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…