An interview with Marjua Estevez for Vibe. Here are some excerpt. Follow this link for the complete interview.
Spiff TV, né Carlos Suarez, moves around the proverbial chessboard with meticulous sway, always predicting the upward trend in music—eyes on the Internet and ears to the streets. A child of hip-hop and overall student of the industry, Spiff has spent the last decade building his résumé, most notably as Rick Ross’ chief video director. Yet, the music producer and A&R at large can trace his wizardry behind the lens back to when reggaeton, a historically underground music, began to sweep Orlando (or Little Puerto Rico) circa early 2000s.
“I was working with Noreaga,” he says to VIBE Viva. “When he was doing ‘Oye Mi Canto’ and all those other big Latin records, I was going on the road with him.”
Years of A&R-ing for millennial rappers, shooting vivid visuals and unearthing some of your favorite hip-hop beats (see Albert Anastasia) resulted in Spiff carving out a lane for himself. In an era where rap music isn’t just rap music but often a fusion of genres, and urban latino means a gamut of caribbean and Afro sounds, Spiff is capitalizing on momentum while simultaneously putting on for his culture. How? By single-handedly producing a full-length album boasting some of the most innovative collaborations yet, between reggaeton and rap artists.
“Hip-hop has dabbled in [Spanish music],” Spiff notes. “Some rappers have done features here and there, but nothing like [this album].” The LP, which is bound to make headlines, is nearly complete, with Yandel and Future’s “Mi Combo” remix as the lead single and visual.
On the cusp of a new year, an unprecedented record and debut film in tow, Spiff is ready for the big time.
VIBE Viva: As a child of hip-hop, what was it like growing up in your household?
Spiff TV: I grew up in Orlando. I’m part Dominican, part Puerto Rican, so I grew up listening to everything. Salsa, bachata, you name it. My mom loved to play her Spanish music, my sister loved to blast her favorite R&B groups.
What was Orlando’s hip-hop scene like?
It had a little bit of everything because, you know, you have people from all over; families who migrated from New York, from L.A., from all over the U.S. And it was happening at a time when the whole reggaeton movement started making waves. It’s like Little Puerto Rico over [in Orlando].
What exactly were you doing when the reggaeton era started booming?
When it started booming, I was working with Noreaga. When he was doing “Oye Mi Canto” and all those other big Latin records, I was going on the road with him. I was also working on the first DVD that I dropped, called Reggaeton Invasion featuring Daddy Yankee, Nore, Pitbull before he was the Pitbull we know now, Tego, Fat Joe. So I was playing with both worlds pretty early in the game.
. . .
Talk to me about this new album you’re producing. Do you have a name yet?
I don’t yet have a title for it, no.
But this is pretty big. We’re talking reggaeton, hip-hop, mambo, Brazilian funk. It’s a f**king sancocho and you’re behind the board.
[Laughs] Yes. I’ve always been involved with the hip-hop world, working with Puff, working with Rick Ross, working with French Montana, working with Meek, Wale and all these other cats, and A&R-ing and giving them records and directing their music videos. So when I could build myself up to crossover to the Spanish side, my resume would be strong enough to bring together all the people I want to see collaborate. So when I say, ‘Yo, I’m going to put you on a record with Ross,’ or ‘Yo, I’m going to put you on a record with Yandel,’ no one has any hesitations. I’m working to bridge the gap.
Was there ever a point where you maybe felt nervous about what you were doing? Because it’s always a task, sometimes a risk, trying to bridge gaps.
Not really. The hardest part was convincing them, the artists. Because hip-hop has dabbled in [Spanish music], some rappers have done features here and there, but nothing like [this album] came of it. Future got with it, right away. I called him like, ‘Yo, I’m working with his guy, he’s big.’ I sent him a 30-second clip of Yandel performing in Chile or Peru, and [Future] was like, ‘Aight, cool.’ He was on it, right away. He did his verse for “Mi Combo” in like 30 minutes. But no one was really hesitant, it just takes time to do all this. I’m trying to push this whole movement and hopefully we can make a few number one records in the process.
How do you hope this album changes the urban music landscape?
It’s going to show two cultures merging together and, hopefully, they’ll be more and more collaborations to come. It’s slowly been happening. Look at Drake and Romeo, and Romeo and Usher. It’s happening. I’m just focusing on the art and trying to make my contribution in a major way.