It’s nearly impossible to listen to música urbana without hearing the work of Luian Malavé Nieves, better known to most as DJ Luian. The 28-year-old producer from Carolina, Puerto Rico is one of the main driving forces behind urbano’s groundswell. As one of the founders of influential record label Hear This Music (along with Mambo Kingz), Nieves has propelled the careers of artists like Farruko, Bad Bunny, and Ozuna to name a few.
His take on the classic reggaeton he grew up with, coupled with his interpretation and reimagining of English-language trap by the likes of Future and Migos, has created a singular sound for Latin trap and the new era of reggaeton. We sat down for a chat with DJ Luian.
How did your career as a producer begin?
Well look, I started working in music in 2007, and I had the opportunity to start working as a traveling DJ for Nicky Jam. In the following years, I started working with other artists, and eventually started working with Don Omar. From there, I started building my name in urbano, and artists began to seek me out. Around 2016, I put out “La Ocasion.” That was my first single with Hear This, which I created with Mambo Kingz. With “La Ocasion,” we popularized Latin trap. It was the first [Latin trap] song to go global and have millions of [Youtube] views.
What was your method for learning production techniques? Did you have mentors, or are you self-taught?
Honestly one day I said ‘I want to learn to do this,’ and I just did. I watched and learned all the aspects of how to be a producer. Now I’m an executive producer, engineer, musical producer. I do all of it. And I just learned from watching others – watching and watching.
How have technological advances changed the way you produce?
Well, I started at home. I had my little computer and two little speakers and now…well now I have this whole studio with hundreds of channels. It’s completely changed everything. Back in the day, the reality is the tools weren’t available to do what we can do now. We’re on the level where we can work with artists like Drake or Jennifer Lopez now.
How did you develop your sound?
Honestly, it’s different than [English language] trap, but not that different. Obviously we draw so much inspiration from American music. When we started, we wanted to sound like them, and now they want to sound like us, so the reality is that thanks to the inspiration we drew from them over the years, we learned from what they did, and perhaps we created a slightly more commercial sound. At the end of the day, it’s all the same though. You could put Drake on one of our songs and it would fit in just the same as he does on their songs.
What do you think is next in música urbana?
Well, reggaeton was a little overshadowed by trap in the last couple of years. But in 2019, it’s coming back. So the reality is I think this is going to be a year of a return to ‘pure’ reggaeton. It’s going to go back to its roots…classic, like Luny Tunes era sounds. I think people are ready to hear that kind of reggaeton again. Reggaeton is constantly evolving. Latin trap is just one branch of reggaeton in a sense. Bachatón was another branch of reggaeton. Reggaeton always changes, yet it always comes back. It always goes back to its basics. It’s always ‘ours,’ and we always go back to our roots.
You mentioned releasing a production sound pack?
We collaborated with Splice and created a sound pack called ‘Latino Gang’ – some kicks, hi-hats, samples, and some loops. We even sampled my voice for use. I think up-and-coming producers need base packs like this so they can realize their vision and make music at a professional level.
What projects do you have coming up?
Well, I have 10 tracks on the upcoming Ozuna album, coming out within the next month. And I just released my new single [“Verte Ir” featuring Nicky Jam, Darell & Brytiago].