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Ape Drums (source: Facebook)
Dancehall has made a major comeback in both the underground and mainstream over the last year. But before hits like “Work” and “One Dance” took over the airwaves, 23-year-old DJ/producer Ape Drums was cranking out Carribean-infused heaters in his Houston studio.
In 2014, DJ Craze and Kill the Noise’s label Slow Roast Records took notice of Ape’s unique style and released his debut single “Bashment.” The track took the dance world by storm and set the tone for his future.
The following year, Ape performed at influential festivals like SXSW, Holy Ship!, Mad Decent Boat Party, and Amsterdam Dance Event. He also toured extensively in the US and Australia.
Ape has shown no signs of slowing in 2016. In June, he dropped two singles on Mad Decent, “The Way We Do This” featuring Major Lazer and Busy Signal, and “Go Crazy” featuring Dougie F. The songs charted at number two and 11 on DJcity’s Top 50, respectively.
We spoke with Ape via email to learn more about his background and sound.
You have a unique production style. How would you describe it?
I’d describe it as worldly, Caribbean-influenced.
How did you get into dancehall?
I purchased an old cassette based off of the artwork when I was about eight years old. I had no idea what type of music it was, but I’ve been into it ever since. I don’t remember the name of the tape, but it was a collection of bashment and reggaeton mixes.
You were producing dancehall-influenced tracks before it was a trend in the mainstream. How do you feel about the genre’s current popularity?
I dig that it’s becoming popular, but the problem is that it’s becoming corny and too pop. The beats aren’t as good as the original riddims from the ’90s. I think [the artists] should keep the original riddim vibe.
You were in a b-boy crew in high school. Do you still break dance?
I wish, but I have no time for it. I try a few moves a couple of times a year just to see if I still have it.
Did breaking influence you as a DJ/producer?
No, but dancing did shape my musical interest. I’m mostly into music that is very danceable, which is why I’m into dancehall. I think that’s the best genre of music to dance to, whether you’re solo or with a hot gyal.
How often do you DJ?
It depends. Sometimes I play every single weekend, and sometimes I take time off to work on new material.
What are your favorite cities to play in and why?
Miami, New York, and Amsterdam, just to name a few. The people have so much culture and recognize great music. They know how to have a good time.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
There’s a few: Jeffery (Young Thug), Jeremih, Gyptian, and Roy Woods.