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The explosion of Latin music in the past year alone has signaled a monumental shift in music’s consumption across the industry’s most popular genres. All thanks to social media’s growing hand and the world’s shrinking effect, reaching across borders to find music’s next mainstream hit isn’t much of an anomaly now and Donny “Dizzycleanface” Flores has been a quiet force at the center of such progression.
A professional dot connector, Flores has been plugged in for some time.
Finding root with humble beginnings in Trinidad & Tobago, the young music lover arrived in Miami as a teenager and immediately began filling in the blanks that would build out the career of a lifetime. It’s one that found him transitioning from driving Rick Ross to shows across Florida in the nascent days of Slip-N-Slide Records to helping break artists such as Bobby Shmurda and Zoey Dollaz.
Such highlights would eventually lead him to a pivotal role alongside DJ Snake in the French producer’s most recent wave of music, orchestrating hits such as “Taki Taki” and “Loco Contigo.” Such a track record would attract the attention of executives at Universal Music Group where he is now a newly minted executive producer of Universal Music Latin Entertainment.
In a candid talk with Flores, REVOLT TV discussed his start at Slip-N-Slide, weaving through the anecdotes that come with putting together some of the world’s biggest records today, and the future of “global music.” Check out the interview below!
Let’s start with your origins and you making the transition to Miami. You came up at Slip-N Slide in the beginning of your career. Can you describe what that energy was like at the time?
Growing up in Trinidad, in the worst parts of the country, [I was] very very poor. Sometimes, I ain’t eat in a couple of days. It was a real struggle... I just knew it was something about me that was different. I always loved music.
That energy when I came to the states, it was like a breath of fresh air to be over here seeing different things. It was a culture shock. During that time, I was getting to know myself. I started doing promotions... Then, there was this one guy named Byron. He saw I had booked talent and he was like, ‘Do you ever think about getting into the music stuff?’ So, he had me interning at Slip-N-Slide with him. My first project was Rick Ross before Rick Ross was Rick Ross. I had to drive Rick Ross and Gunplay to a show in West Palm. The night before, Rick Ross had just did ‘Hustlin’ and he was telling Gunplay. I remember he went to the show and he put the song on. Nobody was really vibing to the song. When I started taking it really seriously was when a month later, [I saw] where he was at. I was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’
So, I started taking it seriously. My partner found Plies and I was helping him out.. I was helping out with Trina. I was always behind the scenes doing different things under him. My first breakout was Bobby Shmurda. His uncle and I always been good friends, and this was before ‘Hot N*gga’ blew up. It was just on a mixtape. I came, and I started helping out and ‘Hot N*gga’ came, and it just took off. It was an explosion. We signed a deal. We started running around — that was my first personal success. Coming from that, I had Zoey Dollaz, doing a lot of sh*t with Nicki Minaj, and just a lot of producers and songwriters. Coming into doing DJ Snake I did ‘Taki Taki’ and it just put me in a different space.
What music did you gravitated toward in the beginning?
It was reggae, hip hop, R&B, and a lot of Rock & Roll.
How often do you find yourself trying to emulate those sounds?
I always listen to different sounds. I just want to hear how you can bridge that with that. I’m never scared to take it any type of way. I feel like there’s so much music all over the world. If it feels good, I’m into it.
When we look at ‘Taki Taki’ and ‘Loco Contigo,’ you do a great job of putting the right artists together. What’s the process like when you’re curating those tracks? Do you already have an idea of what you want to do?
On ‘Taki Taki,’ the only idea we had was, ‘Let’s get Ozuna.’ We had a record that Ozuna had for at least three or four months and I was like, ‘Damn, for some reason he keeps saying he’s gonna do it, but it wasn’t getting done.’ So, I went back. If I’m chasing somebody down to get on a record, maybe he ain’t feeling the beat. So, I sent him three and he was like, ‘Papi, you’ll have it back tonight,’ and he sent me a video that night. He was on tour in Colombia, and I was like, ‘Holy sh*t. This is happening.’ Ozuna was like, ‘Papi, this is going to be big. Let’s put somebody else on it.’
I went to J Balvin, Rihanna, Bad Bunny. A lot of artists turned it down. I remember my boy Brooklyn Johnny, I was like, ‘Yo, I got this record’ and he was like, ‘This shit is crazy. Imma play it for it for Cardi [B].’ Everybody done turned it down. So, I was like maybe this record ain’t gone come out. Then, he called me a couple days later like, ‘Yo she loves it. She’s gonna cut it.’
What’s funny is that the label went and got Selena Gomez, and they were like, ‘Oh, we’re just gonna do Selena Gomez and I had to call Johnny with the bad news. I remember I got a FaceTime call and it was [Cardi B], and she was like, ‘Listen man, I’m getting on that sh*t. I’m gon’ be a part of this sh*t. This gon’ be the hottest sh*t. I need to be on this sh*t.’ She really believed in that record. You can see that. She jumped on it, here we are now three billion streams in less than a year. She really believed in it.
What was that transition going into Universal like? Was it a formal role you were looking for?
How did the opportunity come about?
My boy E Class (founder and CEO of Miami’s Poe boy Ent.) called me he was like, ‘Hey, Aldo [Gonzalez] was looking for somebody that’s in this world and I recommended you.’ I was like, ‘What is the job?’ He was like, ‘Just putting people together.’
I was doing it already. Now I can do that and if I find a new Spanish artist, they’ll fund it and take it to the next level. It was just like a blessing — somebody saying, ‘We acknowledge what you’re doing and we want to say thank you. Keep doing it.’
You previously showed love to The Weeknd’s manager, Sal Slaiby, in regards to a recent interview with Variety where he said he’ll be the greatest immigrant Trump has ever seen. With this current climate, do you feel any responsibility as an immigrant to push the culture in a specific way, even outside of the music?
Yeah. I think it should be in movies. It should be in different things. I feel like it should be all over the place. As long as it not corny... It has to be organic. It has to feel good. We all grew up on hip hop—the African sounds, the K-Pop—a lot of that comes from hip hop... There [is] a lot of reggae influence in a lot of the culture. I use that in a lot of things. It’s worldwide music. That’s how I look at it and it could definitely be a bridge. That’s the goal.
Talking about reggae, dancehall, afro beats, and Latin music; they’re becoming trends to hop on right now.
It’s not just becoming a trend—it’s been coming. [In] 2020, I think afro [beats] sounds will be crazy. Imaging putting some afro [beats] sounds with some Latin sounds. That’s the whole world. Even the middle east music is coming, too. It’s a lot of things that are coming that people are gonna be surprised by. Imagine a middle east record with a Latin and an African artist on it. What more global do you need to do after that?
What do you think about the conversation surrounding cultural appropriation? Does that concern you at all? Is there a need to protect the realm you work in?
We all God’s people. It’s about music. Music touches the world. I don’t know if there’s another kid where a record might have saved his life. I think music is everything.
You recently linked up with Mike WiLL Made-It. Are there any unexpected collaborations that you have cooking?
Yeah, you know I have Rvssian. Mike WiLL’s working with Rvssian. We’re gonna collaborate on some stuff with Junior Reid. We’re just trying to put different cultures together and make it really dope. It’s a lot of big things coming for 2020. We’re just getting geared up. We ready for it and thankful for every moment.
You have some things in the works with Diddy.
Yeah, just stay tuned. We got something special coming.
Is there anything you can add about it?
Puff is the legend — the guy. I look up to him in a lot of ways. I respect everything he does. He thinks outside of the box. He doesn’t think in one way, and he came from promotions and all that stuff. So, he understands us. I respect him 100%.