The other night I ran into my friend Sr. Oz and he asked me if I was going to do a Best Of 2008 for my blog and I was like “really?” Meaning, you know, “does anybody really care?” or “aren’t you fed up with all the Best-Of-Whatever articles published during this month in every single magazine and blog?” But since I haven’t been publishing pretty much anything lately on any of my blogs because my internet at home got disconnected, and I’ve been too busy having a life, and also, since I started this blog a year ago with a list of the best ten albums from 2007, well, I guess in the end it would not such a bad idea. Thanks Sr. Oz.
So, first I thought I should do a list of the best ten albums, like last year, but it was really hard to come up with ten albums, because, like I anticipated in the intro from last year’s top ten, albums are a dying format and with so much downloading and free MP3, most of the new stuff I listened during 2008 was not part of an actual album, or was part of an album that I never listened to as a whole, or like in most cases I only saved one song from the album and discarded the rest to make more room in my hard-drive.
Anyways, I decided instead to make a list of the eleven (fuck ten! what a boring number) new tracks released in (or discovered during) 2008 that I’ve been playing the most in my DJ sets during 2008. This means, there were probably some other really good songs out there that I listened to a lot, but will not make it into this list because they were too slow or too fast or to weird or too boring to blend into my DJ set. OK, here we go.
1.- Sonidero Nacional – “Grande de Caderas”: Toy Selectah and his combo Sonidero Nacional are by far the most prolific neo-cumbia purveyors out there and I’ve been playing non-stop all of the remixes they delivered during 2008. In fact, they were so many that it would be more accurate if at least the ten first selections of this top-eleven were Toy/Sonidero songs, but it would not be fair for the other artists and then I’d be accused –again- of sucking too much on Toys cock. But the thing is, this guy is a fucking genius. He has been ahead of the game for over ten years pioneering rap in Spanish, reggaetón and now neo-cumbia, a whole hybrid genre that he himself basically started. If you ask me, he is the most influential artist in Latin music right now. So if in 2007 the most played song in my sets was Sonidero Nacional’s remix of Julieta Venegas “Eres Para Mí”, this year the award goes to “Grande de Caderas” an awesome cumbia released as part of a tribute album called Tributo Al Más Grande, but I have no fucking idea who el más grande really is. I just know I love playing this track at the beginnings of my sets because it’s the one that gets the people instantly on the dancefloor.
2.- El Hijo De La Cumbia – “La Mara Tomaza”: If I’ve done a top-eleven of albums instead of songs, like I originally intended, Zizek’s compilation Cumbia Digital Vol.1 would’ve been number one for two reasons: 1) I’ve been playing constantly in my sets at least four tracks from this comp and that’s much more than any other album released this year and 2) Sonidero Nacional hasn’t release any official album, yet. This Hijo track is definitely the best in the album and his best track too. It works great with both the neo-cumbia hipster crowd and the traditional tacky cumbia dancers. The vinyl version of Cumbia Digital Vol. 1 includes a longer intro to this track, which makes it even better.
3.- Samim – “Heater”: Love it. The bouncing club four-to-the-floor beat matches the vallenato accordion so perfectly that many neo-cumbia producers must wish they picked up this classic sample before. It’s way up in the 120’s BPM which is very helpful when it comes to blending it into a lot of different other stuff (most neo-cumbia averages at 90 BPM which gets boring after a while and it’s hard to migrate forward in the set to the up-tempo beats). I recently mashed-it up live with Los Piojos’ “El Farolito” with great results. By the way, there is a remix by Toy Selectah and Diplo that’s way better than the original but I didn’t wanna be redundant.
4.- DJ Negro – “Suave”: Of all the neo-cumbia producers coming down from Argentina, DJ Negro is definitely my favorite. This is his cumbia version of Calle 13’s old hit and it’s probably not the best Negro track (currently I’m a lot more into “Lluvia” and “Carmelita Dios”) but this is the first one I found earlier this year, hence it’s the one I played the most and I’ll keep on playing it for a while because it will still sound fresh three years from now.
