DJ Heron: Thirstin on Heron

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Photo courtesy of DJ Heron

Miami’s Peruvian Boom Bap King DJ Heron took on the task of remixing several songs from the catalog of the one and only Thirstin Howl the 3rd. With the blessing of the Lo Lifes co-founder Heron crafted a 12-track album called “Thirstin On Heron.”

Thirstin on Heron features appearances by Sadat X, the Beatnuts, Tash, Unique London, Rack-Lo, Big Boo, Fi Lo, Master Foul, Capicu, Tone Bone, General Steele, and the late, great Sean Price.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to DJ Heron about his side project Grupo HNE, becoming Miami’s Boom Bap King, and his new album, Thirstin On Heron.

TRHH: How did the idea of remixing Thirstin Howl the 3rd songs come about?

DJ Heron: Basically, Thirstin was trying to get some DJ’s to do mixtapes. He was giving out his catalog to DJ’s to do mixtapes. Inside of the collection of the CD it had a bunch of acapellas –like close to 20 to 30 acapellas. So, I was like, “Thirst, instead of me doing the mixtape let me just remix like 12 to 15 songs and we call it a day and put it out as an album.” He was like, “cool, great.” He left me with it, gave me about 6-7 months, I put it together and then he ended up hearing it.

TRHH: What did he say when he heard it?

DJ Heron: He loves it! I mean, at first it was some things he didn’t like, some things he did like, but nothing that we couldn’t take care of. At the end of he really enjoyed the project very well.

TRHH: How challenging was it for you to do justice to the original tracks?

DJ Heron: It was very challenging because I didn’t want to disrespect and step on anybody’s toes like that. I try to just elevate and add more to what there is then. It was challenging and fun at the same time, because I got to experiment and try some new things. I’m a DJ first so I match to drums all the time. Matching digitally is a little bit harder. I mean just matching BPM’s at the same time, but at the same time there’s certain flows with how somebody flows, or the kicks and snares have to be at the right spot type thing. But it was a lot of fun.

TRHH: The single “A General” has a cool horn sample on the hook. What genre did you find that sample from?

DJ Heron: I’m gonna be honest with you, the sample came from not a sample record but these kinds of records where they have a whole bunch of horns and instruments and stuff like that. I have a tons and tons of records and when I did the remix album we just had went through a hurricane, I was homeless for a little bit, I had to move the studio somewhere, it was just a different time down here. I couldn’t move the records because it was just hard to move the records from one place to the other. I ended up just finishing the whole album in a one-bedroom apartment like right before the hurricane type shit — it’s funny. It ended up working out really well. When I moved the equipment, I moved the records in the studio. I moved it to my boy Jimmy Douglass’ studio and then I just finished the project then and mixed the album with my boy Jay Wizz.

TRHH: What’s your favorite joint you flipped on Thirstin on Heron?

DJ Heron: My favorite joint is one that he goes way back and he starts talking about a lot of elements of Hip-Hop — O.G. Stripes. I think it was probably like the third one I did and when I was putting it together I had no idea how incredible it was gonna be. The song says how Scott La Rock had beef and a lot about how the culture was back then in the days. He was surprised when I remixed this song. It breaks down a lot of the culture of how he went through it, how the Lo’s came about — it’s a great song. There’s really no chorus in the song, it’s just like him doing I think like 40 to 46 bars. He just goes in and just consistently goes in and he rides that beat. It really was catered to him. That’s like my favorite song on the album. It’s actually the third single that’s gonna be dropped with a video off the album.

TRHH: What’s in your production workstation?

DJ Heron: I work with the MPC, two turntables, a Trinity, just a lot of drums — a lot of MPC work.

TRHH: Which MPC?

DJ Heron: I got the MPC One right now. Before I used to have the XL, but as we get older the little screen is so small. I can’t see, man, so when they came out with the MPC One and I had the whole screen on my laptop it just was a game changer for me. And then the saving process, saving onto a laptop was a lot easier. So, I work with Pro Tools and MPC.

TRHH: As a DJ from Miami, the home of Luke and bass music, how did you become Miami’s Boom Bap King?

DJ Heron: Big shout out to Luke, JT Money, Trick Daddy, that’s family — that’s all the homies. I basically stayed in my lane. Even when I deejay down here I still DJ some bass music and stuff like that. Who doesn’t like to see fat asses dancing around, shaking and twerking, and shit like that? I’m all about that. You had no choice because when I deejay the house parties and deejay the parties you had to play some Luke, and you had to play some 2 Live, and you had to play some Trick — I love Trick Daddy’s music. What happened was that I started doing concerts down here and there was nobody doing shows. Right now, I pretty much cornered the market down here in Miami as far as the shows. The last show I just did was with Stove God. Every year I do an Art Basel show for three days. Last year it was a DJ Paul, Freddie Gibbs, and Stove God Cooks. And the year before it was Jadakiss, Curren$y, and I do a party with Westside Gunn called Gunn Basel.

