Buddy Movie Pitch: A member of the Peligrosa DJ crew teams up with the son of the King of Cumbia (and the nephew of Selena) to make chopped and screwed Latin music in Houston. What could go wrong? (IRL, everything about this is so very right.)
Words and interview by Isabela Raygoza
Let it be known, Royal Highness are heirs to the Texan electro cumbia sound. King Louie (Luis Espada), a 29-year-old veteran with over a decade in the DJ scene, comes from one of the most indisputably renowned Latin DJ collectives out there, Austin’s Peligrosa. Príncipe Cu (AKA S’vani Quintanilla), a 21-year-old up-and-comer, is the offspring of Texas’ King of Cumbia himself, A.B. Quintanilla – he’s also the nephew of the late Queen of Tejano, Selena. Put them together and you would expect an unstoppable cumbiero juggernaut. That’s exactly what we’re getting with the aptly titled duo.
The DJ/producer two-piece have created a uniquely Texan mashup: Houston’s ’90s chopped and screwed hip-hop beats with cumbia. They’ve dubbed the hybrid beast “screwmbia,” which is also the title of their debut EP, released last year. As groundbreaking as it sounds, King Louie and Príncipe Cu are more like modern music anthropologists who dig up classic renditions of cumbia songs and skillfully mix them with trap, world bass, and even kuduro to a slow, heavy and syrupy feel. It’s a sound as big as the Lone Star State and we’re definitely hooked.
We took a moment to get to know the men behind this duo. They told us about the evolution of screwmbia, blacking out after their first gig together, and a bit about the legendary Selena.
Hey guys. What are you currently listening to on your iPods?
Príncipe Cu: Let’s see. Right now, the beats on Action Bronson’s Rare Chandeliers (2012) are speaking to me, and the new album by Toro y Moi, Anything In Return (2013), is fantastic.
King Louie: I like keeping my iPod on a variety like when I DJ. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Future, 3Ball MTY, Disclosure and a bit of Soda Stereo.
Your EP debut is appropriately titled Screwmbia (Screw + Cumbia). How did this idea of meshing chopped and screwed music with cumbia come about?
Príncipe Cu: Our roots are in Latin music, so cumbia was an obvious choice. We also love hip-hop music, so in some ways, we wanted to revive ’90s popular screwed music in an alternative way. The two genres were very easy to combine and we loved how the two sounded together. Shout out to Bombón’s DJ Bobby Trill on creating that term, “Screwmbia”!
Your music blends a lot of slow and fast tempos together, breakbeats, and genres which seem difficult to combine. Which track to date has been the most challenging to produce and why?
Príncipe Cu: Our writing and production up to this date has gone pretty smooth, but our first vocal collaboration with Zuzuka Poderosa on “PuroPari” [off our latest EP Sakala Mois] was a bit challenging.
King Louie: The idea of bringing another creative mind into the writing process just takes a little getting used to. Up until this point, the writing was just the two of us.
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
King Louie: I want to work with a lot of different producers, rappers, vocalists, such as Los Rakas, Paul Wall, and Sheeqo Beat to name a few.
Both your individual monikers and the duo’s name are quite regal. Can you tell us the story of how they came about?
Príncipe Cu: My dad [A.B. Quintanilla, creator of the Kumbia Kings] is the self-proclaimed King of Cumbia, so theoretically that would make me some kind of prince. I found Príncipe Cu, the Cu standing for cumbia, to be appropriate. It also literally translates to Prince Q in English.
King Louie: Honestly, I can’t quite remember how it came about, but I can say I’ve been DJ King Louie for the entire 12 years that I’ve been DJing.
King Louie, you come from Austin’s successful DJ collective, Peligrosa, and Príncipe Cu, you’re based in Corpus Christi with some training from Peligrosa member, El Dusty. How did these collaborations come about, especially being based in different cities?
King Louie: With DJ Dus (aka El Dusty) being a member of Peligrosa, I would find myself doing monthly gigs in Corpus, where he’s also based. I met S’vani through him. One night at one of those gigs, S’vani and I talked about putting together a project, and that’s how all of this came about.
Príncipe Cu: I met DJ Dus while he was working for a local radio station. Then he started dating my babysitter [laughs]. When I turned 17 he took me under his wing and started showing me the ropes.
S’vani, how does it feel to be the nephew of La Reina del Tejano, Selena, and how has your music, specifically, been influenced by her?
Príncipe Cu: It’s cool that someone finally asked about this. Sometimes it’s crazy thinking about how big of a deal she was. I know it’s gonna be tough to follow her legacy. I was really young when she passed, but I always enjoy hearing stories about her. My aunt and my dad are really the whole reason why I produce music. I’m here to carry on the [Quintanilla] name.
So far, what’s been the most outrageous experience since you two started gigging out together?
Príncipe Cu: I’d say it has to be our first show together in Corpus.
King Louie: We played at a rooftop of a club called Aria. I think it was like mid-December of last year. I remember waking up in my hotel’s parking lot. S’vani told me I had left the gig early. I recall no such memory. [Laughs]
Do you guys have any specific rituals to prepare you before playing a gig? Red Bull, codeine, vitamin packs?
King Louie: Well, let’s just say they don’t call us Royal Highness for nothing.