5.- Quantic & Nickodemus – “Mi swing es tropical”: The first time I listened to this song it was being played by DJ Sabo during his set in Tormenta Tropical. A couple of months later I saw him playing again at another party and he started his set with this track. I HAD to download it and since I’ve done so, I haven’t stopped playing it. It has a classic break-beat as skeleton, which makes it easy to beat-match but the flesh is all traditional Latin shit, which makes it ideal for when you have to deal with the annoying Central American salseros interrupting your DJ set to request something they can dance to. Here you have, now can you please stop bothering me and/or learn how to dance to other music styles besides salsa and merengue!
6.- Eduardo Mateo/Martimat – “Hype Yulelé”: The fact that Latinos don’t respond to songs like this one as they should, is what make me hate the fact that I mostly play for that crowd. Sometimes they are so narrow-minded when it comes to new beats, it drives me crazy! I can’t understand how could someone not like this track. The thing is, even though the lyrics are in Spanish, Latinos don’t recognize this as familiar Latin rhythm, so they don’t know how to dance to it. Hence, after I tried a few times, I desisted. I don’t include it in my sets anymore when I play for Latino dancers, but I still play it in my lounge sets.
7.- DJ Raff – “Flying Away”: I already said it here before, I love DJ Raff’s album and I’ve been playing many of his tracks in my down-tempo sets, but this one in particular got more play than any other. Once again, if I’ve done the hypothetical top-eleven of albums mentioned above, DJ Raff would not be on top but, unlike any others he would be featured twice, once because of his album Raffolution and once because of his contribution to Mustafá Yoda’s masterpiece Imaquinar (me dear friend Musta won’t be included in this list because, even though I love Imaquinar, there isn’t one song there that I’ve been able to include in any DJ set, but if I was to make a top-eleven of videos his “El Niño” would be there for sure).
8.- Nortec Collective – “The Clap”: This one drives the Mexicans crazy but it doesn’t work with other crowds. I tried. I played it when I opened for Babasónicos and it had almost no response, except for two Mexican girls screaming in the front lane. I played it again when I opened for María Daniela y Su Sonido Láser and it worked perfect with the mexi-hipster crowd. I noticed it also works with the paisa taquería workers because it’s not techno enough and it’s got plenty of ranchero accordion which they can relate to. The lesson here is, only Mexican people can tolerate Mexican traditional music. Which we already knew. Anyway, I only play the first minute of the track, before it gets really annoying. Any more ranchero accordion would taint my DJ set.
9.- Alex Pastermak – “Pajariton”: Ladies and Gentlemen please give it up for Bersa Discos, the best new Latin independent record label in the US and the first one releasing only neo-cumbia and in vinyl! These are the guys to blame for the crossover of the neo-cumbia phenomenon to the US underground and during 2008 they introduced us to a lot of amazing new artists, dj’s and producers like the above mentioned DJ Negro, the Texan DJ Panik and this one track by this Alex dude, who I don’t know where the fuck he came out from but it blew my mind since the first time I heard Oro 11 playing it at Tormenta Tropical.
10.- Palenke Soultribe – “The Color Of Your Dreams”: These Colombian guys living in Los Angeles have been making quite a name for themselves releasing several vinyl singles and CDs on their own label. For some reason they haven’t broken into the neo-cumbia scene yet, maybe because their sound is more on the techno and house side, instead of the dominant hip-hop-dancehall-reggaetón-mash-up. But they have plenty of cumbia elements in their tracks, particularly in this one, which I included in many of my sets and mixtapes.
11.- Wisin & Yandel – “Sexy Movimiento”: When it comes to dancefloor-oriented reggaetón production nobody does it better than these guys. Yeah, they are hella cheesy and maybe even homoerotic (nowhere this song fits better than at a gay club with greasy go-go boys in artificially-stuffed fluorescent thongs) but hey, this is the best peak-of-the-night song of the year (if you happen to be forced to play for a crowd whose music taste is dictated by mainstream radio). Oh! and it works out great as a transition from the mid-tempo to the up-tempo part of the set.