Big ups to my boy Dan Green from Clockwork. We have a company called Legends Only and I’m not saying Westside doesn’t perform anywhere else, but the main show that he does yearly is called Gunn Basel, and he does it with us in Miami for Art Basel. I’ve been doing that for a couple of years already. We’re about to do another one this year coming up. I’ve been doing all the big shows down in Miami. I created J Dilla Weekend. I’m very familiar with the family, I’m very close to Ms. Yancey. I’m real close with a lot of the people in the industry. I was just producing shows and I wasn’t getting booked for anything like of that nature. People wanted me to play the other stuff, but I wasn’t really trying to play that stuff. So, every show I did I would just book myself and deejay my own stuff. That’s how I became the Boom Bap King of Miami.

TRHH: Tell me about Addictive Affairs.

DJ Heron: Addictive Affairs is the entertainment part of DJ Heron. That’s my entertainment company. If you go down to see all the events that I’ve produced, and curated, and put together, years I’ve been doing it down here. I’ve been doing that for maybe the past 15 years. It’s been Addictive Affairs, ’till now Clockwork came like four or five years ago and we started working together. That’s how we created Legends Only Live. But that’s where Addictive Affairs came about.

TRHH: If you could produce one album for one emcee who would it be?

DJ Heron: That’s a really good one. I wouldn’t mind producing something for Busta Rhymes. His style, his dominance, his eclectically, his ad libs, his fucking metaphors, his delivery. I’m not saying he doesn’t have right beats, he does have them, but I think if I was to throw him some joints it would be a little different. Busta Rhymes would be the brother that I would love to produce and really get down with it.

TRHH: He’s been around over 30 years and somehow it still feels like he’s underrated.

DJ Heron: It does. Even though he got that award. He proved that he is an icon. Hit after hit, after hit, after hit! From the Janet Jackson joint, from this joint, from the Mariah Carey joint. Busta Rhymes is that GOAT. If there was a description of Hip-Hop he would be the description. It’s funny, I booked a show with him like 3-4 years ago and it didn’t go good [laughs]. I met Busta before when I was like maybe 19-20 years old. We were deejaying the after party for the Public Enemy concert and he was with Leaders of the New School. I don’t go clout chasing or go chasing after stars and stuff like that. I know Spliff Star, but I don’t go, “Yo, hook me up with Busta.” You’ll hear about me when I get there and we’ll talk. That brother, I see what he’s done and I would love to work with him. You know how they say when you put that in the air?

TRHH: Yeah, definitely. It will come. The new single from Grupo HNE “The Palmetto” is really smooth. How did that joint come together?

DJ Heron: Grupo HNE is my group project with DJ Exes, CombiNando. That project is about to take off in about another three months. I produced that joint maybe seven years ago. Exes was like, “Yo, I wanna drop the album. Let’s just drop the album.” Exes is a Lo Life and he’s Thirstin Howl’s DJ. Exes is a big icon down here in Miami. He was writing! He started writing verses and stuff and he’s a DJ. He really wasn’t out there doing this shit, now everybody’s asking for verses from Exes everywhere. Everybody’s wanting to jump on — he’s that nice. So, when he started coming out like, “Hey, I wanna write to some things,” I had gave him some joints, we had worked with Nando and put some things together and it was coming out really, really good. We did a whole album — we did about 13-14 joints and none of the joints on the album had samples. There’s no samples on the joints.

We just dropped another one called “The Money Maker” with Salazar. That one doesn’t have a sample but Palmetto has a sample because we wanted to push like 6 songs with samples before we dropped the album with no samples. So that they get a flavor and a taste of both worlds. By far the album with no samples sounds like it has samples, but it doesn’t. My brother Nando, he’s an incredible instrument player. He plays conga’s, he plays keys, bass. So, working with him and putting the project together, that’s where the name Grupo HNE came about — it’s Heron, Nando, and Exes. That’s where Palmetto came about and big up to my boy Orion for getting on the song. The song is about traffic in Miami. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven in Miami, but it’s freaking hell [laughs]. In Spanish it’s called “baja nota.” It’s like when you’re high and your high comes down [laughs]. The highway is that and that’s what the song is about.

TRHH: Who is the Thirstin on Heron album made for?

DJ Heron: It’s made for the fans. It was just to show the fans these songs. There’s a lot of songs on there with a lot of known artists. The Beatnuts are on there, we got a dope song with Sadat X, Hurricane G’s on one of the songs. In my ears it sounds like a classic album, but when everybody hears it we’re hoping that the fans really enjoy it and all my Lo’s love it. I know all my Lo’s around the world have heard these songs before, but again, I didn’t want to disrespect it and I wanted to really just encourage it more than what it was. I hope I really did my best to really encourage the album a little bit more than what it was.

Purchase: Thirstin Howl the 3rd x DJ Heron – Thirstin on Heron

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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