found it, along with a connection to the man himself via Neil Queen-Jones.  Neil has written for his own blog, Pop Culture Care Package, but has since moved on to bigger and better things, like writing consistently based articles for Mixmag, joining me at Moombahton.com, and constructing devious plans for moombahton’s world takeover.  All that being said, it was only right that I gave him the very first guest post on Cool Breezy. – -Casey

God help the person who has to write the story of moombahton. It’s a sprawling, viral bastard, one that has zero regard for potential journo man hours. Even trickier to write will be the chapter on the UK. Nobody can fuck with our contribution to dance music history – if we’re not giving birth to genres like grime, we’re making them happen, as we did with house, or finding a way to put our own stamp on it, as we did with hip hop. We feel that we have our own special cosign tucked away in our back pockets, that genres aren’t complete unless the UK is involved. Even moombahdon Dave Nada admitted this: “I’m beyond excited about the UK response, that’s the biggest compliment. You’ve got cats like Toddla and Smutlee on it – and I can’t wait to hear new stuff from other UK producers. I think my brain just melted!” See?  So the fact that moombahton is doing perfectly fine without us is pretty fucking galling. I blame the island mentality – it’s the geographic equivalent of only-child syndrome, the isolation makes us here in the UK a bit chippy. It’s not like we haven’t played  a part; Toddla T, Sinden, Annie Mac, Zane Lowe, Mixmag, The Guardian, Mistajam and Kayper have all given it a huge push, it’s just that any kind of scene has struggled to take shape, and no discerning sound has shown its buds. Yet.

That’s not quite the whole story, though. One man has been a virtual cottage industry within the genre: Smutlee. Emerging from a background of bashment, UK funky and tropical, The London DJ may not have been the first person in the country to pick up on the sound – DJs like Martelo and Sinden clocked it early doors, while journalist Joe Muggs wrote an outstanding intro piece that helped win over Smutters (and myself into the bargain), but Smutlee did make the biggest moves to boost the profile in this tiny island of ours. All it took was one tune: his edit of Mescal Kid & Ms Thing’s “Majic”. Knowing Smutlee as I do, it’s hard to not see how the man and the track are inextricably linked: he’s perpetually happy, positive and buoyant  – everything you could say about “Majic”, a ready-made anthem converted to a compact 108bpm bundle of elation. It also hit a sweet spot in terms of the UK’s involvement in moombahton: though a highly multicultural land, the influence of latin culture is marginal – far greater is the Caribbean vibe, so Smutlee’s Majic edit customised moombahton’s DNA, reducing the latin, pumping up the Dembow connection by giving it a dancehall collagen shot. With Dave Nada offering full support and DJ Melo reaching out to include the track on his Winter Of Moombahton comp, alongside fellow Brits Jimi Needles and Jera , Smutlee’s spot had been secured, and moombahton finally had a foothold in the UK – and his bashment vibe set a template for a nation; check out Jake Twell & Jamrock’s Elephant Man-led Neck Tie on Pickster’s Rise Of Moombahton comp and the presence of Feral, nee MC Kinky, the glorious potty-mouthed toasty ragga factory that she is.

And so it continued, with drops like his blend of Booka Shade’s Body Language and Natalie Storm’s Look Pon Me, the fella confirmed a distinct flair for highly melodic and resonant tracks, a trait that also runs through his DJ sets and mixtapes – always led by an ear for character and melody, full of expansive emotional drive. For me, his Mixpak mixtape remains one of the genre’s finest, followed closely by his one for Mixmag, which is a virtual Cliff’s Notes for newbies.

While he sits on a pile of astonishing but ungrabbable edits, many of them featured on his Mixpak set, another of his tracks, his official remix of Schlachtofbronx’s Chambacu (munch on that shit, Scrabble heads), proved that he neither follows anyone else’s sound, nor does he recycle his own.  One part Dembow, one part cumbia, 2,000 parts airhorn, it sticks out in any set like a ginger albino at an Odd Future gig. Then there’s the Toddla T connection. Before T went
stateside to hang with Nada, Munchi and Dillon, Smutlee was on hand to keep the Sheffield DJ on his 108s, popping up on Toddla’s Radio 1 show. Not saying that Smutlee gets the assist for Toddla’s patronage of the scene, but I am in a roundabout way saying that he should get a knowing nod and a large glass of whatever he fancies for being there.

What remains so striking about Smutlee is that he observes a strict quality over quantity approach – he’s not one to flood SoundCloud, nor does he seem the go-to man for compilations, but this doesn’t seem to dampen the regard he’s held in. In the past few months he’s been more in demand than ever – with bookings at the bookends of the states, first at Que Bajo in New York, then more recently alongside Sabo at Vibrate in LA. Oh, and he’s just off for some dates in Australia as you read this (warning: this sentence elapses NOW), plus he’s actually prepping to release an EP, due on Greenmoney in the new year.

