Scott Summers is hanging out at La Calle Tacos downtown, staring at a wall of luchador masks and talking about his own collection, all 500 of them. “I go to Mexico City at least a couple times a year to see the matches,” he explains. “I walk up right after the match is over and offer to buy them.”
The man is nothing if not persistent. Born David Macias and originally from Monterey, Mexico, Summers is the grandson of a salsa musician. His family immigrated to Houston when he was 3, moving to the near northwest side. His father worked at a machine shop; his mother was a stay-at-home mom. When Summers was a teenager, a friend gave him some music software and he started mixing songs, eventually pursuing a career as a DJ and producer, struggling his way through the city’s clubs.
Now Summers is 30, and it’s fair to say he’s made it: He is the co-producer, with the duo known as Play-n-Skillz, of Daddy Yankee’s “Con Calma,” at this moment the biggest Latin song in the world. “My father and I were talking about it recently,” he tells Houstonia. “He said, ‘It’s amazing where you’re at now considering how we started. We never imagined this is what it would turn into.’”
As of March, “Con Calma,” a reggaetón jam featuring samples of 1993 hip-hop classic “Informer” by Canadian rapper Snow, has reached number three on the Billboard Latin charts and number one on the Billboard Latin Airplay charts. The video has rung up hundreds of millions of views, ranking number one for three weeks on the YouTube global music chart.
Both the hat and the Hakeem Olajuwon T-shirt Summers is wearing at La Calle are emblazoned with the phrase “Obedient 2 Da Hustle,” the name of his clothing line and the mantra he has lived since his days trying to break into the Houston club scene. “I would take whatever the hottest song was at the time and make a clubbier version of it,” Summers says, describing his first attempts to get his remixes played by local DJs. “Sometimes they’d play it; sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d be cool; sometimes they wouldn’t.”
By age 21 Summers was DJing in bars around Houston, eventually landing a residency at the now-defunct Escobar. “It started with one night,” he remembers. “One night turned into two and three and four.”
It was at those early gigs, Summers explains, that he learned how to find the level of the room. “That was shaping me into having an ear for what makes people move,” he says. “Not everything works at a club.”
In 2013, through MySpace, he caught the ear of Dallas-based brothers Juan and Oscar Salinas, known professionally as Play-n-Skillz. The pair had already won acclaim for their work with Chamillionaire, Lil Wayne, and David Guetta, among others. It wasn’t long before Summers was producing songs with them.
“I knew this was something real when I first started traveling overseas,” Summers says, recalling his time spent on the road working with acts including Red Foo from LMFAO. Soon he found himself in the studio with will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. “I was sitting down and Will was right over my shoulder saying, ‘Yo, man, let’s try this. Move that over here,’” Summers says. “This is one of my idols telling me what to do.”
Summers wasn’t shocked when “Con Calma” exploded. Many in the industry have felt the wave of Latin influence coming to pop music. And yes, he credits “Despacito” for opening doors in the U.S. “Now you see major American pop artists reaching out to superstars in the Latin world,” he says. “I think it’s a great time in music, because everyone is willing to collaborate with people they wouldn’t normally collaborate with.”
These days Summers is constantly working on new material. “We have about 20 in the pipeline that are just as impactful as ‘Con Calma,’” he says. “I’m never home for seven days in a row. I can’t remember the last time.” Still, Houston remains home. His family is here, and he loves it. “Houston is a welcoming city to people from all aspects of life.”
As the conversation wraps up, a video pops up on the screen at La Calle. It’s “Con Calma.” Summers can’t help but smile. “We literally have the number one Latin record in the world,” he says, almost in disbelief. “It’s everywhere.”