Feliz Año Nuevo: Toy Selectah On the Mayan Apocalypse, DJ Screw & the Beauty of Cumbia

His name is Antonio Hernandez, but the world knows him as Toy Selectah. The producer/DJ is one of the most influential figures in la musica Latina, constantly creating sounds and rhythms for almost 20 years. He enjoyed success with the pioneer Rock en Español group Control Machete, served as an A&R for Universal Music during the height of the Reggaeton era, and is now one of the champions of immensley popular Tribal Guarachero movement.

Rocks Off sat down with Toy during his visit to Houston last Friday as he performed at the Redbull Thre3Style Massive event at Stereo Live.

Rocks Off: First of all, welcome to Houston, and thank you for accepting our interview request. Have you ever been here to Houston before?

Toy Selectah: Yes, I remember that I came to Houston back in 1994 to DJ. I've been here previous to that just to visit, but 1994 was the first time I came to work. I'm hoping to come back here soon to play the Bombón party with DJ Gracie Chavez and her crew.

Houston is like Monterrey, Texas because there are so many of us here. So I've always had a strong connection to this place. I also remember coming to the Westheimer Street Festival and having a great time, too. Houston has always had a great rock and underground movement. I love bands like Los Skarnales and also Chingo Bling. Puro respect.

RO: What do you think about the so-called Mayan apocalypse?

TS: I'm going to recommend a movie called Yo Lo Creo to you and your readers. It features a different interpretation of the whole phenomenon.

For me, this is a beginning of a new era. The whole world knows about the Mayas now. Historically and culturally, the Egyptians were at the forefront of humanity's experience on this earth, but now the Mayas are just as important. We [Mexicans] are the raza cosmica (cosmic race) after all.

RO: How do you rate your experience in the year 2012, and what are you looking forward to in 2013?

TS: It was a grand year of work, preparation, and planting seeds for the future. I was satisfied with all of my projects. Non-stop traveling and working in the studio which I love. The records that we released last year is what lead to our success this year. Next year is promising to be more of the same.

I feel like we had our turn already, and now we need to take more and more turns.

RO: Why is cumbia music so beautiful?

TS: Being from Monterrey, the music that we heard on the streets was always either norteño music or cumbia. We received many cumbia records from Colombian people who would visit from Houston and San Antonio. There is a direct connection between Texas and my city in that sense.

Then the cumbia was mixed with the fast Mexican music that was popular as well, so then that allowed artists like Celso Piña to flourish. Be on the lookout for a documentary about him that will further explain how that mixture made the cumbia movement beautiful.

RO: You have been a musical tastemaker for a long time. What are your most favorite and successful hits from your career?

TS: In the 1990s we had the major hit "Si Señor" with Control Machete, then it was the reggaeton monster hit "Gasolina" in the early 2000s, and now "Intentalo" with 3Ball MTY. There will always be those seminal songs that spark a revolution, and I've been fortunate enough add my influence with those songs.

RO: Will you be working on New Year's Eve? If so, if you were limited to only three records for your set, what records would you select?

TS: I will be in Chicago suffering in the cold. Damn it's cold as shit there! But man, great question. If I had to choose only three, it would be a really fucking awesome version of "La Cumbia Colegiala" that I did, then spin "Todos A Bailar" by Erick Rincon, and end with "El Sabor Del Control" by No Somos Machos Pero Somos Muchos, a cool band from Mexico City.

That's a mashup of Los Angeles Azules and Control Machete. Really cool shit!

RO: Sometimes in the cumbias there is a strong, booming voice that says "Desde Montrerrey!" and other ad-libs in a manner that reminds me of DJ Screw's sound. Do you think there is a parallel there?

TS: I think that maybe DJ Screw must have heard cumbia rebajada back in the day, maybe in a flea market or something, and if he did, then that came from Monterrey! It comes from back in the 1980s, when the batteries in the big ghetto-blaster boomboxes would lose power and cause the tape to slow down. Then of course with the drugs and everything, people liked that sound.

So very interesting how the same kind of sound can be created and in two separate cities and be so similar. I give much respect to the OG's here in Houston, like Screw and the Choppaholics and OG Ron C.

RO: How high do you think 3BallMTY can soar with their talent and popularity?

TS: As high as the sky and as big as the world. They are extremely talented and focused, wonderful kids. They have a long career ahead of them.

RO: And you? How long will you be making music?

TS: I will continue to work until the Mayas come back on the mothership! (laughs) And when they do, the whole world will be dancing Tribal!

RO: Well sir, thank you again for your time and wisdom. Hopefully I can visit you in Monterrey one of these days.

TS: Yea man, thank you. Tell your editor to send you to Monterrey next year when the Tribal kids (3BallMTY) record their next album. You are welcome anytime!\

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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Houston Press contributor Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond.