Until starting 110.FM earlier this year, I never realized how important Marcus K. Dowling’s work behind the scenes has been in moombahton’s development. Below, the moombah writer, consultant and anthropologist introduces himself, explains the state of the genre now, and most importantly, shares his top 25 110 BPM songs of the year. – Steven (@ricenbeats)
Hi! Marcus Dowling here. I’m a jack-of-all-trades, so please indulge me for a second to fully introduce myself. I’ll explain how I came to put together this list and why Sazon Booya’s Mr. Vega called me out on Twitter to compile it.
I’m a Washington, DC native, hence, I was physically in the building at DC9 Nightclub on March 4, 2010 when Dave Nada played the third-ever American moombahton set to close out the “KIDS” party. As a freelance writer, I currently am the Editor-in-Chief of Brooklyn Bodega, a contributing writer for DJZ, and the lead dance writer for On Tap Magazine and Brightest Young Things. In my early days at my first site (the now dead True Genius Requires Insanity), I alongside current Fact Magazine US Editor Chris Kelly chronicled the early rise of moombahton, sweating out many a night in Summer 2010 at Velvet Lounge’s now legendary Moombahton Mondays events. Moving into the U Hall and Moombahton Massive era, I was the editor of the now defunct moombahton.com, reporting the subtle local, national and global growth of the sound and style. Moving ever further ahead, myself, alongside UK Mixmag writer and top marketing mind Neil Queen-Jones and Kansas City’s DJ/producer/Think 2wice Records chief Brent Tactic have started Vamos Promo, the globe’s first-ever moombahton-centric marketing and public relations firm. As well, I am the host of the Wednesday at 11 AM streaming online radio program the Vamos Hour, one of the world’s first ever moombahton-only weekly radio/video broadcasts on WLVS Radio. Airing from my 9-5 job as WLVS’ station director at Listen Vision Studios’ – DC’s oldest and largest recording studio – the program is nearing it’s one year anniversary counting Mama Nada’s Empanadas (yes Zulema Valladares, Dave Nada’s mom!) and 110.FM as sponsors. Thus, I feel uniquely qualified to compile this list.
2012 was the year that moombahton didn’t die, it just died down. There’s going to be moments like this, where everything that moombahton represents is going to allow music producers to re-discover everything else they enjoy about switching tempos in music. Two facts: A) Trap came because Flosstradamus‘ “Original Don” remix is still a more iconoclastic and different pop song than just about any this year. B) Trap stayed because moombahton created a group of motivated producers who were already progressive in mindset who took their different-thinking minds into yet another space and crushed everything in their path.
2012 was the year that every great moombahton track you loved in 2010 and 2011 allowed your favorite producer to cross over and cash in to varying levels of largesse. Insofar as developing new stars, 2012 did that as well, and there are a few of them on this list. But 2013 is THE year. Producers who crossed over and got large are not forgetting their roots, and in joining with a rising corps of ready-to-blow moombahtonistas, it appears three years of dedicated work is ready to explode. Eschewing four-on-the-floor mania for two-stepping fury, moombahton is dance’s most populist sound at dance’s most populist time. Wrapping your brain around something as simple as a switch in tempo would appear to be quite simple, but then again, that’s why your friends (and the world-at-large) would call you an early adopter. For mainstream fans and record executives, the acceptance has been slow, but finally occurring.
This list chronicles tracks with an official release date between January 1 and December 31, 2012. Tracks that were commonly played before 2012 but received full public release (free or commercial) in the past calendar year were counted as well. The list is broken down into three groups (1-10, 11-20 and 20-25) and loosely ranked by unique style, underground-to-mainstream marketability, sonic quality and dance floor response
Bro Safari, “Uncrushable”
A Biggie sample meets a bass and dance music legend with an incredible earthquake of a result. The success of Bro Safari’s T&A Records released Bros Gone Wild EP spawned a nationwide tour that catapulted him to global renown.
Miami’s Julio Mejia is one of moombahton’s group of golden children, the kind of producers who are gifted beyond their years and whose talent inspires even those twice their age. JWLS didn’t just turn 21 this year, but when this one finally gained full release, it turned heads and was a huge reason for his, as well as GTA (his project with Van Toth) reaching tremendous heights of rising acclaim.
Sade, “Love is Found” (Disgraceland Remix)
From the oddest of locales, Leicester, UK native John Stanhope found the sound that had been trapped in his head for years in his techno-meets-tropical bass sound. As if from out of nowhere, Disgraceland went from being a Facebook group hero to being a headlining talent at the inaugural Moombahton Massive event at Berlin’s Worldtronics Festival. This soulful cut from the Legitmix-released Sabo and Heartbreak present Moombahsoul EP is heavy, deep, emotive and danceable. Total winner.
2 Chainz, “Birthday Song” (Sazon Booya Remix)
The winner of the “biggest ballsbahton” award goes to Mr. Vega and DJ SAV, who in daring to dream enormously and crafting an airtight and pop-trending marketing scheme, won. Arguably their most incredible win? Not playing New York’s Electric Daisy event, NYC’s Pacha on multiple occasions, or even setting themselves up for a gigantic 2013. Truly, it’s in this breakbeat-to-dembow-to-fistpump official remix of one of rap’s biggest songs at its biggest moment that gives a glimpse to what the future will sound like.
Jose Gonzalez, “Teardrop” (Dave Nada Edit)
Dave Nada took a plaintive ballad version of Massive Attack’s legendary trip-hop moment and literally slowed it ’til it was frozen in time. This one reminds you that Dave’s the man, and the reason why we’re all here. In executing beauty with such elegant grace, this track is stunning on a mind-blowing level. Moombahton is everything, but nothing sounds quite like this.
Mix one hip-hop loving DJ legend with tropical bass, shake vigorously at 110 BPM, and you get this monstrosity of a track. With a sound that errs towards a bounce and a groove moreso than a pound and a stab, this is peak hour grinding music with swagger. Craze is one of the few moombahtonistas old enough to remember what made hip-house and New Orleans bounce take rap’s style to the dance floor, and in adding that impulse to moombahton proves his importance to the sound.
Valentino Khan & Will Bailey, “Rukus”
Boisterous, stadium-sized and completely ostentatious are three ways to describe the track that never lost a crowd all year. When LA’s Valentino Khan combines forces with Will Bailey, parties tend to go over the edge. “Rukus” doesn’t fit anywhere. It the grossest oddity of an oddball sound, and that’s why we love it. The dembow riddim here is loaded with jet fuel, the melody all types of jacking funk waylaid by Latin grooves and break-beat flourishes. A world championship sound for sure.
Munchi, “La Brasileña Ta Montao” feat Angel Doze
At 75% (he’s still recovering from a potentially lethal aneurysm), Munchi is still 150% better than 100% of everyone else in the game. Outside of A Tribe Called Red and Javier Estrada, the Rotterdam instant legend has the most active and unique imagination in underground music. Seemingly undeterred by whatever the rest of the world is listening to, his trademark sound blends native Latin styles with progressive notions in sonic manipulation and engineering. He’s vehemently iconoclastic, and this track makes you not just a fan of him, but dancing to the track feels like a revolutionary act unto itself. That’s rare.
Alvin Risk, “Survival”
This track sounds like Martians having an Earth-bound Mayan rebellion. On the sound system at the home of Moombahton Massive – U Street Music Hall-as-“Temple of Boom,” moombahton’s most legendary sonic stage sounds like it will crumble in upon itself at any minute when this track is played. Setting forth propulsive intensity against a steady yet somehow charging dembow riddim, it’s easily one of of the genre’s finest tracks to date, Alvin Risk a superstar creative force in the realm of electronic sounds.
Boyfriend, “Vodka House”
Folky, funky and strange. In a genre where everybody wants to be different, Vilnius, Lithuania’s
Boyfriend is at the top of the game because in staying true to himself, he actually is. There’s a level of
filtering of sound on this one that is just perfect, and in taking a party on a loopy trip to Wonderland
with an odd, yet majestic style makes this one not just a winner but an all-time legend of a sound.
Cousin Cole, “Enemies Get No Water”
Cousin Cole is probably the all-around best moombahtonista around. Typically DJing in hip nightspots where sophisticated ears like progressive grooves, he’s allowed to march to the beat of an entirely different drummer. To break down his greatness even further, I’ll cop a basketball analogy. In a genre filled with Allen Iversons, he’s Oscar Robertson. Instead of defining a sound with wild and aggressive statements – by doing simple, yet difficult things like remixing Fela Kuti incredibly well – he’s still scoring points. However, in also doing all of the hard work that misses the highlight reel that allows the team to stay ahead on all levels, he’s incredibly important.
