Introducing: MochakkDecember 21, 2022
To say that 2022 was a big year for Mochakk is an understatement. As a DJ, producer and certified music nerd, he experienced a lot of big moments and firsts. He met and worked with some of his musical heroes, including Pete Tong, Seth Troxler, and The Martinez Brothers, dropped big tunes on legendary dance labels like Nervous, topped Beatport charts, built a massive global audience, and played big clubs and festivals worldwide. It’s barely been a year that he’s been building an audience outside of Brazil, launched by a viral TikTok video — his first! — of his energetic dance moves behind the decks. Really, he’s just getting started.
“I think the timing of the releases was really good. It all just seemed to get into place at the same time, the social media stuff, then the releases, like the one on Nervous—which is a label that’s older than me. And the “Rizzla” remix for The Martinez Brothers, who I really look up to as artists. That sequence was so, so good. And then the gigs and everything, it just aligned to be the craziest season imaginable—it was super sick,” he reflects.
Calling in from his apartment in São Paulo, the 23-year-old Brazilian DJ/producer born Pedro Maia in Sorocaba, São Paulo, dives deep into his big year, his diverse taste in music, mentorship and his desire to share those experiences with an ever-growing global audience.
Growing up, Maia experienced a musically rich upbringing, getting into funk and disco from his Mom, and rock from his Dad. At 12 or 13, he had already started producing hip-hop beats, and he began DJing locally at 15. Once he started releasing music, he got booked to play around Brazil—an essential experience in developing his skill and comfort levels behind the decks. He believes that if he hadn’t had those years building things at home, he may not have been ready to hit the ground running for a global takeover after his viral moment.
“Sombrero Sam,” the A-side of his most recent release, the first on his MOTRAXX imprint, has gotten a ton of big-name support, including Pete Tong recently naming it his Essential New Tune, and Marco Carola and Michael Bibi playing it during a celebrated B2B. Thus, it’s sitting at No. 1 on the Beatport Deep House chart.
“Sombrero Sam” being an Essential Tune is really unbelievable,” Maia muses. “It’s crazy!” He explains that the BBC Radio 1 tastemaker paid him a visit in Brazil, so he showed him some of tunes he’d been working on, including that one, which he dug right away. He’d made the track, and many of his other 2022 releases, during the lockdown when there were no dancefloors to test them out on, so he sees the play they’ve gotten from other DJs as proof that they’re resonating.
“It’s a huge payback and a huge motivator… that they’re getting support from people that really understand the music. It’s super gratifying,” Maia reflects. Later in the conversation, when asked if there was a moment when he felt like he’d made it, he says he’s not there yet, but the support he’s had this year has really made him feel that he’s on the right path to get there.
“Sombrero Sam” pays homage to and samples the 1973 Kool & The Gang deep cut of the same name (originally recorded and written by Charles Lloyd) from Kool Jazz — one of Maia’s favorite albums. He says that he really wanted to honor the track with a “minimalistic” reimagining, chopping it up after slowing it down half-time, adding some drum patterns to dance with those killer horns.
The B-side, “Respirando” serves up a taste of classic New York hip-hop via a classy Black Star sample; 1998’s “Respiration” featuring Common, to be precise. The VIP Mix sits at No. 6 on the Beatport House chart. Funk and hip-hop are his favorite genres, and also the music he listens to the most, so bringing them and other sounds to the rave and to a wider audience are super-important to him. Hip-hop is what got him into producing in the first place, so it will always be a part of his expansive musical DNA.
“I try to do those edits so I can make people know those tunes. I got a lot of feedback from people, especially from the U.S., talking about “Respirando,” like ‘Yo, you brought back that sample, I love that tune from back in the day.’ And here in Brazil, not many people know the original one,” Maia explains. “I’d been trying to make a version that allows me to play that tune in the middle of my set.”
