September 15 marks the celebration of Grito de Dolores one of the five Fiestas Patrias, or national holidays, in Mexican history. It's an important day, coming directly before Aniversario de la Independencia, the day Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called for the end of Spanish rule in Mexico.
For DJ Smite, also known as Sir Smeezy by those in the downtown know, the day isn't just a day for historical reflection and pachangas. It's a day of challenge.
"Every Cinco de Mayo and September 15 I challenge myself to come up with as many new blends as possible," Smeezy says, talking about his cumbia-crunk blends, a mix of classic cumbia sounds and Southern "crunk" rap. "Granted, I still do that the whole year, but i have so many different genres i like to play and I know that there will be an audience during these times for the cumbia-crunk."
This year, Smite is set to drop his signature sound at two events in Phoenix. On Tuesday, September 13, he'll spin all Latin '45s at The Lost Leaf, and on Thursday, September 15, he'll be a guest DJ at The Blunt Club, where he'll be spinning cumbia-crunk sounds.
Smite doesn't just do cumbia-crunk, he's quick to point out. Smite recently spent time in Sweden, where he showed off his rare funk and soul skills. He's back in town now, and ready to focus on cumbia-crunk blends for the holidays.
"Since I've come back from Sweden, I have a renewed commitment to expanding and developing the sound that I've been cultivating for over a decade," Smite says. "You wont find anyone else on the planet that does all cumbia-crunk vinyl blends."
"First of all my DJ background comes from a hip hop aesthetic," Smite says. "I was there for DJ Radar's first show, I saw Z-Trip come up. I've been involved in the local hip-hop scene since the mid '90s. I've always been really interested in mixing as well as scratching. Back then, scratching was really coming into it's own as an artform."
Smite knew he wanted scratch, but even at an early age, he desired to buck trends and try something stranger, more regionally focused.
"I grew up in central Phoenix. My mom is first generation Mexican-American, and my abuelita lived next door to me. I moved in with her when my mom moved to north Phoenix for the last few months of high school. My nana had a stash of records, including '45s, [and she would] always have on KPHX 'La Super Equis Mexican' radio on 24/7. So, I've been around Mexican music and culture my whole life."
"At the same time, I was breaking back in '84 and imitating M.J. and then eventually getting into Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane...I love hip-hop. By my freshman year, '92, I was saving up for turntables and trying to figure out how to be a DJ, which is nothing like it is today. Nothing. So I pulled a Los Tigres del Norte '45 out of my abuelita's stash in '96. I already had moved my 1200's into her kitchen, set up 24/7, practicing as in lieu of doing homework. After listening to the Tigres '45 I wanted to see what I could do with it. So I grabbed Eric B and Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul" 12" and mixed the instrumental with it."
It was the moment for Smite.
"It was like magic."
Smite started digging for Latin records, which was no easy feat. "There were no "good" records," he says. He carefully started building his arsenal with the decent wax he found, mixing hip-hop sounds and Latin cumbias.
"At the time time there was no crunk," he says. "'Northern soul' was starting to be used a lot as a catch phrase. So I came up with 'Norteño soul' for what I was doing."
"It's funny, 'cuz back then i would tell other local DJs that i was into cumbia and they would look at me like I was a nerd, and now it's all the rage.
While simultaneously exploring other genres like jazz, reggae, funk, and soul, Smite kept mixing hip-hop and Latin sounds, settling into "cumbia crunk" around 2000. The fusion isn't easy, he says. Though the two genres often feature similar tempos, many of the '45s Smite has collected feature "organic" rhythms -- drums and bass played in a live setting, recorded long before click tracks and precise ProTools sessions.
"So, a blend is mixing two or more records the whole time...which is really hard to get out of and go to the next blend. Not to mention these old records the drums ain't quantized for shit."
Smite says that he often feels like he's more interested in his mixes than other DJs and clubgoers around town. "They're good but it's too damn hard. Hardly anybody really cares, you know? But I do. And I don't follow trends."