Kingman Fire, “Esmeralda Suite”
Pickster and Melo are Arizona Gunslingers through and through, which means that they exist in the mythical land called Phoenix, where doing moombahton right has been a proudly worn badge of honor since day one. In an era where nu-disco is rampant, many have attempted to nail the space where moombahton’s unique groove melds with classic disco’s style. Philadelphia International Records moombahsoul remixes aside, Santa Esemeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”’s 12” remix is a mellifluous take on Latin disco, and was an untouched prime choice. In the hands of arguably one of moombahton’s top two or three duos, this cut is perfectly executed.
Steve Aoki & Angger Dimas, “Beatdown” feat. Iggy Azalea
Angger Dimas, as well as Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak records are unheralded moombahton heroes. Iggy Azalea is a Spin or Rolling Stone cover away from being the marquee rap voice of the sound. The best song that 2010 ever forgot, this is the best track highlighting moombahton’s forgotten style. Remember when the sound just felt like so many slowed down Dutch house bangers of the week? I didn’t, and the Indonesian bass maestro didn’t either. Moombahton by way of mainstream expectations, this one is terrific and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Diplo, “Move Around” feat. Elephant Man & GTA
Diplo’s going to have so many moombahton hits. Hate if you must but always respect his legacy, but Wesley Pentz’s supersonic assault on mainstream expectations of underground music is quite impressive. JWLS and Van Toth take the reins on this one, though, a bass music ass-kicking of epic proportions. Throwing Elephant Man vocals on a moombahton track makes all of the dancehall-births-dembow sense, making this one a nutty, dirty bashment champion. Taking filthy underground vibes to Las Vegas weekly parties is Diplo’s MO of life at the moment, and this track kills in that ideal.
Rihanna, “Diamonds” (Graham Knoxx cover) (Secret Sauce Remix)
Brent Tactic, DJ Archi and B-Stee completely understand where top 40 radio and moombahton make all the sense in the world. Kansas City, Missouri is one of those middle American places where “EDM” stormed blindly into the room and took up shop. Overnight, kids that were straight-laced folks became drugged out acid kids, and so many bros and hoes migrated to partying to a brand new groove. Thank god then for veterans like Tactic, Archi and B-Stee, who know their crowd and also know how to navigate the underground/mainstream divide without selling out to either side. ATL-to-DC-to-LA rising R & B vocalist Graham Knoxx entered this one in a Perez Hilton cover contest and won, proving moombahton’s championship potential.
Dillon Francis, “Bootleg Fireworks”
Dillon Francis is the Wagner of moombahton in the sense that his complex melodies and explorations in low register angst are the sturm und drang that propel forth the genre in the most progressive of mainstream circles. This recently released track for Calvin Harris’ Fly Records is likely his best work to date, a bright yet heavy track that in fulfilling two very separate and powerful emotions simultaneously creates the kind of madcap dance floor insanity that has driven his rise to renown.
Ackeejuice Rockers, “Wade in the Water”
Storming into the public consciousness of late have been Italy’s Ackeejuice Rockers, whose heavy, house-driven and fresh take on the sound recall the genre’s early days, but with sonic engineering fully in the present. This moombahsoul winner is just so damned good. There’s something traditional yet altogether brand new about this track. In mixing traditional song structures with a dance-driven genre that breaks all of the rules, there’s a narrow line between genius and insanity that is toed to perfection here.
Sabo and Heartbreak, “Moments in Love”
There’s a barely there moment in this Art of Noise moombahsoul flip where the bassline half-times itself against the melody that is so slick. In taking Heartbreak’s ability to chop a sample and mixing in Sabo’s ability to set the pace and take it deeper with every passing moment, it works. It’s hip-house with a brand new spin, a future sound at a progressive time.
Datsik and Bare, “King Kong” (Gent and Jawns Remix)
Billy the Gent and Long Jawns are so much not what they appear that they should be called Weird Science. The DC and Richmond-based duo are on top because of tracks like this one where they unfurl the pent up aggression of Datsik and Bare’s style here, and in adding a stabbing groove find ways to extend its angry potential. With a track so great that it was featured in a BFGoodrich COMP2 tire commercial, they’ve barely scratched the surface of their excellence.
