For DJs—and other music nerds—music is a never-ending quest for the Holy Grail. No matter how large our music collections grow, there's always the nagging sensation that the quintessential track, the musical unifying theory, is just around the corner. So we keep digging, caught up in a quixotic adventure for completion. DJ Sujinho's quest has taken him from the clubs of New York to the favelas of Brazil, whose baile funk brings him closer to his own nirvana.
For Sujinho (born Kienyo Timothy Coleman), baile funk is the latest stop in a musical hunt started over 15 years ago. After over a decade of producing, DJing, and playing bass guitar, Sujinho was turned onto baile funk by his friend and later tag-team partner Cassiano, whose brother would come home to New York with mixtapes from São Paolo, Brazil, and share them with the pair. They latched on to the sound, releasing mixtapes and promoting parties as Nossa. Soon, the duo adopted the role of musical ambassadors for baile funk, helping to bring the urban music north of the equator.
"It's ugly, scary, fast, and super fun all at once," Sujinho says in a hurried phone conversation. "No one knows what it is, so you can express yourself completely."
Brazil's sprawling shantytowns house the poorest residents, split into territories by various violent drug gangs. Since the 1980s, the bailes (literally "balls," as in dance parties) have drawn thousands, dancing first to imported American music, and later funk, the hybrid of electro and Miami bass that congealed into its own form of hypersexualized booty music, inspiring marathons of sweaty, near-pornographic dancing. It's only in the last few years that this "baile funk" has made its way out of Brazil and into the crates of American DJs.
Combining baile funk with American dance music, Sujinho amplifies its mongrel nature, stretching the boundaries of what people expect from the music. He's willing to complement his Brazilian selections with hiphop, Baltimore club, and ghettotech in a process he describes as "culture smashing." The result maintains the baile vibe and enhances it with American flavor, turning baile funk into baile crunk. Sujinho fully embraces that freedom, and it shows in his own output. "It's a little New York, a little São Paolo," he says. "It's just that urban electronic sound."
After spending the last two years largely in the NYC club scene, Sujinho plans to spend much of the next year on tour across the U.S. and abroad. More than just an occasion for partying, travel is, he believes, an opportunity to find new collaborators and new sounds to plunder. His latest output, an edit of Mike Jones's "My 64," leaves most traces the baile funk behind, adopting a more Baltimore club vibe. The departure is just a natural progression.
"My influences have started pushing my sound light years ahead," Sujinho says. "Once you start to label it too much that starts to dominate the sound and that fucks up the music. I'm just looking for the perfect sound."
DJ Sujinho plays Nectar Lounge (412 N 36th St) on Sat Sept 1, 9 pm–2 am, $7, 21+. KRNL PANIC (aka Rama) and Recess open.