Panamanian-American emcee duo Los Rakas and Washington, DC's DJ rAt of the Maracuyeah party collective joined headlining Mexican EDM export trio 3Ball MTY on a stop of the Honda Civic tour at suburban DC performance venue Fillmore Silver Spring. While the crowd was sparse, the lessons were many. America's an intriguing market for Latin-friendly (and in the case of these acts, almost entirely Spanish-speaking) artists. The going logic is that to break into the stateside pop realm and being of said demographic, EDM sounds best when voiced by Pitbull or Enrique Iglesias and must feel like the sultriest of electro. 3Ball MTY and Los Rakas are certainly neither of those, which presents quite the conundrum when they're being pushed as not so much indie acts breaking to indie audiences, but as acts signed to Universal Latin and looking to be unique American pop/crossover successes.
Of course, this is all stated with the logic in tow that Hispanics/Latinos are America's fastest-rising minority population, with more non-Latino Americans fluently speaking Spanish than ever before, a total making up nearly 13% of America's 316 million citizens. Thus, there is likely a market for this music, but how can it be more efficiently reached? The answers may already be being heard, and are thus presented as five lessons learned from last night's event.
Imagine if Los Rakas were on "Bumaye?"
Well, according to our conversation with The Flexican, Major Lazer's 2013 moombahton hit "Watch Out For This (Bumaye)" was originally recorded with lyrics by Raka Rich and Raka Dun. However, upon realizing that legendary dancehall emcee Busy Signal was being released from prison, he was tabbed for the single instead. Los Rakas performed the original version "Desorden" on Thursday evening, and it worked as an effective rap-to-EDM moment of translation. While "Bumaye" probably won't work as an immediate ear-worming trigger for most mainstream audiences, it certainly proved that for Latino/Hispanic rappers not dressed in finely tailored suits screaming "DALE!" that dance as a point of connection is at this point, a universal mode for acceptance of act, even without having to speak the language.
3BALLMTY should be doing a lot more rap remixes
If we're at a place where producers are making rap beats using Maya Jane Coles tracks, then we should also ideally be at a place where Sheeqo Beat, DJ Otto, and Erick Rincon are flipping rap singles into 3ball masterpieces. If you think what RL Grime and Salva did to Kanye West (and crew's) "Mercy" as a trap edit is pretty fantastic, take a listen to the snippet above from last night. There's something in the swing of trap drums into a cumbia sweep that's pretty epic. When folks are ready to move past turning up and don't quite feel like going deep, there's certainly a space for this sound.
Uproot Andy's edit of Los Rakas' "Abrazame" still gets 'em every time
When Uproot Andy blended Los Rakas' 2010 underground hit "Abrazame" with dancehall crooner Gyptian's similar 2010 smash "Hold Yuh," it created something truly special, this strange Fania-meets-Marley style moment that's all about soul, but has absolutely everything (and nothing) to do with any way it's ever been defined before in the American mainstream. There's something in that cumbia/reggae mix that's special and possibly deserves a second look. If top-40 urban is going to hang around in "EDM," there's more than UK garage that can lead to a hit for certain.
Tribal Guarachero, bigger than zumba. Or maybe not?
Play 3Ball MTY's 2011 hit tribal guarachero single "Intentalo" at a full gym or in any location filled with your typical, run-of-the-mill 9-to-5 types, and it's entirely possible that a solid quarter of the crowd will break out in maneuvers familiar to zumba, the company-as-Latin-flavored fitness class taught to nearly 200 million people worldwide. "Intentalo" is a zumba staple, and probably the one way that most Americans outside of those familiar with progressive global electro bass would be familiar with the act. Now, I'm fairly certain that promoting concerts at fitness centers is far outside of the box for most promoters, but in this case, it's not a terrible idea at all.
DJ Mustard is everywhere
It was entertaining to hear DC's DJ rAt open the evening with a set that seamlessly maneuvered in and out of cumbia, dembow, moombahton and more. Intriguing of course, was to hear tracks produced by rap's producer-of-the-moment DJ Mustard getting flipped and twisted into Latin/Hispanic rhythms without missing a beat. In the same way as when Giorgio Moroder flipped disco on its head by fully embracing electro, Mustard's really onto something major when his sound so benignly slips between the cracks of all genres with a bizarre ubiquitous anonymity. Instead of a video clip from last night, the above shot is of Diplo dropping Grandtheft's moombahton edit of Tyga's "Rack City," the track that really put Mustard on the map.