Before he disappeared Antipodes-wards to get stock up on wifebeater shirts and to step up his finishing-every-sentence-tonally-as-if-it’s-a-question game, I took the chance to speak to him on behalf of your girl Casey for Cool Breezy. Here’s what emerged from the part of his brain which selects words and constructs sentences…

Continue reading “Meet Your Moombahtonistas #9 – Smutlee”

Meet Your Moombahtonistas (#1): Billy the Gent

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Real talk:  I rarely see this dude without a smile on his face.   BillyBennett, aka Billy the Gent, has a lot to be happy about though.  He just married the love of his life, has a little baby girl on the way, and is totally killin’ it in the moombahton game right now.   You’ve probably seen him around DC, inkin’ up you and your homies at Tattoo Paradise or hanging out at U Hall or DC9.  But hopefully you’ve even seen him playing maestro at the Velvet Lounge.

Billy and Cam Jus join forces once a month at Velvet for their monthly moombahton rager called Tropixxx, and trust me – it’s triple x’d for a reason.  I came through last month for the video shoot for “Pendejas” (the Tittsworth and Alvin Risk collaboration to be released on May 31st via Mad Decent’s Blow Your Head) and it was one of the wildest parties I’ve been to in a minute.  It was a late Sunday night, the forever-dreaded Monday morning was looming on the horizon, and nobody gave a shit.  Seriously, not a single shit.  Tittsworth, Alvin Risk, and some random, victimized barstool were crowd surfing in a room that’s no bigger than your attic.  Big booties were rockin’ everywhere to moombahton classics from Nadastrom, Munchi, Dillon Francis, and more.  Everybody was shakin’ dat ass so right that not a single person in there had a dry forehead.  Even the walls were sweating.  It was only appropriate that they cooled us down with showers of Natty Boh and tequila.  Looking up at times and seeing Billy and Cam orchestrating the madness, I had to ask myself, “Is this real life?”  And indeed it was.  This was all happening in the name of moombahton and it felt so right.

Tropixxx feels like Moombahton Mini, the golden child of Moombahton Massive.  Let’s face it – we can’t have a regular Moombahton Massive because DC might implode from too much bass and we kinda need the Nation’s Capital around to run shit.  But, have no fear – Tropixxx is here!  One Sunday a month, Billy and Cam bring us all together at Velvet so we can get our moombahton fix in the same venue where Dave Nada, the godfather of moombahton, held “Moombahton Mondays”.  Together they have succeeded in keeping the regular celebration of moombahton alive and well in the DMV area.

On an individual level, Billy is constantly evolving as a moombahton producer.  His earlier tracks have this sexy, Latin vibe to them – a classic moombahton feel (see “Sillyana” and “La Mania”).  Some even have a really smooth house groove to them  (see “Home Grown” and “Latin Love Theme”).  But lately, his tracks have taken on more of an aggressive style of moombahton, incorporating elements of dubstep and often treading the line between classic moombahton and its subgenre, moombahcore (see “Munchicore VIP” and “Turn Up the Volume”).  Run through Billy’s SoundCloud and you’ll see he’s got something for every kind of moombahton fan out there.  The man knows how to take care of his people, ya know what I mean?!

Now he’s got something for the hip-hoppers with today’s release of the Vibrate Chick EP, a joint escapade with Virginia’s Long Jawns and Miami’s JWLS.  Imagine some serious crunk vibes and hip-hop vocals layered over moombahton beats.  If you’re imagining something like a Ludacris video with a ton of scantily clad Latinas in 1970 Chevelles with ridiculous hydraulics cruisin’ down U Street…you’re almost there.  But don’t just take my word for it – go check it out for yourself and download the free EP at moombahton.com.  You’ll be handsomely rewarded with Dirty South-meets-moombahton swag.  You’ll need it to complete your summer.  It’s lookin’ to be a hot one.  ;)  And if you like what you hear, check him out at the next Dirty Sweaty Nasty Party on May 13th in Fairfax, VA.

But before you leave me, I want you to get to know Billy on a more personal level.  Seriously, moombahton has recruited a really great dude.  He was awesome enough to answer a few questions for me about the making of the Vibrate Chick EP, the Brotherhood of Moombahton, and one of his best dudes, Dave Nada.

 

Cool Breezy:  First, just for the people who don’t know yet, when did you start DJing and producing and what inspired you to get into the scene?  What were you playing before moombahton?

Billy the Gent:  I started DJing in 2009.  My good friend DJ Tom Lim gave me a few quick turntable lessons about an hour before our first party.  I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I wanted to play music.  I threw a couple local parties over the next couple years and I basically learned how to mix tracks by playing live, which if you were at any of those parties, you would know that it was pretty horrible…HA!   Anyways, I made a lot of friends in the DJ community [who] helped me out along the way to try and lock down good mixing techniques and such but I think I will always feel like I could be a better DJ.  I mostly learned how to spin hip-hop and Top 40 tracks, and then moved onto the dubstep scene and now its MOOMBAHTON!

