A conversation with El Dusty at the Latin Grammys

A conversation with El Dusty at the Latin Grammys

Patrick O’Heffernan

(Las Vegas) Texas producer, DJ and nu-cumbia pioneer El Dusty was in Las Vegas for the Latin Grammys when we tracked him down. His song “Cumbia Anthem” was nominated for best in the Urban Fusion/Performance category. He didn’t win, but it was his first nomination and he was kind of giddy at just being there. The nomination didn’t surprise his many, many fans and supporters. Corpus Christi Texas-born El Dusty (Dusty Oliveira) translates the South Texas border experience into barrio anthems with a sampler and chopped clips of Latin music history leading to songs like the hit single “K Le Pasa,” and the collectively produced the Trapanera EP on Universal Records. We tracked him down for a conversation before he left for gigs in LA.

Patrick. How were the Latin Grammys? Lot of Parties?

Dusty. It was good, man. I actually played at the Universal after party last night. I have never experienced anything like this before, being down there on the floor. It was fun, really cool.

Patrick. Have you been nominated before?

Dusty. No, man it is was the first time. I have been here a bunch of times to play the parties and stuff like that, but I have never been nominated before. It was a great honor.

Patrick. The nomination for the “Cumbia Anthem” track, right?

Dusty. Yes, it was our song “Cumbia Anthem” with DJHappy Colors that was nominated.

Patrick. Sorry you did not win, but congratulations!

Dusty. Thanks man. It was so cool just being here. And we will be back.

Patrick. Your new song “We Out Chea”… what does that translate to?

Dusty. It is like we are out here in Vegas – we are “outchea”…you know?

Patrick. I do, and the song is addictive. Where did the idea for the song come from?

Dusty. Milk started the beat when he was Miami with DJHappy and he called me up and said “dude, I have this beat” and so on. So I did my thing on it and I went to Miami and we filmed this video. It was pretty cool. It was one of the first times we had all collaborated on a track. Check it out on my YouTube Channel.

Patrick. “We Out Chea” is a very layered piece of art. There are extra sounds in it – a sound like a phone ringing in the background: you also switch voices and you do a call and response. It is so very tightly crafted I wonder if you can you do that live?

Dusty. Yea man. I’m a DJ person [sic] foremost, but I am producer next, so when I play I like to loop and chop and go crazy. It’s fun when we go live and use a bunch of weird instruments and just make a bunch of noises and have a good time. Its translates to the music very well, especially on that song.

Patrick. When I compare that to a song like “K La Pasa”, it’s got rap, it’s got less house, it’s more straightforward. I hear that in dance clubs; it is visceral. “We Out Chea” is more cerebral. Which will see from now on?

Dusty. When I play I like to be open format. I like to play everything from trap and rap to house and all kinds of stuff or even take it back to old school hip hop. I like to play all kind of genres. That’s what I do.
Patrick. You paired up with DJ with Milk of Happy Colors who is also a basketbal player, according to the link in your page. How did the two of you get together.

Dusty. No, No. that’s just a joke. Every guy that I see with that haircut I put out like a FAQ about Happy Colors. He is not a basketball player, he is a little Dominican rapper kid.

Patrick. Oh, I got Rickrolled on that one.

Dusty. I am glad it worked. It is official now. My meme creation has gone to the level of mastery.

Patrick. It has, but how did the two of you get together.

Dusty. We have been communicating online for a couple of years. Milk had moved to Miami. I had reached out to DJHappy and said I would be there, One night about two in the morning we were talking and I said I had just got there in Miami. He said he was coming over and he came with his whole set up with a big monitor and PC and we pumped out like five beats that night. We have been sitting on them waiting for the right time. We have a lot of good songs.

Patrick. Do you ever release on vinyl?
Dusty. Yea, I have two songs on 45 vinyl with Bastard Boots in New York. They are hard to find, but they are on the internet. It is a remix from “Brazilian Girls” called “Pussy Marijuana”. I flipped it into Cumbia and on the other side is a remix of a Landero song. They use great vinyl quality…really get the bass. That is another goal for my new album is put it out on vinyl. I am a vinyl guy always digging through bins for vinyl.

Patrick. The Trapanera Remix it sounds like everyone was experimenting, especially when compared to something like the Angela Hunt version How much were you involved in the remix?

Dusty. The Angela Hunt version is like the regular song; she is the rapper on it. She wrote “Empire State” by Jay-Z and she is all over the Major Lazer album and on the Snoop Lion documentary [Reincarnated]. I had a an opportunity to work with her through a friend, DJ Buddha. It was really cool. She is an awesome songwriter; she knows how to write hits. I try to give the remixers their own space and do it their way. They are getting the stems from me. I have done my part and I let them do theirs, and I have had pretty good luck with everyone so far. The cool thing is to have different versions for different settings. We have a whole bunch of versions for “K La Pasa and we wanted to keep that going.

Patrick. Your song “Cumbia Anthem” – the one nominated this year — I think this is an important song. It is part of what I call the “Columbia Invasion” – like the British music invasion in the 60’s. In your song “Cinco de mayo” – which is about a Mexican holiday – you sing about Cumbia, which is originally Colombian music. What do you think – you are in the business. Is Cumbia having an outsized impact on music in the states?

Dusty. I think so, man. There are a lot of people unknowingly using the rhythm in their songs. Even in someone like Drake you feel the rhythm in there, the beat. It is an easy rhythm to play, it is fun, it is easy to dance to, so it crossbreeds into a lot of music. It is like a house base rhythm with a syncopated rhythm.

Patrick. Thank you Dusty. Keep playing Cumbia.
Dusty. No way to stop me. Thank you.

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

El Dusty. http://eldusty.tumblr.com/

“Cumbia Anthem” and “K La Pasa” released on Machete X, Universal Records, are now available on Soundcloud, Spotify and iTunes

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