He supports sample culture and believes it’s an important functional and creative tool of music; without sampling, we wouldn’t have hip-hop or Brazilian funk. He also points to the example of Brazilian musician Arthur Verocai, who was an active session musician and composer in the ’60s and ’70s, but whose attempt at launching a solo career didn’t take off with his 1972 self-titled debut album. After being sampled by hip-hop acts like MF Doom and Ludacris in the ’00s and ’10s, the album soon became a cult classic in the U.S. and U.K. He then relaunched his career working with the next generations of artists across genres. For Maia, the possibilities of making, listening to and DJing music are limitless and boundless, and the more sounds people vibe with, the better.
He hopes that the people who come to his shows and hear his eclectic sampling of tunes go home to search for them, expanding their musical world. “The job of the DJ should be surprising and showing you stuff, curating and [showcasing] music to people. Back in the day, a DJ was booked because he was bringing something interesting and different to the people that were going to that club. I want to keep that purpose forever because that’s what got me into it. The people that show me [new] music are the ones I like the most in music, that’s what I value a lot [in a DJ].”
Since making his Ibiza debut at DC-10, Maia has gotten to spend quality time with fellow Circoloco DJ Seth Troxler, another mentor he deeply admires and appreciates. They played a handful of parties together on the island, and now Troxler is his go-to guide for where to get the best food anywhere.
“Because I’m really young, I never got the opportunity to go to Ibiza, so my first time was this year. Already being able to play at such a legendary club like DC-10 was completely insane. The lineups I shared during the season with a lot of my idols, like Seth, and becoming friends with a bunch of those people—eating pizza with Seth in Italy was something that wouldn’t have gone through my mind a year ago,” Maia muses gratefully.
The Martinez Brothers also offered advice and support this year, resulting in a Mochakk remix of their track “Rizzla” with Rema and Gordo. Chris Lake has been a big supporter of his as well, releasing the first 2022 Mochakk track, “False Need,” on Black Book Records in April, and offering loads of career, music and life advice.
Maia doesn’t take any of the mentorship for granted. “This is the culture. We must keep it going by giving advice and sharing information with the newer generations to come. That’s going to be my spot in the future, hopefully. So having that [mentorship] will also inspire me to do the same thing with the next generation,” he says.
While his on-stage charisma projects and exudes confidence, he was understandably nervous for that first DC-10 gig, acutely aware of their stellar booking. Once he got into the groove, he discovered one of his favorite crowds to play for, and was thrilled to get to return to the storied decks several times during the season. “The crowd is really educated in different, sometimes more obscure genres and you can play stuff that you wouldn’t normally play in a lot of other spots. The crowd understands it and cheers for it.”
When asked about his favorite place to play, so far, Barcelona is his top city, and Italy is his favorite country, with every set there erupting in football arena chants. One of the best crowd reactions he’s ever gotten was at Brunch-In Barcelona, another stacked Spanish party series he was booked for this year. In the Brunch video, seemingly every hand in the crowd is waving in the air, some holding Brazilian flags, as Maia wriggles about to lyrics, rolling an imaginary joint as the rain tarp flaps over the decks.
“We uploaded a video for the “Rizzla” remix from that party, and almost the whole set, the vibe was like that. It felt like a psytrance rave from Brazil where people would jump in the mud. It started raining in the middle of the set and I was worried people would get kind of bummed out by the rain and maybe be a little less responsive. It was exactly the opposite, it sort of turned into mayhem and chaos,” he shares with a smile.
This energy and excitement he brings to the decks is received with joy and sent right back to him. The comments on his TikTok and YouTube videos celebrate the joy and dance moves he brings to his sets and imparts on listeners, along with demands to come play in commenter’s cities. While he says there was hate thrown at him (some people are threatened by others’ joy), the support drowns it out. And just as that first TikTok video gave him a global audience almost overnight, there’s clearly a deep love for what he’s doing and the fresh energy he’s bringing to the scene, and all the new fans he’s bringing into it.
