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The story of moombahton is already a local music legend. Within months of its invention in a Prince George’s County basement, a bunch of European DJs were circulating their own moombahton-flavored remixes and productions on the Internet. The microgenre’s latest big break comes courtesy of Diplo, the undisputed king of hipster-friendly bangers, whose Mad Decent label has released Blow Your Head Vol 2.: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton, a collection of tracks spanning moombahton’s pioneers, its forebears, and the best of other DJs’ interpretations.
The compilation is a nice slice of validation for Dave Nada, the formerly local DJ (he now lives in Los Angeles) who dreamed up the microgenre to entertain a group of high school-aged reggaeton fans at a party in 2009. But even a key record label and a global network of DJs can’t make moombahton a game-changer.
Moombahton, a mid-tempo hybrid of reggaeton and headache-inducing Dutch house, isn’t a very fresh or engaging addition to the genre of tropical bass—or house, or reggaeton (which could really use the help these days). Its signature ingredients—including siren-like synths, chopped and layered vocals, and enormous builds and drops—are plucked from just about every form of inflated club music ever to cross (or is it curse?) the island of Ibiza. On several tracks, Latin and Caribbean influences are welcome, but they can’t reverse the wrinkles of the aging house material.
Blow Your Head Vol. 2—and perhaps moombahton in general—is best when it’s toned down and smoothed out. The strongest edit on the compilation is DJ Sabo’s moody, sepia-tone reprise of (seriously) Dennis Ferrer’s monstrous house hit “Hey Hey.” Nadastrom—the DJ team of Nada and Matt Nordstrom—turns in a tasteful, moon-gazing remix of Win Win’s “Releaserpm”; “Hope,” one of two productions from Rotterdam-based producer Munchi, is a milky delight. All of the above are utterly out of place alongside the Latin-tinged thumpers “Que Que” (Dillon Francis and Diplo) and Tittsworth and Alvin Risk’s terrifying “Pendejas,” whose manic, high-pitched synthesizer blasts rain down like a hellish cluster of rubber bullets.
Given that moombahton’s influences are so obvious, it’s kinda funny that Nada chose to include Shabba Ranks’ 1991 single “Dem Bow” on the compilation—it’s sort of like throwing Dead Can Dance on a witch house comp, or a cut from Paul Simon’s Graceland on a Vampire Weekend album. It’s clear that Nada embraces the grandfathers of his now-signature sound. It’s just those irksome Dutch cousins that he needs to un-invite from the family reunion.