For those who have closely followed Spain’s burgeoning urbano movement over the past few years, the cloudy producer tag “Lowlight Music” has become a ubiquitous opening statement for dozens of street singles and SoundCloud bops. Whether it’s “Salami,” one of Ms Nina’s early reggaeton earworms, collabs with the sleek R&B singer John Grvy, or former PXXR GVNG member Yung Beef, LOWLIGHT has played a major role in providing many of the region’s artists with a steady stream of hits that traverse the worlds of reggaeton, trap, and electronic music.
LOWLIGHT (composed of producers Alex and Pablo) have worked together for five years, but have seen their stock rise in the past 18 months as their expansive beats fuel the success of more and more viral Spanish stars. The list of trap and reggaeton artists racking up millions of views on YouTube and selling out venues across the Atlantic continued to grow in 2017, a fact that the duo credits to an influx of immigrants who have changed the nation’s musical landscape.
“We think it’s important that we’re now in the third or fourth generation of immigrants in Spain,” they tell Remezcla over email. “The music has started to be influenced by their cultures and that has increased the number of potential listeners. That’s why France and England are so far ahead of us – Spain is just starting all of this now, 20 years later.”
“Our goal is to bring urban music to the mainstream.”
After years of working with underground favorites, in 2017, LOWLIGHT finally produced a project of their own, one that is both brief and immersive. Dopamine EP, released this fall, is the duo’s first offering after partnering with Sony Music under the Club Ruido imprint. Notably, it seems like the country’s old gatekeepers are finally acknowledging urbano’s influence. As they describe it, industry bigwigs have often held antiquity as the standard of good taste. Resistant to change and blind to the swelling underground movement of new music, tastemakers in Madrid took these sounds as a joke – a sideshow of sorts. “People have whistled at us and thrown things at us just for playing reggaeton,” they say.
But Dopamine arrived at a different moment in the country’s music landscape. “Commotion,” the EP’s lead single, is a collaboration with dancehall vedette Bad Gyal and Nigerian-Spanish artist Demaro Small. Quickly amassing over a million views on YouTube, the track is LOWLIGHT’s dreamy reimagining of the Caribbean rhythm. It’s a far cry from either the hypnotic distress of “Salami” or the haunting trap of “Mi Estilo De Vida,” their standout collaboration with rap group TAKERS from 2016.
The success of “Commotion” underscores LWLGHT’s track record of transcending genre and striking the right chord. “We have always taken inspiration from many places, and when we first came to Madrid – right when [Dominican merengue urbano artist] Omega took off and a lot of people from the streets in Madrid realized they could make money and leave a life of crime – we made a living producing and mixing mambo urbano and, to a lesser extent, reggaeton,” they explain. “But that wouldn’t ever stop us from all of a sudden dropping an electronic song for the club or a chillwave remix filled with sadness and emotion.”
Time spent experimenting with sound is especially evident on Dopamine, where “Commotion” is nestled between the electro-pop of John Grvy collab “Crush” and the ambient R&B of “De Nuevo,” featuring One Path. “It must be really boring to restrict yourself to something and do it over and over again,” they say in reference to the project’s eclecticism. “Your mentality obviously changes with age and experience…but our music always has been and will be eclectic.”
Already at the forefront of Spain’s new wave, their relationship with the growing roster of Spanish netlabel La Vendición will continue to provide the duo with ample opportunities to push their sound both locally and internationally. “A generation of artists affiliated with La Vendición have hit the music world like a tornado, and have changed the rules here; now a bunch of ‘cool’ people have become evangelists of the sound after listening to PXXR [GVNG] or LMDA.”
Working with La Vendición has opened doors that LOWLIGHT now seems fully poised to walk through. As Alex and Pablo step out from behind the boards and bring themselves closer to the forefront of the scene they helped shape, they remain steadfast in their commitment to a larger, defiant mission of putting Spain’s urbano movement on the map in a major way. With the rise of rappers like C.Tangana, who snagged a French Montana feature on the remix of his hit “Mala Mujer” and the largest outdoor advertising campaign in Spanish history this year, LOWLIGHT’s future looks bright.
And if their success is any indication, it’s abundantly clear there is now an ardent appetite around the world for trap, reggaeton, and dancehall made by Spain’s newest waves of immigrants – and their native collaborators. In our increasingly complex and globalized music moment, such trends will certainly raise questions about ownership and origin.
LOWLIGHT, for their part, are focused on moving forward. “Our goal is to bring urban music to the mainstream and to bring Spain’s scene to the levels of fame it enjoys in the rest of the world.”