Trapmaster: Heroes x Villains Daniel Disaster
Two years ago, around the inception of The Superslice, in one of the premiere posts, we featured We Off That. It was an absolutely stellar mixtape by Daniel Disaster (née Daniel Pollard) of Heroes x Villains. By all accounts, the collection of beats was bangin’. It drew us in, introduced us to a new genre and solidified the Slice crew as fans of his authentic, “new” sound.
As the titans of dubstep became oversaturated and as we watched Moombahton die a quick, easy death…Daniel Disaster has stayed the course, carved out his lane, and been mostly immune to fickle, fashionable music trends. He has navigated his way through the scenesters of the Mad Decents and the Overthrows, the hipster/counterculture club world, while maintaining an authenticity. Certified, Mayne. Daniel Disaster radiates the vibe of an artist who does what he loves until he gets bored and moves onto the next thing that piques his insular musical interests.
Although, DD is weary of classifying his music as singularly as trap, the roots of his music are heavily embedded in the genre. Ironically, as he continues to do his own thing, trap is becoming in vogue. Now-colleagues of Daniel Disaster, midwest acts such as Flosstradamus, who once rocked dayglo, flannel and backpacks at Mad Decent parties –are now clad in all black, dropping dirty, slurred beats and talking about that lean. We’re not trying to manufacture beef here (they’re all peers) but you can see the influence that Disaster has had. DD has had the same dark swagger and consistency of sound since Day Uno; and then there are the followers. We’d even argue that Floss has been soaking in some of the trap limelight when Disaster deserves most of the shine. Don’t get us wrong, we dig Flosstra but…
Back to Daniel Disaster (aka Heroes x Villains) and his hustle. DD continues to etch out his niche and corner. While the trap sound and his banner hybrid of slow-mo, grimy hip hop and EDM continues to explode, he continually buttresses the local scene and constantly reps his hometown, as a son and scion of Atlanta. It’s a wonder he’s standing out in a music industry mecca like ATL, in of itself; a testament to his ear and hard work. Putting on new talent, supporting his colleagues and pushing his city is a habit at this point. He’d probably hate this title but he’s a Trap Ambassador, of sorts.
The dude also seems like a humble and self-aware creator/artist. The tastemaker is not afraid to drop affirmations or bits of wisdom on his Facebook and Twitter feeds, from time to time. We once joked that he should change his name to Deetrap Chop-ra. Maybe he’s a hood Jay Gatsby, a trapset Holden Caulfield. Who the fuck knows, we just know his shit is working.
We’re proud fans of HXV and it’s been a pleasure to witness the rise and evolution of this talented DJ/producer.
A few weeks ago, co-founder/contributor Yohannes Baynes and photographer Taiyo Watanabe caught up with Daniel while he was in Los Angeles for a set at Drai’s. They met at a popular Inglewood burger joint in and talked about the alleged rise of trap music and the scene in Atlanta. Daniel also enlightened them on hoe music and why 2013 is destined to be the Year of Hoe Music.
Words by ybaynes Published on Wednesday, February 6, 2013
YOHANNES BAYNES: Last time you were in Los Angeles you played at Little Temple, a small, dingy bar off of Santa Monica Boulevard (and long time venue for the monthly, now defunct, Mad Decent Blow Your Head party). This time around you’re at Drai’s in the heart of Hollywood. Does a change of venue affect the how you play?
DANIEL DISASTER: No, not at all , I play the same. I feel like if you come to see me play, you come to see me play for a specific reason. I don’t water it down. But at the end of the day, I’m a DJ, so I know how to work a room, I know how to read a room. I love the art of DJing. I actually take on the challenge of playing at a bottle service club. I can get away with more as the crowds tend to be more receptive to EDM trap music.
BAYNES: Trap music is somewhat mainstream now and has blended with EDM. How do you balance this new fusion of trap music and the “traditional” southern style of trap music?
DISASTER: Not sure, I have not been exposed to much of the EDM crowds. For me, its the same crowds that come to see me in Atlanta. Everyone has long been into trap music. The big difference I have noticed in the past year are the crowds outside of Atlanta are much more raver, new raver. Kids coming from dubstep. It’s still weird that anyone would suggest that trap music is new. I am having a tough time wrapping my head around that. I’ve just had to let go of the word, its just all appropriated at this point.
BAYNES: Do you think the trap music is being absorbed too quickly?
DISASTER: I guess the rise to popularity in the past year has been pretty fast but there has been a lot of ground work. There is a foundation that goes back ten years. Had there not been such a solid foundation it would be alarming. I think we are just at the tipping point.
BAYNES: Tell me more about the Atlanta scene.
DISASTER: The scene in Atlanta is incredible, it’s a melting pot of creativity. You have rappers, dope boys, hipster kids, indie rockers –and we all party at the same venues. Places like MJQ, Graveyard and El Bar. It’s like CBGB’s for us. The first real star to rise from that scene has been Trinidad James, who I know as Nick. Trinidad James is a fan, He would come to shows and just wild out with his shirt off. Trinidad James is the embodiment of that whole scene right now.
BAYNES: You been working with Trinidad James a lot the past few months right?
