These days, Mexican electronic artists are finding that success is best reached through the collective model. Fans and keen business acumen are fueling the rise of independent groups dedicated to producing and marketing their own music and events, with groups like NAAFI and Finesse Records taking the lead with sharp, innovative beats that the world has proved to be eminently down for.
DaFuture is a relatively new addition to this scene. But like his peers before him, producer UPPER formed his collective to give shine to artists who wouldn’t otherwise be able to widely distribute their music. Two years later, that label counts at least 14 vocalists and producers on its roster, and is on the brink of its first national tour.
UPPER met up with me at Mexico City’s Buenavista metro station. It’s the most central stop for the train people use to commute back and forth from the capital to UPPER’s northern home in Coacalco, a city found in the surrounding Estado de México. He is remarkably calm for a guy trying to figure out last-minute rental cars to get the crew to where it needs to go, not to mention venues for the second half of the tour. We walk a block to find a quiet table at the gorgeous Biblioteca Vasconcelos so that we can talk about DaFuture’s past and present.
In its two years of action, the crew’s members have become innovators in Mexico’s electro R&B landscape, with producers like Macross 82-99, FΛcy SedΛted, and Libano making smooth switch-ups between trap and tribal and house. They have an expansive view when it comes to the group’s musical philosophy. “We don’t work with any specific genre,” UPPER explains a couple of times during our talk. “As long as it’s good and we like it, let’s do it.”
“You have to be able to communicate and be attentive to everything you’re doing. That’s it.”
But there is no doubt a smoothness embodied by many DaFuture members, luxury vibes set off by sleek vocals like those from emcee Rimagna, with whom UPPER recently released the slow ride single “Michel.” Maurino Olivares, another core member of the team, started out as one of the collective’s first artists, but is now its manager, set on pushing out DaFuture to a larger world.
Not that UPPER’s city doesn’t appreciate a finely tuned rhythm. “Right now what’s happening in Coacalco is trap, R&B, reggaeton, all that,” says UPPER. But despite thriving local clubs and parties, UPPER can only cite two hometown producer peers who have recently found international success: Omaar of NAAFI (who also is counted as a member of the DaFuture crew) and Cybereality.
UPPER himself came up in house music parties, a scene that has since slowed in Coacalco. He has been DJing since he was 13 and making beats since he was 16, but it wasn’t until he turned 19 that he decided to start a music label with others who had similar tastes.
“At first it was just our group of close friends,” says UPPER. “But then we started meeting more people through the internet. We’d ask them what they thought of the project, ask them to work with us. That’s when we started consolidating.” After establishing a core group, the collective turned to the internet for new members. Some arrived via demos that arrive in its inbox on a daily basis, checked by UPPER first thing every morning.
The bulk of DaFuture’s members come from Coacalco or Mexico City. Macross, Yung Abe, Libano, Arzyl all hail from the capital, while FΛcy SedΛted is from Guadalajara and some send in their skills from far away, like from Chile in the case of producer Kinjua. Blonde gringa DJ Baesic caught the attention of Macross, who heard her echoing instrumentals and thought she’d be a good fit for the group’s future soul sound.
Many of DaFuture’s artists work in UPPER’s home studio, where he says everyone contributes components, bringing in keyboards and mics to arm an ace recording space between them. It proves there’s a lot to be gained by crewing up in music. UPPER goes over the various ways that DaFuture builds power for its members: “We support them in getting their songs out, loading their songs to Spotify and iTunes. When we have events we invite them to play so that people can hear them play live.”
At the time we talked before the impending Adult Swim Tour, DaFuture had actually only ever produced two events. In its first few years, it relied on a regularly updated SoundCloud account to connect with the public. UPPER says the crew tries to release two mixtapes a month, by core members but also other artists that the crew wants to link with, like Mexico City R&B vocalist and DJ Girl Ultra, who supplied them with an uptempo set a few months ago.
There’s a lot to be gained by crewing up in music.
The key to successfully leading an operative like this, UPPER says, is your standard hard work and daily practice. Also, staying drama-free. “I have to get along well with everyone, support everyone,” he says when I ask him what it takes to be a music label founder. “You have to be able to communicate and be attentive to everything you’re doing. That’s it.”
When he talks about future plans, UPPER always talks from the perspective of the group. They want to keep building, add collaborations with international artists to projects that have already been completed with Mexican beatmakers like Finesse Records’ XXVI XXIV. UPPER is particularly enthused by the thought of working with Metro Boomin from Atlanta and Los Angeles’ Mr. Carmack.
On the brink of a new area for his group, UPPER is clear on his group’s goals as DaFuture looks to make an impact on a Mexican scene increasingly dominated by independent artists. “We want to get on another level, nationally,” he says. “We want to start putting out albums, to have offices, everyone working together. We want DaFuture to become a bigger company, one that’s more serious.” He can and should dream big — the grind’s easier when you do it as a team, anyway.
Catch DaFuture on one of their Mexican tour dates below: