Six years after his start, Washington, D.C.-based DJ/producer LosXL (aka Carlos Lopez) is at the forefront of revitalizing the underground-to-mainstream moombahton movement. “Las Ladies” is his latest effort, currently available exclusively on our Apple Music page. The track toes the line between party-ready reggaeton and thumping Dutch house grooves, carefully crafting a vibe that allows both to impact the overall production with equal energy.
We sat down to chat with the man cosigned by everyone from Nadastrom and DJ Sabo to Buygore Records founder Borgore and Trapzillas to discuss just how he’s been able to successfully thrive in moombahton’s renaissance era. It’s a unique journey that provides a vision of where Latin culture, dance music, and pop culture are headed.
So, tell us a bit about your background as a producer. Did you have any prior musical training?
I have no experience with any type of musical instrument. Back when I was 15, I did have the option of using my computer for FruityLoops or for Adobe Photoshop. I started using FruityLoops at first, but I just couldn’t get it. I didn’t know who to talk to or where to go to gain experience, so my start in music came from designing flyers for clubs, so I would always get invited to come in for free by DJs and promoters. However, it was four years later when I started to hear Dutch house that I became really curious about production again. That led to me getting back into FruityLoops, and now I know that program like the back of my hand!
“Moombahton had a slow rise in the Latin party community.”
Many may not realize that they might already know you from your successful pairing as Locomotive with fellow D.C.-based DJ/producer Heavy D. What went into that combination coming together, and how was it working with him?
It was great. The first time I met Heavy D was when he was DJing at a party I was at. We didn’t even know we were at the same place, so we officially met a year later. Our DJ pairing started off because we both knew DJ Madd OD [D.C.-based producer known for his work as Fuego’s tour DJ], and at the same time, he introduced both of us to moombahton. The first track he showed us was [the Tittsworth and Alvin Risk collaboration] “Pendejas,” and we were like, “Wow.” At first, I wasn’t feeling it, because I wasn’t used to something new. I was close-minded and just used to reggaeton and very Latin sounds. I wasn’t used to electronic music being mixed with Latin music. Once I heard “Pendejas,” I actually started to hear more and more moombahton, and Heavy D and I started producing together.
So, take us back to the D.C. area in 2010, when moombahton was rising from the streets and growing in the underground. What was the feeling towards the genre in the Latin-specific party scene?
Before moombahton’s rise, there was definitely a Latin party scene in D.C. However, when it came to hearing electronic music with Latin music (in my personal opinion) people were close-minded. People weren’t exploring a lot of the new [Latin-tinged] genres that were appearing almost out of nowhere. Moombahton had a slow rise in the Latin party community, but once people were familiar with it being so different, sexy, and something anybody (no matter the race, actually) could dance to, [that changed]. As it started growing, the Latin party scene in D.C. has become open to all of the dance genres that are using a Latin base. The scene here now moves as quickly as the music does on the Internet. Whatever’s hot, people want to hear that now.
“I believe that if you can dance to a song, it’s a hit; it’s universal.”
Regarding the crossover potential of moombahton, when did you first realize this was possible, and what are your thoughts about the current era of the sound?
At first, I was really happy that the Latin community was embracing a sound that had crossover potential. I thought Munchi was really influential with songs like “Plata O Plomo” with [New York-based rapper] Sensato and Dutch DJ Alvaro. He was mixing moombahton and rap, so I saw that the sound could do a lot more. At first, others in the Latin community didn’t necessarily accept it because they couldn’t understand what the sound was. The community didn’t know where electronic music was in relation to Latin music. Now, more artists are coming up and because moombahton’s popular on the radio (but not called moombahton), artists are actually liking the sound more. There’s definitely room for more crossover now, because there’s also more room for artists to make a sound that’s actually popular, understood, and accepted.
You’ve been in the production game for five years now. Whether you’re making moombahton or anything else, what are the vibes you attempt to include that allow for your tracks to stand out?
Personally, I’m not trying to copy anyone else. I get influences from other artists, but I don’t try to steal or copy their ideas. I like to mix different genres together. Hip-hop, rock, everything is in there. I want my music to feel like you’re hearing a really unique musical experience. Lately, I’ve been feeling bachata. I recently flipped a sample from a bachata song that I’ve been holding onto for three years for a track. Munchi and Sango are two producers who are using bachata samples in trap a lot, and I liked it because it was different. I like making music that pushes boundaries between genres.
As of late, the “Latin flair” that you talk about is growing in American and global pop circles via artists like J Balvin and Romeo Santos. Why do you feel this is the case?
The key to the rise of Latin crossover artists is that our sounds have rhythm. Latin music can make anybody dance. I’m not just Latin-influenced as a producer because I’m Latino, it’s because I believe that if you can dance to a song, it’s a hit; it’s universal.
“The key to the rise of Latin crossover artists is that our sounds have rhythm.”
You’re Mexican-American, so I also wanted to get your take on the rise of the Mexican scene. From mainstream festivals to EDM-to-pop acts touring there, the big business that dance is becoming is seeing a lot of that surge related to the country. Why do you feel that this is the case?
I like that the Mexican market is all about being so open-minded. They’re willing to come for the music, and not anything else. Mexican dance fans support the music and scene more than anything else. A lot of Mexican producers are exposed to so much now as mainstream dance artists are realizing this and touring down there. Now, this means that the sounds coming from a lot of Mexican producers are getting more diverse, and also the popularity of producers from Mexico is expanding. For example, there’s acts like 3BallMTY, who are making cumbia with an EDM style at a faster tempo. Also, there’s someone like NoizeKid and someone like [Dominican] producer Happy Colors and even [Texas-based producer] El Dusty and his cumbia trap, who are growing in the same way as 3BallMTY are as well.
Speaking of mainstream dance, you released a moombahton collaboration with Trapzillas called “Dame Eso” with Borgore’s label last year. Any thoughts about seeing Latin/tropical bass’ rise reaching those ears and how was the track received?
They actually used the track to test Latin sounds for the traditional American and global heavy bass music crowd. From what I’ve heard, it actually hit harder and was more successful than expected. Audience reactions were apparently really positive as the Latin and underground moombahton vibe isn’t as big in that community. They thought it was interesting, and it’s opened a lot of doors for me.
To close, let’s get back to D.C. What’s the scene like in its hometown five years later? You’re doing a party called Subtropic here now, so what’s the vibe like coming from the people, and what’s that telling you about moombahton and tropical bass’ underground-to-mainstream future?
It’s so different from that Moombahton Massive era. The crowds are much more open-minded now. The good part is that our crowd at Tropicalia is just as into the moombahton that’s two, three, or four years old as they are the tropical trap, bass, and moombahton that’s coming out right now. They don’t stop dancing! The tropical bass community in D.C. is growing again, and it’s actually at a great time. Dillon Francis put out the moombahton EP This Mixtape Is Fire last year, and that Americanized moombahton in a lot of ways. Mix that with an underground scene that’s great, and moombahton has the potential to get bigger than ever. I mean, Munchi’s coming back! It’s only the start! You can look at the first five years now as the pre-era of moombahton where it was hot. Now, it’s going to be hotter.