As far as producing goes, I’ve been making music in some way or another since as long as I can remember.  When I lived in Richmond, I played in countless indie bands and punk bands.  I learned to play the drums from my older brother, Champ Bennett (yes, his real name!), when we were kids and since then, I’ve been playing music.   What got me into producing music is more or less the fact that I don’t have time for a band anymore!  Hah.  I work as a full-time tattoo artist at Tattoo Paradise here in DC and it’s a major part of my life.  So because I’m so involved with tattooing, producing music off of my computer gives me the opportunity to make music whenever I feel like – there is no organizing band practices or dealing with the hassle of gear, or anything like that…just me and my studio.

CB:  What was it about moombahton that attracted you to the scene?

BTG:  I got into moombahton via one of my best pals (and creator of moombahton!) DAVID ORLANDO VILLEGAS [aka] Dave Nada.  We all know Dave’s story of how he stumbled onto this whole thing.  But I think I got into it mostly because it was more or less a fresh genre of music.  I really like the tempo and the appeal of moombahton and I think I was drawn to it by the sheer fact that there was hardly any of it around.  I mean, my first moombahton crate had about fifteen tracks in it, so I got inspired to make all these edits and stuff.  But now that the edit game is sorta flooded, I’m working more on making original stuff.

CB:  How did the Tropixxx collaboration with Cam Jus begin and what was it like being a part of Moombahton Massive Tres?

BTG:  It’s kinda funny.  Cam asked me to play this party he was doing, and I didn’t really know much about it.  I just knew I was allowed to play moombahton there, so I said “sure”…and the first one we did popped off really big, so we decided to keep it going.  Since then, every single Tropixxx has been better than the one before it and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.  We had the Toronto-based duo TORRO TORRO play one of them and the party before last TITTSWORTH and ALVIN RISK filmed the video for their latest moombahton hit “PENDEJAS”.  It’s been great.

Being a part of the Moombahton Massive was amazing.  One of the cool things about this genre is the camaraderie involved in it.  For the most part, everyone is trying to help everyone, whether its sharing tracks, asking for opinions, throwing each other’s tracks on mixes or whatever it is – people are looking out for each other.  A great example of that was the whole reason behind the Moombahton Massive Tres – to help one of my favorite producers, MUNCHI.  As many of you know, Munchi had some health issues while he was traveling and needed money for bills, flights, etc. and when Dave came to me, Cam, Obeyah, Jon Kwest, DJ Ayers, and Uncle Jesse about doing a benefit for him, EVERYONE was down and that’s kinda what I’m saying.  When I was playing in bands and stuff, there was a lot of jealousy and backstabbing, but the dance music scene and in particular, the moombahton scene seems to be very supportive.  It’s really cool.

CB:  Describe the creative process for the Vibrate Chick EP and what was it like working with Long Jawns and JWLS?

BTG:  Ok, Long [Jawns] and I have been linking up and working of tracks for a while now.  We were mostly working on house tracks and stuff like that, but [during] one session we sat down for, Long had played me a moombahton track he had started.  I knew right away we had to finish it – it was really good.   I told him it reminded me of some of the tracks that I’ve heard by this dude named “JWLS” from Miami.  He gave me this look and said, “That’s funny you say that cause it was a big inspiration for this track!”  So we finished that track up and sent it over to JWLS for input and he instantly hit us back and asked if he could do a remix of it…and obviously we said “yes.”   So that explains the first two tracks of this EP.  The third one was a track that I had started working on and sort of hit a brick wall with.  I let it sit for a while and came back to it and realized that I should finish it.  I tested it out at the Massive Tres and it sounded great.  So meanwhile, me, Long and JWLS are sitting on these two tracks (“vibrate/vibrate remix”) and I thought,  “I should just hit JWLS up to help me finish this ‘Chick like me’ track and then we should put all 3 of the songs out as an EP!”   So in some way or another, we all had something to do with all the tracks – it’s pretty cool.   I don’t think many people do stuff like this, especially with moombahton.

CB:  It might be really hard to choose, but who’s your favorite moombahtonista right now and why?

BTG:  Probably Jon Kwest.  That dude puts in a lot of work, always has fresh mixes, tracks, and seems to constantly be trying to push the sound.  I think he probably holds the record for most moombahton songs finished too…hahaha.

CB:  Finally, congratulations on your marriage!  Just curious…did moombahton have a presence during your wedding?

THANKS!   Being married is awesome and believe it or not, my wife’s dad wore his MOOMBAHTON shirt to the wedding under his suit. NO lie. Dave took a picture of it and put it on his twitter, I believe.  It was pretty awesome.