by Alex Shtaerman
A rising producer and DJ, Disco D has cut tracks for Trick Daddy, 50 Cent and Kevin Federline, but by no stretch of the imagination is this your average Hip-Hop beatsmith. With roots in the Detroit rave scene, Disco currently splits time between Brooklyn, New York and Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he is a part time resident. His latest mixtape, Gringo Louco, aims to school you in the sounds of Brazilian Baile Funk, which the DJ describes as “a distant cousin of ghettotek”. Disco also seems destined to bring the sound of Brazilian Hip-Hop global, assembling the Brazilian rap supergroup Braza in early 2006 and taking the trio on a well-received US tour. We catch up with Disco D down in Brazil kicking back with one of his neighbors, drum ‘n’ bass legend Carlos Soul Slinger.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your musical roots lie in ghettotek; what DJs and producers were you originally inspired by?
DISCO D: Coming up in the Detroit rave scene, one of the main things for me were the Detroit radio DJs, they crossed over with the rave scene. You had people like Gary Chandler, Wax Tax ‘N’ Dre; these guys were playing on the radio. [At the time] I wasn’t old enough to go to the clubs, so when I started DJing I was listening to these dudes. Also, I was listening to DJ Godfather, DJ Assault and DJ Funk from Chicago. A big influence on me business wise, more so than music wise, was Bad Boy Bill ‘cause he actually gave me my first record deal. We’re still really good friends to this day, I’d say we talk at least bi-weekly.
Jeff Mills was also a great influence but more in an indirect manner. He used to be a big radio DJ; he was The Wizard before he really started doing techno. He really influenced Gary Chandler and Wax Tax ‘N’ Dre who in turn influenced me. Ghettotek in general is a Jeff Mills creation, in terms of roots wise, whether he takes credit for it or not.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What were some of the things that influenced you in terms of pushing your sound beyond electronic music and experimenting with different genres such as dancehall, Hip-Hop and going even beyond that? A lot of people just stick to one thing but there seem to be a select few that kind of do everything and get respect in many different scenes; do you see yourself as that kind of artist?
DISCO D: Definitely. The whole thing about ghettotek to me, I actually can take credit along with a journalist named Hobey Echlin for making the name Ghettotek up. People would call it Detroit Bass or booty [house] or whatever; I just kind of made that name up for marketing purposes. Going back to Jeff Mills as The Wizard, he was playing everything from Detroit electro to hip-house to freestyle and everything else smashed together. Some of those styles kinda fused their way out and became uncool and [styles like] Miami Bass and the Chicago stuff and techno bass kinda got all mixed in. And at the same time it was always a Hip-Hop thing because ghettotek in Detroit is urban music, it’s the urban dance music.
I didn’t actually realize that the rest of the world in terms of urban music wasn’t like that until I was seventeen and I had a club residency with all these other DJs who were seeing me play and they’re like – what the fuck is this? I always assumed it was urban music because that’s what I grew up listening to. And I was listening to it alongside things like 2pac and Biggie; they were like hand in hand. Even the whole ghettotek mixing style with all the tricks is a very Hip-Hop mixing style, so it wasn’t really a far stretch for me. In my early time of experimentation as far as working with MCs, I was doing bootleg ghettotek remixes and playing acapellas over other beats. So I was like, why don’t I just start making records like this on purpose, but not necessarily in a booty and sex kind of sense. Even back when I was just doing the booty and ghettotek thing, the first producer I really listened to from the standpoint of like “wow, that’s the shit“ was actually Rockwilder. Back when the Red and Meth album came out and they had that single “Da Rockwilder”.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Yea, that song was ill!
DISCO D: Yo, [Rockwilder] had like a two year run where he had like the illest shit. At that point I wasn’t even trying to fuck with slower urban music but once I moved to New York there was two things [that came into play]. With the whole ghettotek thing, I had already done that to death and I was over it. I was sick of being pigeonholed in this thing. Plus I had moved to New York and I was out of college. Financially I had more obligations and more of a need to really win and really be successful. So I started poking my fingers in as many areas as I could at once, whether it was doing music for commercials or working with Max Glaser on the dancehall stuff. I taught [Max Glaser] Pro Tools and production techniques and in exchange he kind of brought me into the [dancehall] world.
Evolving from that I worked with [Cipha Sounds] on Nina Sky and then split with him to do my own thing and then I went into [working with 50 Cent] and all that. It was just like a weird natural progression, I never planned it to go that way. Originally, with the ghettotek stuff, I realized that only in Detroit and Chicago was this urban music and everywhere else it was like this little electronic thing. So I started trying to move [electronic music] more urban and when that didn’t work I was like, fuck it, lemme just do [more conventional] urban music and then I’ll just make that more weird. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to really get into it and make some noise.
