Hailing from Massachusetts by way of the Dominican Republic, DJ Buddha has made it his mission to erase musical barriers between the Latin and English-speaking Caribbean. A former tour DJ for both Pitbull and T.O.K., he created the Caribbean Connection mixtape series in the early 2000s to present new dancehall and soca music alongside the dancehall-inspired reggaeton sounds emerging from Puerto Rico and the D.R. Now mostly focused on original production, Buddha has produced tracks for clients from Machel Montano to Sting. Most recently, he produced or co-produced all of the tracks on Angela Hunte‘s debut album, R.A.W., released last month through his own Therapist Music label.
Over a decade since Buddha’s last Caribbean Connection mixtape, reggae and reggaeton are fusing once more as global hits like Charly Black’s “Party Animal,” J. Balvin’s “Mi Gente” and Farruko and Sean Paul’s “Passion Whine” occupy the increasingly nebulous space between the genres. At the same time, the Dominican Republic’s own variation on bashment music, dembow, has seen a surge in creativity thanks to artists like El Alfa El Jefe, while remaining largely underground. Caribbean Connection (LargeUp Edition) puts a much-needed international spotlight on dembow, while highlighting its relationship to other genres via exclusive remixes. Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin’s 2017 soca anthem “Buss Head” meets El Alfa and Bad Bunny‘s “Dema Ga Ge Gi Go Gu,” while tracks from Ultimate Rejects’ “Full Extreme” to Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot” are run through the blender.
Download and hear Caribbean Connection (LargeUp Edition) here, and read on below for an interview with DJ Buddha.
Give us a history of the original Caribbean Connection mixtape series. Why did you start it?
DJ Buddha: I started it because I felt there was a void in the perception of the Latin sounds of the early 2000s and the rest of Caribbean music, including dancehall and soca. I felt like people didn’t have an opportunity to appreciate the connection between the genres because there wasn’t an outlet for them to get all those flavors in one place.
Why did you stop?
Around 2005-2006 there was a shift in the mixtape game, and at that time I was also starting to get more serious about my career as a producer. The distribution of mixtapes became a little more difficult around that time, and I felt my energy and creativity could be put to better use producing original music and official remixes.
How is this mix similar and different from the original series?
Basically what your getting is the 2017 version of a DJ Buddha Caribbean Connection tape. I’ve got more Spanish music in this mix than I typically did back then, but overall the format is still the same: Creative selection, blends and bootlegs, and original exclusive productions you can only find on the Caribbean Connection mix.
A lot of Jamaican listeners might not even realize there is a whole genre of basically Dominican dancehall called dembow, just as many Dominicans might not be fully aware how much their sound comes from JA. What should Jamaicans or dancehall listeners know and understand about dembow and vice versa?
Latinos always got influenced by what was happening in the Caribbean. They would remake soca and dancehall records to the T, copying the beat and melodies of the full songs and only changing the language to Spanish. Such as the movement in Panama in the early 90s and the playero movement in the mid ’90s in Puerto Rico. The dembow movement takes a piece of all three in their rhythm, but the songs and melodies more often than not are original.
I think in 2017 the genres of the world’s music are blurred. It matters less what “box” you can put a song and its genre in, and more so how a song makes the listener feel. Music discovery in this era is easier and more expansive than ever, enabling not only listeners to take in different sounds, but artists to be influenced by different sounds and cultures around the world.
Please fill us in on all of your current and upcoming projects where we can hear your work…
Be on the lookout for two new DJ Buddha records: “Generations” with DJ Nesty and Angela Hunte, and “WAAR” featuring Munga, which I included at the end of this mix. I also executive produced and produced or co-produced every song on the new Angela Hunte album R.A.W., which is out now on Therapist Music. I also have a new remix coming out for dEVOLVE‘s “Monster” featuring Richie Loop. Other new songs I produced or co-produced that are out now or coming very soon are Leikel47‘s “Bubble Gum” and Kirsten‘s “Bad Weather,” out now, and Chris Brown feat. R. Kelly and Jhene Aiko “Juicy Booty,” Veronica Vega ft. Lil Wayne and Jeremih “Wave” and dEVOLVE featuring. Angela Hunte, “The Unknown”
I’m also mainly focused on my label and team Therapist Music. In the past five years we have been nominated for two Grammys and four Latin Grammys (with one win), and accumulated over 25 million streams and 10 million YouTube views. We have tons of new music coming from dEVOLVE, Angela Hunte, Andrew Hitz, Gregor Salto, Mariel Jacoda, Cammi, Todorov, Kassiano, DJ Class, DJ Willie, Rustik, DJ Nesty, DJ Blass, Noodles, Lucky G, Devastator and Kameo.