February 10, 2009

DJ Debonaire

Written by Miami bass historian: PappaWheelie

Our generation began with Funk, which later coexisted in the clubs with Disco, but then a revolution happened in the streets. As the 80's dawned, the Hip-Hop movement inspired Rap records and after the advent of affordable Drum Computers, Electro was born! South Florida, along with NY and LA, was one of three breeding grounds for Electro. As the novelty of early Rap records and breakdancing wore off in 1985, South Florida gave birth to a new style of music: Miami Bass.

Debonaire first made a mark in 1986 when founder Claudio Barrella joined the Florida Record Pool and became managed as a club DJ by Bo Crane of the fledgling Pandisc Records. Pandisc had just signed the legendary Maggotron and they needed a DJ. Hiring Claudio for the role, Pandisc released "Welcome to the Planet of Bass" in 1987, which largely featured Claudio's groundbreaking work. He followed this when he and rapper Tricky D constructed the timely track "Get Silly with the Muppet Bass". Although it may seem dated to young bucks today, during the height of 80's Hip-Hop, this was considered a classic. It caught the attention of former members of the band The Florida Players, an act from the renowned TK label. They released the song on their new Coomack Records, which in turn sparked a vision.

Claudio began to idealize Debonaire not just as a stage name, but as one of the pillars of golden era Miami Bass. Setting up Debonaire Records in early 1988, he and Tricky D came back stronger with "Take it to the Max", and an EP for the group Rock & Fizz. However, the next record would make history as it introduced new programming techniques by Claudio, as well as introducing the world to the celebrated rapper Breezy Beat MC. The resulting single, "Shake the Joint", was and is considered one of the top classics of the Miami Bass genre, and caused a great deal of attention for Debonaire Records. The success could've easily ended there.

After working further with Tricky D, Debonaire signed more acts and released more singles to a very warm response, but his next project would prove Debonaire to be a giant in the field. After Dynamix II left Bass Station Records and underwent a change in personnel in 1988, Claudio and founding Dynamix member Scratch-D joined forces and together in 1989 produced the classics "Bass Generator" and "Ignition", which remain among the cornerstones of Electro Bass globally.

One of the great mysteries surrounding Claudio since the early days of Debonaire Records is who or what is behind the record "Sonic Boom". The track was briefly released in the 90's under the group name Omega II and it connected Dynamix II, Breezy Beat MC, DXJ of Maggotron, and Claudio. This record was illegitimately released on Claudio's Showroom Records, a relative label to Debonaire Records, and became a global cult classic selling for hundreds of dollars worldwide through auctions, beyond anything known in the U.S. Since then, a mysterious Electro act has taken it upon themselves to make their version of the song, which confused the buying public. As a result, Debonaire was found to be in the center of one of the biggest controversies in Electro history, which is a testament to the strength of the production.

Since then, both Dynamix II and Breezy Beat MC have gone on to earn their status as titans in the trade while Claudio has continued forward in his own right. When the burgeoning new beat Techno sub-genre first was imported into Florida in the early 90s, Claudio spearheaded a project well before it morphed into the now known "Florida Breaks" scene. As the car audio Bass cottage-industry blossomed into a national phenomenon, Claudio fronted many projects successfully in that vein also. All of these ventures certainly proved to be forward thinking and thriving, but letting a legend become forgotten is to no one's advantage. As the golden era Miami Bass revival began picking up steam in the 2000's, Debonaire Records was one of the first two record labels to return to the scene that birthed it.


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