RIOTSOUND.COM: I want to ask you about Kevin Federline since you worked a lot with him on his soon to be released debut album. Obviously in the Hip-Hop world a lot of people might doubt him. He does have fans though and I really haven’t heard his skills dissed a whole lot. With that said, what was your approach like in working with someone who’s the focal point of so much media attention but, as an artist, still unproven?
DISCO D: That was really a very weird point in my life when I started working with him. I was going through some really personal head issues. I am actually like a hardcore manic depressive and I am on a lot of medication for it. Right before I worked with Federline I had a real big crash in my life. So I came out of that and I was like – oh shit, I’m in this really weird surreal thing like, what the fuck is this?
The whole reason I wanted to do it in the first place was because [I knew] it was going to be great exposure, it was going to be fun and it’s like the biggest challenge imaginable. I walked into it with no real opinion of [Kevin Federline] because I don’t really follow all the paparazzi shit. Well, I guess I do now simply because I’m sort of in that world in a weird non-direct sense. So I was like, I’m going to go into it with no expectations and knowing it’s going to be a big uphill challenge but at the same time knowing I’m going to have massive rewards even if it crashes and burns. So I was like, let me do one song and see how it goes. The first song we did I had a lot of fuckin’ fun and it was catchy as fuck, whether you think he’s a good rapper or not. So I was like, fuck it, let’s just do some more.
We kept going and I ended up spending like three and half months with the dude working on records. There’s going to be at least five Disco D produced tracks on the album, that’s the guarantee I got. I mean, look, Kevin Federline is the ultimate fuckin’ pimp, dude. That dude is the biggest pimp in the universe, period. You can’t not respect the whole insanity of what [his life] has become, whether you think he’s a douchebag or not; which he isn’t, he’s like one of the coolest dudes I know. Honestly, he would be the type of dude, if I knew him I would hang out with him. The press gives him a real bad rap ‘cause it’s an easy target. He’s like America’s punching bag. But I think, like you said, the press is turning around. The interviews he’s had lately have been cool. Now you have even bigger producers like Jonathan J.R. Rotem working with him. Obviously that, in a sense, is redeeming to me also in a weird way. I’m not the only dude with enough balls to co-sign on him.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You actually live in Brazil part of the time. What are your reasons for doing that?
DISCO D: The whole reason I started coming to Brazil is because I came down here to tour as a DJ two years ago and I met a wonderful, amazing and perfect woman, who is now my fiancé. I met her the first day I was there and not even at a show I was playing. Within the first twelve hours of me being in the country I met this woman. And she just happens to be like the Brazilian Cindy Crawford but I had no idea of that when I met her. She’s a really famous model and actress in Brazil for years.
Her English sucked and I had no Portuguese [but] we ended up falling in love. I was only supposed to stay in Brazil for a week and a half but I ended up staying three weeks. Then I flew back to the US, blew out a credit card all the way buying a portable studio, went back to Brazil and spent two months there. Then I flew back again; there was like a little language issue where she thought I was doing some shady shit but it was just because she didn’t understand what I was talking about. So she didn’t talk to me for a day and then I wrote the beat that ended up being the “Ski Mask Way” beat [for 50 Cent]. I flew back to Brazil and my friend Michelle gave the beat to [50 Cent’s manager] Sha Money XL.
The week before Christmas I was down in Brazil and I got two voicemails from Sha Money and the rest is fuckin’ history. Obviously Brazil is a very important part of everything in my life, both from a love and happiness standpoint as well as a musical standpoint. Whether it’s directly from the Baile Funk stuff or indirectly as far as me writing songs in relations to emotions I am having about my fiancé, who’s a Brazilian woman. So Brazil means a lot of things to me I guess [laughs].
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your new mixtape is called Gringo Louco, and is basically an introduction to Brazilian Baile Funk. Can you explain the sound of Baile Funk for those who may be unfamiliar with the genre; and also, as far as the mixtape, what do you want to get across to the fans? Which side of Baile Funk are you trying to show?
DISCO D: Baile Funk, in a sense, is a distant cousin of ghettotek. In the late ‘80’s Miami Bass, freestyle and electro were big. In Detroit [all those genres] ended up mutating into ghettotek while down in Brazil you had people championing the same kind of sounds but eventually instead of mixing itself with harder techno and electro, it kind of mixed itself with samba and different tribal and religious kind of drumming that goes on in places like Bahia. So it became this regional offshoot of Miami Bass in the same way ghettotek or Baltimore Club is.
