The South Florida rap scene has been going pretty hard lately, but if you're looking for a breath of fresh air, we've got your back. Fort Lauderdale DJ/producer Nick León has teamed up with Kendall's sultry R&B production duo the Loft on a new track, "Glass Walls," that will have fans of underground and future R&B sounds like those of the Weeknd refreshing their SoundCloud feeds for more.
If alternative beats are your thing, you might already know about León. The local DJ/producer can be found providing the party tunes late nights at popular Miami hangout the Electric Pickle, sitting on a producers' panel at Dope Entertainment's hot new Tampa festival TAKEOFFxLANDING, and helping keep the vibe classy at the popular networking night the Void at Miami's LMNT. But if his recent collabo with the Loft is any indication, León's production skills might finally be taking center stage.
"I started making music at 12 years old with Fruity Loops and playing the guitar and piano around the same time," he says of his music background. "I was self-taught at first but went to school for engineering for a year after high school." And that's when the magic started happening. By age 22, León's production talents had brought him to the doorsteps of Miami and Fort Lauderdale's underground rap greats, like Robb Bank$, Denzel Curry, and the Underachievers.
While he's no doubt enjoyed the success that's come from a heavy focus on his rap productions, recently León has noticed other areas of the local scene lacking. "I'm a big supporter of the Florida rap scene, but there are way too many people just rapping, for sure," he explains. "There is a huge lack of anything else. I'm definitely looking for more singers and all-around pop artists — but ones who like to experiment, not that typical cheesy R&B that's on the radio."
So he decided to switch things up. "My friend [local music videographer and director] Fxrbes actually put me onto the Loft a year ago," León says. "I checked them out and became a fan. We started working together after I reached out and sent some music." It took awhile for the three to work together, as the Loft was still wrapping up its Brickell project and León had been busy with production work of his own. But when the time was right, "Glass Walls" came to the surface.
The Loft consists of singer/producer duo Cristian Gomez, age 23, and Jose Machin, age 24, both based in Kendall. They're self-taught and started making music at a young age, but Gomez and Machin didn't begin their journey as the Loft together. "We were in the same band in our late high school years, but it broke up," Gomez says. "After, I jumped around a lot, looking for musicians to work with. I still wanted to be in a band, but nothing stuck, and Jose was already producing his own music at that time. We were best friends, so we spent a lot of time together. We wrote one song together and began experimenting. It was easy, comfortable, and we were into the same music. We knew what we wanted to do."
And they're doing it. With Gomez on lyric and vocal duties and Machin taking production credits, the Loft's first EP, Anxxxious, did almost 40,000 plays last year and was followed by its latest project, Brickell, which is just three tracks in length. Miami begged for more, and adding León to the mix became the most obvious answer. "I never intended to branch out and work with producers until these incredible artists began reaching out," explains Gomez. "I wasn't all too familiar with Nick at first until he sent me one beat, and that's when I knew he was someone I wanted to collaborate with. He's one of my favorite beatsmiths in the city."
"Glass Walls," their first of many collaborations (currently available as a free download on SoundCloud), features lyrics that dig deep into those emotions you're afraid to talk about out loud, the kind of boldly heartfelt stuff that comes only from true experience. Ultimately, he says, "It's about telling someone, 'I know we'd be great together, and that's why it scares me.'"
Their late-night sound definitely has an edge of mystery, but the easiest way to describe it is as "alternative R&B vocals with an electronic beat," says Gomez. Together, León, Gomez, and Machin plan to keep putting out new material and helping inject more experimental, underground R&B flavors into our already vibrant local rap and hip-hop scenes. Apart from "Glass Walls," Gomez says he's also working on a novel to accompany the music as well as "a couple of visuals" and other local collaborations.
"It's mutual at this point as far as where it's heading," says Gomez of the Loft's future plans with León. "Nick and I usually perform at the same events. Although it won't be a big ordeal, we will probably perform 'Glass Walls' live sometime soon, and I might just incorporate it into my live set as well."