It's not that Dominicans are crazy. It's that they're loud, colorful and passionate people, who love dancing quick and hot, just like their blood.
(Okay, so they're a little crazy.)
Dominicans are also one of most musically influential communities in Miami; merengue and bachata, two of the Dominican Republic's most popular musical genres, are also huge in the mix-and-match culture of this city. But you know what else Miamians love? Dance music.
Everyone knows that the sounds of EDM and Latino music are merging. What you might not know is that Miami is the city at the center of this, thanks in part to its history of dance-influenced genres like Miami bass (also known as booty bass), as well as its prime positioning as a bridge between North America and the rest of the Latino world.
Happy Colors, known to his mama as Hector Mendoza, represents the edge of this movement—or rather, the future of these ever-mingling worlds. The 21-year-old moved to South Florida from the Dominican Republic when he was 12. Today, the Miami-dweller makes music that fuses the high-tempo beats and full-band instrumentation of his favorite merengue/bachata artists with the dirty bass of electro, trap, and moombahton. His best productions are unified by the distinct feeling of "this is music meant to make you sweat."
"I'm not in love with electronic music, I'm in love with my culture," Mendoza says. "I like to do shit that people don't think you'd be able to."
"I put bachata with some crazy ass shit that nobody ever thinks it can mix with," he continues. "It's just about being ignorant." He pauses to clarify. "Not ignorant, but creative. Just be you."
Mendoza has always been a beat freak, but he didn't hear of electronic music until way after he moved to the States.
"I was always dancing merengue and playing the drums and shit," he says of his childhood. "I wanted to be a merengue artist, but then we got here."
In school, Mendoza wasn't always the best student—he didn't have the grades to join electives like band practice. So he did the next best thing: rapping with his bros while making beats on lunch tables. Once, he got grounded for an entire year. That's actually how the whole Happy Colors project happened.
Not being able to leave his house for 12 months, Mendoza saved himself from going stir-crazy by teaching himself how to produce.
"I discovered electronic music because of Tiesto 'Ecstacy,' but then moombahton obviously came from Munchi." He says. "It was [Munchi's 2011 hit] 'Sandungueo.' That's my favorite song ever." Stumbling upon a fellow Dominican doing what he wanted to do felt like finding a brother. It gave him the confidence to make Happy Colors an outlet for blending his old idols with his new ones.
On tracks like "Mango Power," Mendoza loves choppping up songs he really liked when he was little, plus "vocals that nobody even remembers from the DR" by traditional artists like Tony Rosado and Ali Baba. But most of all, he loves the merengue superstar Tulile.
"I was like, 'When this nigga die, I'm gonna be the next him,'" Mendoza says. "If you hear his music, you will hear me in him. You will hear the same crazy shit. He's going fast as fuck. That's what really got me into Tulile."
Although he doesn't see his brand of merengue-trap becoming the next dance music fad, Mendoza couldn't really care less about being the next big tropical boy. Even with something as simple as moombahton, he thinks the only time people outside the culture really enjoy is when Dillon Francis or some other white guy drops it in their sets. In which case, he'd rather not chase what the big guys are doing.
"I just want to tell people to be them. Fuck all this hype and shit. You don't have to worry about making music just for people to like, or making a trap remix so you can get a whole bunch of plays. You might get plays and all that, but you're not going to be recognized."
He concludes with an adage that is just as much a statement of what Happy Colors is about, as it is a great piece of advice. "When you're you the whole time, you have your own empire, and you don't have to worry about shit."