When a reggaeton track blares out of the speakers, there’s no doubt that the spirit of hip-hop comes along with it. If you’re Spiff TV, then you’ve seen and heard that connection your whole life. Born Carlos Suarez, Spiff has lived his life in both worlds, as a part-Dominican and part-Puerto Rican (Dominirican for short) kid who grew up in Orlando, Florida.
For rap fans, living in Florida is a well-known key to success – just ask DJ Khaled. But the hub for music in the Southern part of the Sunshine State extends past Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, and Pitbull. Cities like Miami and Orlando boast a high Latino population, which attracts burgeoning Latino artists trying to appeal to a U.S.-based Spanish-speaking audience. While bilingual crossover singles (think N.O.R.E.’s “Oye Mi Canto” and Drake’s feature on Romeo Santos’ “Odio”) have been proven successes, they come in few and far between. This is something A&R scout, director, and Maybach Music Latino president Spiff TV hopes to change with his upcoming album this year.
“I’m just trying to bring both worlds in and just rep,” Spiff told us in a conversation over the phone. He’s been working on his album, tentatively titled No Veo A Nadie, for two years. He released the album’s lead track, “Mi Combo,” featuring Yandel and Future at the end of 2015. “Some artists get it. Some don’t, yet. Hopefully with this, they’ll start seeing the movement.”
What were your beginnings in the music industry?
I started carrying crates for DJ Nasty. He introduced me to the music – stuff like listening to beats and seeing what a good beat was and wasn’t. I kind of had an ear for it. I was 16 getting into the clubs, carrying crates and hanging out with the DJ. I met [DJ] Khaled through him and through him, I met Ross and relationships just started building.
“I’m a fan of Daddy Yankee. I’m a fan of Rick Ross. I want to hear them together.”
How would you describe what you do to someone who doesn’t know you?
I find new talent or new producers and give them new ideas. I’m not behind it pushing keys, playing melodies, or stuff like that. I mostly find the new guy – like Lex Luger – before he came out. I found him on Myspace and he sent me 100 beats. I went through those beats and pulled out 20 that were the hottest beats he had. Out of those 20, “B.M.F.” was in there, “MC Hammer,” “9 Piece” and other records that I A&R’d for Rick Ross. I would give [Rick Ross] the record and shoot the music video. It would be like a one-stop shop.
A lot of the artists you’ve worked with are in the Latin music and hip-hop industry. What’s an unlikely pair that we’ll see teamed up on your upcoming album, and what’s your method for pairing?
Maluma, Zion Y Lennox, and Wale. I just figure out who’s going to vibe. Juicy J, De La Ghetto, and Jowell y Randy have a record together. A record leaked that has J Balvin and Fat Joe, but I have another record with J Balvin and he’s either going to be with Fetty Wap or Wiz Khalifa. It’s more of a hip-hop radio-like R&B type of record.
I heard that J Balvin wants to work with A$AP Rocky or Drake. You need to make that happen.
A$AP? That’s easy. I just directed a video for French and it had A$AP Rocky on it.
Was there a time when it was harder to make these collaborations happen?
I’ve been working on this for two years. I have Gucci Mane. He recorded some music before he was arrested. I’ve got him on a pop Latin beat. For me, it’s been a grind establishing myself on that side of the world, so when I call Future and when I call Ross and I call people I have relationships with, they do a verse just based off the relationship. I’m not saying, “Hey, do a verse with this up-and-coming artist.” It’s more like “do a verse with these guys who are on the same level as you in the Spanish-speaking world. He’s you in the Latin world.”
What do you feel has changed in the urban music sphere?
It’s grown. There’s all kinds of sounds now. It takes Caribbean sounds. It takes Latin sounds. Everything is changing. “Hotline Bling” feels like it has a Latin vibe to it. Especially with all the memes of Drake dancing bachata and everything. With this album, I want to show them that the Latin side is huge too.
“I’m doing it mostly for the Latinos.”
Was that something that was always in the back of your mind? One day, I’m going to blend two worlds?
Yeah, I’m a fan of both genres of music. I’m a fan of Daddy Yankee. I’m a fan of Rick Ross. I want to hear them together. “Ross, get on this track.” “Yankee, I got a song with Ross.” And, boom, we got a record. “Los Jefes” featuring Rick Ross, French Montana, and Daddy Yankee.
Do you lean more toward a Latin sound or a R&B/hip-hop sound?
I’m trying to blend them both. I don’t know if you’ve heard “Mi Combo” with Yandel and Future. When you hear it, you don’t know when it goes to hip-hop or when it goes to reggaeton. You just vibe to the song.
When you see the reaction to a song like “Mi Combo,” do you see Future’s fans come on and embrace it?
If they rock with Future, they’re going to rock with it. But it’s showing the Latin fans who love Future to see him with an artist that they embrace. I’m doing it mostly for the Latinos.