David Rodriguez is used to being an odd man out. As DJ Mafioso he was, in his words, "the token Latin guy" in the hip-hop scene, paying dues as a former DJ for Binkis Recs before launching a mixtape series, La Bodega. And on Fridays he spins at Fever nightclub, playing meringue, bachata, salsa and reggaeton.
Rodriguez calls his crowd "the migrant people" who moved here from other cities with major Latin populations such as New York and Miami. They mingle at parties hosted by promoters such as PR Productions. "You always just had to be in the know," he says, although these events often attract a mainstream crowd, too. At the same time, he adds, "I'm totally integrated into that scene, but I'm also a hip-hop DJ, and I go far beyond what they would play at those venues."
Last July, Rodriguez teamed up with local B-Boy legend Quic to inaugurate Sazon (Spanish for "flavor") at Doo Gallery and merge the hip-hop and Latin worlds together. At first, the two sought to celebrate the Latin influence in rap music, and played artists such as Big Pun, Mellow Man Ace and the Beatnuts. But the two realized after the first party that they "were defeating the purpose by just playing hip-hop," says Rodriguez. "We need to open it up more."
In March, the second installment of Sazon was held at Apache Café. The duo invited New York City salsa band Orquesta Lírica to perform. "They were all really old ... but they're funky and they get down," Rodriguez says. He expanded his DJ set to include classic Latin salsa such as the Fania All-Stars and Tito Puente, reggaeton and baile funk, as well as mashups such as a meringue remix of Yung Joc's "It's Going Down." The next Sazon happens Saturday, June 16, at Apache Café.
"We're making people aware that it's more than just Buford Highway, it's more than just Mexican music, it's more than just salsa and meringue – it's a fusion of things," Rodriguez says. "Atlanta needed a little bit of uhh, a dash of that bouillon, just to make it pop even more."
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