Jay Fay, “Oops”
Probably one of the best overall EP’s of the year belonged to St. Louis’ teenage wunderkind Jay Fay who crushed a home run with this track. There’s a brilliant bassline here, a point/counterpoint on pop- levels of smooth versus top-level underground aggro-funk that could only come from someone not yet old enough to drink, but definitely young enough to really know how to jam without any expectations. It’s a freeing winner, setting the young producer as one to watch overall in electronic dance music.
D-Face, “Physical Appearance”
Garret Hickey is a superstar on the rise. Whether he’s singing hooks or producing songs that sound like somebody applying plastic explosives to walls in rubber rooms (like this one), the just starting to really get the hang of it producer crafts a winner that blows a tremendous Top Billin’ Moombahworld 2 comp all the way open.
112, “If You Are Available” (DJ Reck‘s Trapaton Remix)
Trap has swept through the underground with the swagger of representing rap, pop music’s latest and most powerful style-to-date. Outside of the yet-to-be released flip of Flosstradamus’ “2NITE” by A Tribe Called Red, this moombahsoul winner takes the heavy dope boy magic of trap in a far more sonorous and elegant direction. With a screwed vocal as well, this one stretches from an adult groove to
a teenage dance floor fantasy with effortless grace.
Justice, D.A.N.C.E. (Ma-Less Edit)
Tampa, Florida’s ma-Less creates an edit that just works so well. Floridian moombahtonistas are ALL on the rise, this track arguably being the best of many great things that the state did all year. This one is THE track to play if you need to convert just about anyone into having an instant interest in listening to more house sounds slowed into a golden groove.
Daddy Yankee, “Rompe” (Willy Joy Booty Mix)
Whenever I have a friend in town who is nowhere near the level of over-actively engaged music-phile that I have become – but wants to just hear a great DJ playing music that I love in a way that they will understand it – I suggest they listen to Willy Joy. God bless this dude. He knows how to drive a stake in the heart of what the mainstream thinks that a sound is, and twist it until it warps their minds to the place where they need to be to accept something new, yet exactly the same. That’s a rare talent, and on this reggaeton-to-moombahton number, he succeeds.
Jon Kwest, “The Whistle” (Omar Comin’)
Jon Kwest is a minimalist’s best friend. If you’re trying to make your friend who hates “EDM” a fan of moombahton, he’s the ultimate go-to guy. Not unlike classic disco remixer extraordinaire Tom Moulton, he finds the space where moombahton can extend the dance potential of a melody and groove, and doesn’t so much attack it as he weaves basslines and breaks with an understated flair. Taking a sample from The Wire and merging it with a grimy gangsta groove, it’s a dope track and a necessary fist to the face instead of a winding of the hips, making it a special sound.
As if from nothing, NYC’s Minimaxx and DJ EJ stormed into the party with this heavy and strange winner. If computers make the best music, this one is as strange, futuristic and unfathomably deep as they come. Moombahton meets acid here and with a lashing bassline that sticks instead of slaps, it’s a disgustingly powerful groove.
Smalltown DJs, “Blow”
The owners of Calgary’s HiFi Club do it enormously well on this jazzy number. Less intense and more expansive of the enormous potential of moombahton’s sonic sway, there’s some dirty, dirty business going on in the lower register of this one. Sabo’s Sol Selectas label put out some kingly releases in 2012, this in particular an underrated competitor for being the best of the bunch.
Drop the Lime – Bandit Blues
Skrillex – Bangarang
Wale – Slight Work
Bro Safari – 5150
JWLS – Lagrimas
Disgraceland – All My Zeroes Are Greater Than Your One
Sazon Booya – Impacto
Nadastrom – i!!
Craze – Grabbin’ Chochas
Valentino Khan and Will Bailey – Mayday
Jon Kwest – Good Love
Beauty Brain and Poisound – Bullfighter
Cousin Cole – Battle for Middle You
Phi Unit – Tom’s Diner
Melo – T.R.O.Y.
Pickster One – Start the Fuckin’ Most Pit
Secret Sauce – Island Life
Alvin Risk – Dirty Dancer
Apt One – Fich So Saxy
NcLovin and A-Mac – Danger Time
Jay Fay – Starlife
Boyfriend & BigMakk – 6 AM
Team Bayside High – Misirlou