DISASTER: Yeah, we hooked up with him this past July, at the sneaker store he was managing. He gave us his mixtape and it was dope. The full spectrum of that Atlanta scene is on his mixtape, it sounds like you are at MJQ when listening to it. After hearing the mixtape we shot the video for All Gold Everything at my friend’s house. We just kept pushing it.
BAYNES: The videos you did with Konkre films, were absolutely crazy. It really captured the moment. Do you plan to put or any more vidoes like that?
DISASTER: Yeah, that’s something I’m definitely focusing on this year, especially now that I am traveling more. Those videos you saw are actually edited, some shows get really wild.
BAYNES: Besides the stellar music from HXV, we also gravitated to the accompanying visuals you would present with your music. Whether it be mixtape cover art, your logo, or even your fashion sense. Who is mostly behind the visual aesthetic for Heroes x Villains?
DISASTER: I’ve worked with different designers through the various conceptions of HXV but I’m always involved with the design process for our visuals. What did you think of the Run the Trap artwork?
BAYNES: The one with the gold bars and diamonds?
DISASTER: I was so stoked when I got that back. I grew up listening to mixtapes with that kind of artwork, so I wanted to emulate the same aesthetic.
DISASTER: Previously to HXV, I was working for Grand Hustle and I had all these experimental beats (trap music mixed with EDM) but I could not get any artist to get on them. At the time, they were too overbearing for a rap record. So I got some vocals from a few producers I knew, made a few records, and started playing them at clubs to see what the response would be like. Basically, I was trying to build my brand. The We Off That mixtape was the first thing we put out.
BAYNES: That’s interesting, when we first heard the We Off That mixtape, we thought we were late. We were, like, who is this guy ? How come we never heard of him before? We thought you had been putting out tapes for awhile in Atlanta.
DISASTER: Yeah, We Off That, was the very first release from Heroes x Villains.
BAYNES: So tell me about the projects you have been working on like the Vault Boyz. What’s the inspiration behind that project?
DISASTER: Vault Boyz was just a project I wanted to do. I felt I could not put that out under Heroes x Villains. The scene around Atlanta has become very rave-y. I wanted to make a night where I could play music and not be surrounded by ravers listening to grinding dubstep for six hours. My friend is the GM at Whiskey Park, which is at The W in (Midtown) Atlanta, and they have a private back room which is really small, 70 people max’. We called this room “The Vault”. C Will (BLKKMORRIS) and I would set up tables at the bar and DJ for our friends. It was invite only, no promotions, no flyers, nothing. W printed out these keys (like hotel key cards) and gave them to friends. It was every Thursday night and we would play everything from chopped and screwed, RnB, French techno; just about anything we felt like playing. Vault Boyz came out of this. We started wearing the gold masks, we would dress up as the Vault Boyz, then we put out the mix tape.
BAYNES: So I assume this is also how the Luxury Trap tapes came about?
DISASTER: Yep, exactly.
BAYNES: Can we expect anymore Luxury Trap tapes?
DISASTER: Yeah, we have another volume coming out. We’re gonna keep doing it.
BAYNES: The Luxury Trap mixes were some of our favorite HXV releases from last year.
DISASTER: Thank You, The approach was not to make it as a mixtape. When BLKKMORRIS and myself were putting the tape together, I tried not to make it a linear mix. We tried to construct the mix in levels, kinda like building a house. You have the foundation, then all these pieces built on top of it. It was hard to create a tracklist. There were a lot of snippets of beats on top of other tracks. It almost made no sense but it sounded good sonically. The challenge was not to become attached to any one song. It was more about a vibe than the song.
BAYNES: How is your burger, by the way?
DISASTER: This shit is great.
BAYNES: Before we go, what artists are you working with on the production side?
DISASTER: Right now, I’m mostly focusing on our own shit. More original releases this year. I’m dropping The Hoodrich Anthem remix this week with Trinidad James, 2 Chainz, Waka Flocka, Yo Gotti, Gucci Mane. Also, I just finished the Major Lazer remix of Mr. Marshall (Jah No Partial). Later this year, we plan to do more collaboration with rap artist and producers. Some tracks may be more focused on the rap side of trap, others may be heavily influenced by EDM.
BAYNES: What music do you listen to when not working? Like, simply, just for your own enjoyment? Is it trap 24/7?
DISASTER: (laughs) I do listen to a lot of trap, that’s what I love. Right now, I’m listening to How to Dress Well, the Total Loss album was pretty good and the new Converge album. One of the best hardcore bands ever. That’s about it right now.
BAYNES: Early 2012, you made the bold prediction that post-Luger trap beats were going to be the new dubstep. This prediction was certainly manifested. Can you give us another bold prediction on the direction of music for 2013?
DISASTER: I think 2013 is going to be the year of hoe music.
BAYNES: Hoe music?
DISASTER: It’s going to be the year of Brenmar and Ryan Hemsworth, that kinda stuff. I think they are gonna have a really good year, this year. Look out for music from The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake’s new album. Hoe music is back and here to stay.
BAYNES: Should be a good year. This was a pleasure, we look forward to your set tonight.
DISASTER: No problem, looking forward to it too.
Photography by Taiyo Watanabe
A special thanks to Phat & Juicy Burgers for allowing us to host this interview. Their burgers were absolutely spectacular!
(Phat & Juicy Burgers is located at 1580 Centinela Avenue, Inglewood, CA 90302)
Also, special thanks to Xen for making this happen.