“After the social media boom, I got exposed to a really big audience, which is gonna expose you as well to those different points of view. For example, you mentioned the spaces where the reason [why dance music] culture began is kind of lost. I’m going to be in those spaces, and to be able to bring those types of messages there is a really important position to be in. That’s something that’s always on my mind, on bringing those conversations and different types of music in,” Maia explains.
He also posits that if people only listen to one type of music and aren’t open to hearing others, it’s because they’re polarized. Just as it can happen with ideas, it can happen with music as well, and he believes that the more you open people’s minds musically, the more open-minded they’ll be overall. So it’s important to him to bring a message in the music, and carefully balance the dissemination of joy and escape with sparking impactful ideas and conversations. One of the reasons he loves hip-hop is for its keen ability to speak to pressing social issues. He has an unreleased track sampling an excerpt from Leonardo DiCaprio’s United Nations speech on climate change.
“A lot of the time, dance music and clubs and festivals are a getaway from the aches of the world, a moment for you to break free from everything, but it’s also important to bring that talk, because we have a lot of political divergence in the world, a divergence of ideas. And we know that some ideas are really dangerous for society. Bringing [a message] to a party where there are people from different perspectives, maybe that sparks an idea in their minds and makes them reflect upon their own ideas and shapes their thoughts about society and creating a better world. I think it’s really important to bring that into music.”
He has trouble describing his sound because he doesn’t want to box himself or be one thing; he wants to be as expansive and limitless as the music he loves. His range is real, and enticing. There’s no way you can really predict what you’ll hear in a Mochakk set. His 21st birthday set from two years ago is a smooth and vibey blend of classic, chilled house and R&B, while this year’s birthday set is a bouncing, high-energy six hours of hip-hop, Brazilian funk, Mochakk tunes and more, from El Paso’s Lost & Found. “I don’t like to label stuff because it brings a limitation,” he says astutely. “It’s about me experimenting and trying to do stuff I like listening to, trying to mix stuff that I like together, trusting that maybe the idea that I had of mixing house and hip-hop, for example, is cool. In my mind, it sounds cool in my ears, so I’ll do it. And if it’s cool to somebody else as well, that’s amazing.”
MOTRAXX, which he launched this month with “Sombrero Sam” and “Respirando,” is, simply put, a vehicle for more music with no limits. He also hopes to host MOTRAXX parties and talks, and release videos and more on it. He emphasizes that it is a pop-up imprint, offering it for a limited amount of time to not get weighed down by expectations. It’s independent curation without limits. The second MOTRAXX EP will be out this coming February, and you’ll have to stay tuned for what else he cooks up for it.
Maia’s biggest dreams he hopes to achieve in the next year are straightforward, to continue in the bold direction he’s been going. He wants to keep growing as an artist and to see the results of his hard work, including that people are more open to more music. “Also [I want] to be able to create a platform with not only MOTRAXX, but to create more opportunities and platforms to vehicle other artists and music and other types of art and stuff that I think is cool and relevant.”
Even as he exponentially rises and gets to play to bigger crowds and in cities far from home, he doesn’t forget his roots. Brazil is where he was born and raised, where his love for music blossomed at a young age, and where he first began to tour and grow a devout audience. Fittingly, he’ll be starting out the first two months of 2023 with shows mostly in Brazil. Afterward, it’s back to touring the world, including countries he’s never been to, along with cities in Latin America, Europe and Asia that he hasn’t ventured to yet. (All those fans waiting for Mochakk to come and groove in their locales may be in luck.)
There are “some really big and cool festivals” on the agenda. He’ll also have new music to sprinkle into his sets and release on the right labels throughout the year, including some big remixes and collabs with big names, and more releases on iconic labels. As he aptly closes out: “Everybody should stay tuned for real because there’s a lot of good stuff coming.”
Ana Monroy Yglesias is a freelance music journalist based out of Los Angeles. Find her on Twitter.