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Salva Mixes Up Dance Music and Hip-Hop, Gets Famous

Salva Mixes Up Dance Music and Hip-Hop, Gets Famous
Andy Scott

[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]

You only need one song to blow up, and sometimes it doesn't even need to be originally yours. Salva learned this in June when the electronic producer collaborated with RL Grime to remix Kanye West's "Mercy." With no premeditated plan or press campaign, the pair threw it up on Salva's Soundcloud page and, almost overnight, a remix done on a whim had turned them into rising stars.

"I'd heard that Kanye liked my remix from [RL Grime's] EP so I said we should remix 'Mercy' and send it to Kanye," Salva says at a friend's house in Beachwood Canyon, shortly before playing the King King, the first stop on a 10-city North American tour. "We really just did it to say 'What's up' to Kanye. We bounced it back and forth, put it up, and it went viral."

The remix elicited critical raves and almost immediately jumped the fence of the online hype machine. It earned spins on Power 106 and Shade 45XM. With this summer's rise of trap beats, Salva and Grime's "Mercy" remix became a seminal dance-floor anthem in the electronic music world. It detonated in DJ sets from Diplo, A-Trak, Just Blaze and dubstep pioneers Skream and Benga.

"Aside from the original, there weren't any real influences. We made it before trap took off. It was actually probably closest to hard dubstep," Salva says, rocking a buzzed fade haircut, red flannel, black jeans, brown boots and an earring. "Almost anything good is done by accident."

If anything, the trap producers caught up with what Salva's been doing for several years: fusing the house and juke music of his native Chicago with phosphorescent boogie funk, filthy 2007-08 dubstep, and the brick-bat and bottle-popping foundation of both underground and Top 40 rap. The latter influences explain why the rap world overwhelmingly embraced the remix. Salva was invited to do an exclusive Friday night jump-off mix on Power 106 (a second edition is forthcoming), while Pusha-T rhymed over the "Mercy" remix at a recent Red Bull Music Academy soundclash in LA.

Things have come full circle for the 31-year-old born Paul Salva. He grew up in a Chicago run by rappers Twista and Crucial Conflict. He began DJing, making beats and rapping as a teenager. After graduating from high school, he moved to Miami, Milwaukee and then San Francisco. There were labels and groups that came and went. He worked in record stores and experimented with almost every hip-hop and electronic style you can imagine.

His career blossomed after he arrived in L.A. in early 2011. The move dovetailed with the release of Complex Housing on the similarly nascent Friends of Friends. "Mercy" was merely the tipping point. Before its release, Salva had earned a rep in underground circles as one of the best producers and party-rocking DJs in L.A., while his own label, Frite Nite, is regarded as one of the finest in funk-inflected bass music.

This resume led the British Broadcasting Corporation to offer a prestigious gig as one of the four DJs on BBC1's In New DJs We Trust.

His Odd Furniture EP, slated for release next month on Friends of Friends, blends rap and dance music in a way matched by only a few of his peers.

"It was only last year when I realized that I'm a hip-hop DJ and producer who likes dance music, not the other way around," Salva says. "I want to help draw more rap fans into dance music and vice versa. But that won't be hard because it seems to be happening right now, with or without me."

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