It’s really interesting because you have several different kinds of [Baile Funk]. You have the really cheesy chant stuff. If you know how the Portuguese are, half these things are dirty as fuck, they’re so dirty; you have all the little sex and fuck records. Then you also have favela-ish records that are almost like gang records where they are shouting out the different gangs. And I included some of that; like Menor Do Chapa, who’s one of the artists [featured on the mixtape], he’s really like a big voice for the favela. He’s one of the biggest artists for that type of style and sound. And then you also have songs that are basically the same formula as freestyle with a samba feel. I wanted to show all sides of Baile Funk, where it’s been and all the different little pieces and different sounds. And then also with [throwing in] stuff with Elephant Man, Spankrock and the Kevin Federline and Mr. Shock remix, I wanted to show where the music can go [in the future].
RIOTSOUND.COM: You recently assembled a Brazilian Hip-Hop group by the name of Braza, out of Sao Paulo, Brazil. What’s the new group all about?
DISCO D: Braza is basically my ideal Hip-Hop Brazilian supergroup. It’s three of the top rappers here, period. One of them Cabal, who’s the white dude with all the tattoos; and he is basically one of the two biggest rappers in Brazil right now, period. He has a solo deal with Universal [Records] and his first big single “Senorita” sold 100,000 records and 100,000 ringtones. The amount of ringtone sales was a record in Brazil. Plus he had lived in Brooklyn for five years as a kid with his mom so his English is perfect.
I’ve kind of known about Cabal from being down in Brazil and he actually hit me through MySpace totally separate of me hearing about him. And he was like – I know you’re down in Brazil a lot and we should hook up. So the first week of January this year I gave him a call since I was down in Brazil and he came by and we kinda just shot the shit. I had no idea his English was so good until I met him. So I was like – have you ever recorded a song bi-lingually? He said he thought about it but never really done it. So then I said – why don’t we do it?
I played him some beats and I played this one beat where I sampled Tour De France from Kraftwerk. It was all slowed down and screwed and it had these crazy Brazilian drums and shit. He kind of didn’t get it at first but I was like – yo, I think this will really be right for you. So he’s like – alright, I’ll give it a try, I’ll take it home and write something. And I’m like – what are you doing right now, why don’t you write it right here. So then he called up his man Mr. Bomba to come over and spit a verse or two with him. Bomba is a big producer here but also a big rapper. We recorded the first song and it was off the fuckin’ hook. And they’re like, yo, this is great. So I’m like, we’re really onto something – what are you doing tomorrow?
They came back the next day and we did another song and it was just as good as the first one if not better. Then they told me they wanted to show me this guy Preto Rima. Cabal’s like – he’s my hype man and he’s a young artist signed to my label. So [Preto Rima] came over the day after that. P speaks really good English ‘cause he did an exchange program when he was a kid. All their English is fuckin’ tight and they can all spit bi-lingually. We recorded “Welcome To Brasil” as the first track that Preto Rima was on and that was also the first beat I had written specifically for them.
So then I was like – you guys are all boys so why don’t we just form a group and let’s do this. They came up with the name Braza and then in three and a half weeks we cut fourteen songs and shot two videos in the favelas in Rio. Then I went to Europe and started shopping them around and building the interest. I brought them on tour last month in the States which went really well and right now we got Universal and this other label from the UK, Lizard King, wanting to sign them. The first single is out and we just shipped out all the promo vinyl and CDs to DJs. So we’re really starting to get some motion here. Shit’s moving for these guys real fast.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What else do you got in the works as far as the future goes?
DISCO D: I got this really insane Trick Daddy song [coming out]. It’s fuckin’ nuts. It’s like 110 beat per minute acid house with him rapping old school shut-up style over it. Everyone at Atlantic [Records] loves it so hopefully it’ll become one of the singles. I don’t think it’ll be the first single but you know how labels always shift gears. So I have my fingers crossed for that one. Also I’m working with this dude Spankrock, it’s actually two people, the rapper is MC Spankrock; a bunch of labels are looking to sign them. They’re on an indie label right now in the UK.
I’m also doing this whole Funk Gringo company in a couple of months. I’m actually down in Brazil right now developing that. It’s basically going to be a web portal in English for Baile Funk with paid downloads, CD sales, translated interviews and pictures and videos straight from the parties and all that shit. There’s a lot of depth down here that isn’t explored [because of the language barrier] and I think there’s really a demand for it. Also Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records and I are going to do a best of Baile Funk compilation for the States. I’m filming an instructional DVD thing called Hustle Harder which is basically gonna cover basic production techniques, mixing and show how I do my thing. Plus it’ll have Pro Tools sessions, so you can see the actual stuff and not just hear me talk about it. That starts filming in a week and a half.
Also I am DJing at the big Sonar festival in Spain this year which draws like 40 or 50 thousand people. I’m getting married at the end of the year, that’s big [laughs]. Also I am pitching a TV show, there’s a little trailer I threw together on my website (www.DiscoD.com). It goes from me being on CNN, to chillin’ in the studio with Federline, to showing a bandito in the favela cock his gun for a shot in my video, to me and my boy Carlos Soul Slinger snowboarding in Colorado, to me scratching [records] with my nose. So basically, we’re going to make a show out of that kind of thing.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Are you involved at all with the EcoSystem music festivals that Soul Slinger does down in the Brazilian rainforest?
