Jillionaire on the Rise of Tropical Bass, Playing Outside Lands, and His Favorite Ice Cream in S.F.
Having grown up on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, DJ/producer Jillionaire made a name for himself by showcasing his Caribbean roots with soca beats and dancehall mixes. He began his career 16 years ago on Trinidad's reggae soundsystem Radioactive Nuclear as a host and music selector. After capturing the attention of M.I.A. and Switch while they were on a visit to Trinidad, Jillionaire was invited to produce for Major Lazer and Mad Decent, and has since spent his time conquering the rest of the world opening for duo Major Lazer on their international tour: Playing London's Notting Hill Carnival, curating the first ever tropical bass party at Winter Music Conference, and, most recently, launching his own label, Feel Up Recordings. We recently spoke with Jillionaire about how growing up on the islands influenced his style, playing Outside Lands with Major Lazer last year, and his favorite place to eat ice cream in San Francisco. He opens for Munchi this Friday at Public Works along with local DJs Theory, BootyKlap, Ear Jerker, and more.
When did you get into the production side of your career?
I've done a bunch of remixes, edits, and mashups, but I've only just recently started working on my own original productions. Growing up, I was always surrounded by music, and my parents had their little record collection, but I started DJing once I was out of high school, spending all my money on records.
How does hailing from Trinidad and Tobago influence your music?
In Trinidad, people spend six months out of the year (or more) preparing for the annual Carnival street parade -- parties, concerts, and festivals are a big part of life on the island. You can hardly drive down a main street without hearing vendors blaring the latest soca or dancehall tracks. I try to incorporate the Caribbean sound of dancehall and soca into the big bass, four-on-the-floor sound that's popular in clubs today.
What does being a Jillionaire mean?
I've never really had to think about what being a Jillionaire means. It started off as an inside joke and people usually come to their own conclusions. I think right now it means using my resources, connections, and profile to help new and upcoming artists in whatever way possible.
How did you manage to get affiliated with the Mad Decent label?
I linked with Diplo about four or five years ago I think, when he and Switch first started working on the Major Lazer album. They'd sent me some tracks to get demo'd by a bunch of local Trini artists. None of the songs we did made the album, but we kept in touch, and then once the album was ready to go, I went out to Jamaica with them and we did a release party down there.
What was it like performing with Major Lazer at Outside Lands in S.F. this summer?
Last year we traveled the world together, but the highlight was definitely Outside Lands in San Francisco. I figured we would've gotten two or three thousand people to come out to our show, but when I got up on stage I could see thousands and thousands of people, stretching away as far as the eye could see, all ready to party with us.