[Many thanks to Mario S. Cesareo for bringing this item to our attention.] Thanks to my son’s recommendation, I recently heard several uplifting songs by Dominican singer Saso, who mixes hip hop/rap with traditional rhythms (such as Dominican palo drumming) and Brazilian baile funk in remarkable ways. He is known for pieces such as “Pink,” “Sazón” and “Suéltate.” Here is a segment of a 2020 interview by AFROTAINO, preceded by a striking music video of Saso & Dj Guari’s “Suéltate” directed by the very talented Dominican director Kilpatry “La Flecha” Montes de Oca.
Listen to “Suéltate” here:
Where are you from/where are you now? I am from the Dominican Republic, but I lived there for half my life, and the other half in The Bronx, NY, where I am currently residing.
If The Bronx had a flag, I feel like you’d wear it on your back like a cape. And I don’t blame you: it’s the land of HipHop’s birthright. But your music is HipHop’s DNA gone global, from the boom-bap to the boom-chuk-chuk. How has the BX help shape your artistic vision?
The Bronx is the cultural genesis of many things that we consider pop culture today. From HipHop/Rap to Graffiti, Fashion, skate culture etc…these things were of heavy influence to me as a foreigner and young bull in the borough. My life was completely different on the island. As soon as I landed here though, all I saw were rappers, graff artists and skaters. I naturally started doing the same. Product of the environment.
Beats are essential to getting bodies moving. Your music exercises this like it’s a written law. Your breakout single, “Pink”, was a clever fusion of Jersey club and Brazilian baile funk. You followed up with “Sazón”, which opens up with Dominican palo, and bass-drops sharply into the baile funk rhythms. What drew you to the Brazilian baile funk? Do you have a favorite track or producer from that genre? Have you received any support or feedback from the Brazilian funk community?
Brazilian Baile Funk is the reason I began to take music seriously as a career. Other than at the clubs on Dyckman (in Washington Heights, NYC), there was barely any Baile Funk being played in The Bronx/Heights/Uptown. It wasn’t until I started hanging out more downtown and in Brooklyn where I found my love for the genre. Baile Funk is naturally an embracing culture; so, this genre was prevalent in the underground BIPOC & LGBTQ+ parties and clubs in Brooklyn, Chinatown and Lower East Side. A big shout-out to Venus X, Ghetto Gothic and Papi Juice for having some of the most culturally impactful underground baile funk party scenes back in the day for me. The rhythm and percussion felt tribal and foundational to me, and that’s how I fell for the genre. I feel like Baile Funk is like the HipHop of Brazil; its essence goes well together. I have connected and collaborated with a few Brazilians here in NY like Zuzuka Poderosa & Foreign Posse, but I’m hoping to grow my audience within the Brazilian funk community with more collaborations, and going to Brazil in the future.
[. . .] Your latest track, “Suéltate” with DJ Guari, might be one of the hottest reggaeton sleeper hits of 2020. With another diasporic musical fusion – this time, a Dominican merengue típico loop and a classic reggaeton dembow – ‘Suéltate’ is really catching the ears of the industry, and getting co-signs from other Latin indie artists like Dominican Republic’s merenguero alternativo Riccie Oriach. What’s the story behind this track: How did it come about? Despite it still gaining momentum – hence being a ‘sleeper’ hit – what the best feedback you’ve heard about this song?
DJ Guari and I met about a year or two ago during a show he performed in “Afuego:” A collective of creatives curating parties and other events in The Bronx. He emailed me one day saying he wanted to collaborate on a beat and sent me what is now the “Suéltate” instrumental. I immediately started laughing because the beat exudes good energy and upbeat percussions. When Guari and I linked up, we were brainstorming on how this beat made us feel – nostalgic, happy, and loose – hence the name, “Suéltate.” With these feelings in mind, it was easy to write the lyrics; (reminiscent) of the good old days. I believe the reason Suéltate is a “sleeper hit” is due to the fact that it came out too late. Guari and I were still indecisive on whether we wanted to shoot in the middle of a pandemic, so we were closely monitoring the restrictions. The video was originally meant to release in the early summer, but it was pushed back towards the beginning of Fall. I feel like timing is divine though, because the video wouldn’t have come out the way it did if it weren’t for the cast who made this happen, who would’ve normally been too busy shooting documentaries, movies or commercials. The best feedback I received from this video was from the cast and crew: We all felt like family after shooting these visuals and many of them said that this project holds a special place in their memory because of the great vibes, positive attitudes and overall wholesome, colorful aesthetics. [. . .]
For full interview, see https://www.afrotaino.com/latest/saso