DISCO D: Hold on, hold on, he’s actually right here.
SOUL SLINGER: Hey, what’s up, it’s Carlos here, how you doing?
RIOTSOUND.COM: That’s crazy [laughs]. I’ve seen you play in New York many times, it’s a pleasure.
DISCO D: Carlos lives right down the street from me in Brazil, so we’re just chillin’.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Since I got both of you on the line, let me ask you a little more about Brazil. For someone who wants to visit, what would be some interesting things you’d recommend they do?
DISCO D: Well shit, for everything I kind of tend to do and see, you kind of need special permission [laughs]. I don’t want to recommend anything because you might get hurt. I’m such a weird person to ask about that, I don’t know; I don’t really go out too much. I don’t know [Carlos], what should people do?
SOUL SLINGER: I’m gonna do a little service for my boy here.
SOUL SLINGER: If you’re in Sao Paulo, it is a city that is bigger than life; twenty-five million people. People say that the big Sao Paulo, which we call Grande Sao Paulo, is five cities that came together. There are no roads to cross from one city into the other. You don’t know where [one city ends and the other begins]. It’s like New York and New Jersey, lets say. So Grande San Paulo is twenty-five million people, it’s a big city with all the food you can eat, like New York City. The night here is incredible, anything goes. You pick and choose your music; from Latin to salsa to merengue to Baile Funk to techno and drum ‘n’ bass.
DISCO D: The electronic music scene is gigantic down here, there’s all these big festivals. It’s mostly electronic and they are mostly thrown by big beer and telecom companies.
SOUL SLINGER: I have a little problem with that, the amount of influence the corporations have [in the festivals]. We try to help everybody but I don’t think it’s necessary to become corporate. You can have promotions and co-sponsors but not have it be “the beer festival”.
DISCO D: I’m going to play devil’s advocate. At the same time it’s really good to see that kind of money being put into those kind of artists and it’s good to see people get paid.
SOUL SLINGER: The name of the festival shouldn’t be Skoll Beats [since Skoll is the name of the beer company]. It assimilates you to drink more and drink a lot. Everybody knows who goes to parties, young people. You can have legal bars at raves and big parties and have [alcohol] available for people who like to have a beer, I have nothing against that. I am against the name of the party being called the name of the beer. It becomes a beer festival assimilation and it’s all about the beer, it’s not about the party anymore and that’s wrong.
They have to have a balance and understanding and more awareness of everything that they do, that’s all. If the [corporations] play correct, it’s better for their image too. I think if Coca-Cola came correct and they came good and made a deal with Greenpeace to do the Green Olympics in Australia, they would make a [good] impression. Change your refrigerators; you’re welcome to sell Coca-Cola but change your refrigerators so you don’t make a hole in the ozone layer and we all don’t die. In the end you’re not even going to have clients to sell to. C’mon, you got to make a balance in life.
DISCO D: That’s why Carlos is the fuckin man, by the way. Hopefully, with the right push EcoSystem will happen again shortly.
Soul Slinger: We are looking forward to a sound system generated by clean energy this time; solar or bio-diesel, we’re going to make it happen.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Is it true that in Brazil all cars run on ethanol and there is zero foreign dependence on oil?
DISCO D: It’s fucked up because every fuckin’ gas station sells ethanol which is made from sugarcane. In the States we can make it from corn just as easily. And the fucked up thing is; what car companies make ethanol cars or dual combustion cars that can burn either or? Ford, Chevy, Volkswagen [all make cars like that]. Its bullshit, the US is a crock of shit.
RIOTSOUND.COM: It’s all about the oil companies here; our government is trying to pander to them.
DISCO D: As fucked up as the Brazilian government is, the one thing they’ve really done right is take the dependency off foreign oil and have a renewable energy resource that they can make domestically. It’s not perfect but it’s cleaner and you don’t have to fuckin’ go to war over it. Anyone can grow sugarcane. Whatever; fuck the US. I mean, I love the US, don’t get me wrong, but fuck [the government].
SOUL SLINGER: We love the Americans. I love America, I love American culture and actually all my career is influenced by American culture. I tell all the kids that American culture is beautiful, the government is a different story. It’s a different party of people.
DISCO D: As far as I’m concerned American culture is only cool in the non George Bush voting areas. The one thing I could say about Brazil, as corrupt as it is, they shit in their own backyard and not other peoples’.
SOUL SLINGER: By the way, I just did a remix for Ministry, it’s a totally crazy 9/11 conspiracy track, check it out. It’s going to be out on promo vinyl only.
For more news and info on Disco D, stay tuned to www.DiscoD.com