Tuesday, April 17, 2012

 I had the pleasure of speaking at a college in Queens, NY on the Dubwise DJ culture's journey from Dub to Latino Bass music. It was a tough sell, but it gave me a chance to speak on a topic I enjoy. The class was called "Latino Communities," taught by a great mentor and friend of mine. 

My lecture began with the beginning of modern day remixing, Dub Reggae, and moved along to the U.S. through Hip Hop and out again to Latin America. I'll put some captions along the way. Its just as much a journey about my own development in DJ culture. So here you go!

Setting the context - Dub and the root of Soundsystem culture
Dub is the first remix music in soundsystem culture. Here is a King Tubby Dub of "Alibaba" by John Holt. Pay attention to the removal of the vocals and "tops" of the track, leaving a big empty space filled with echos, noise, reverb, and a boost of the drums and bass...


Early Hip Hop as extension of Soundsystem culture

DJ Kool Herc, the father of Hip Hop, was a Jamaican immigrant, as was Grandmaster Flash. Herc brought the concept of soundsystem culture, particularly the need for bigger and badder speakers and a setup to the U.S. Instead of playing Reggae, he switched to Funk, Soul, R&B to get the crowds hyped... it was this switch, and his invention of the "Merry Go Round" that converted it to Hip Hop. These elements of communalism, use of empty space, and room for MCs to chat came from Jamaican Soundsystem culture. I posted this below to highlight the block party inspired Soundsystem vibes in Hip Hop. I really like the MC, Jazzy J, use of echo and rapping that touches directly to the chatters of dub reggae.

The sample - the battleground of ownership and power
The sample is the staple of Hip Hop production. It represents poverty, as it was the way folks can gather "instruments" without paying for a band. It represents reappropriation, as it was a way of taking something and reconfiguring it to meet the needs of a new context. It represents ownership; as Hip Hop grew and became used for commercial gain, the original writers of sampled music wanted to be compensated for their work. This commodification of sound now placed Hip Hop under scrutiny as music that held society back. Once we entered full-swing in the digital era, MP3s began to move around at quick speeds across the world and sampling along with it. I chose this De La Soul track as it was a focus for a litigation battle where band members of "The Turtles" accused De La of stealing without paying, and beginning the crackdown of sampling in Hip Hop... hence the drop of samples and rise of synths. If samples were used it was kept underground and away from mainstream access, or hidden under a bunch of production tools. Blondie's "Rapture" was chosen because it questions this idea of "ownership." Here, Blondie rips off a very bad rhyme, presents Hip Hop pioneers such as Lee and Fab Five Freddy. As a white presenter of a cultural art, she serves as a catalyst. This also reminds me of major labels' "race records" and the history of underpaying artists for their work.

Identity development for a U.S. Latino - Moving towards Latino Bass Culture
As a Latino in the U.S. we constantly try to seek cultural products that represent us. In my journey, I picked and chose different bits of Latinidad, but felt it was incomplete. I embraced Hip Hop, but felt it also didn't fulfill my cultural landscape. As you see below, Latino DJ culture also faces this... as some Latino artists use Hip Hop's architecture, and feel, in a literal crossover. Cypress Hill's "Latin Lingo" uses Latino based samples to weave sounds into the Hip Hop realm. And, Ozzomatli do it a bit different as Hip Hop is not the main vehicle of song design, but a component of a pastiche of genres, instruments, and energy.

Going Global
As DJ culture moved around the world, Latin America began to take part in the conversation. Some artists slammed electronic/American DJ music with folkloric sounds, such as Nortec Sistema, who put techno with Norte~no music together. We also have genres translated to other contexts, such as Ana Tijoux's version of Hip Hop. Yet, not everyone took Hip Hop literally, as Brazil changed the Booty Bass element of 2 Live Crew, and converted it to a whole other soundsystem genre of Baile Funk.

Where we are now?Maracuyeah, 3ball, cumbia electronica, NYC tropical, moombahton...
With the world moving more closely together with the internet, social media, and MP3s. We have access to huge amounts of information. Latino artists can look at U.S. subgenres such as Chicago Footwork to find inspiration. Or, they can take cheap music software and create whole new drum patterns, samples, and instrumentation for new effects. Across the world, there is a conversation among NYC Tropical, 3ball from Mexico, Moombahton from Miami/DC and so forth to create a solid stable of contemporary Latino Bass DJ music. Music software can now blend songs with huge differences in speed and Beats per Minute. Where Latino DJ culture is now reminds me of Hip Hop in the 90s, where experimentation was allowed in the creation of sex-bump bump music. Its that intersection that keeps me interested.

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