Drums, DJ Dez, and The D: 10 Things You Need to Know About Andrés
- Words: Walter Wasacz
- Photo: Dante Meters
In a field often known as much for ambiguous identities as it is for music, Detroit's Andrés—or is it Dez Andrés, DJ Dez, or something else?—stands out as a master of both. Regardless of what moniker is being used, there's little question that Andrés' star has been ascending over the past few years, which piqued our curiosity about exactly how this Motor City artist found his way into the spotlight. In an effort to find out more, we went digging for information and put together a list of 10 things everyone should know about this versatile DJ/producer.
Andrés is from Detroit.
Born Humberto Andrés Hernandez in January 1975, he lived on the city's west side and got his first set of drums at the age of three.
Andrés father is a Cuban percussionist.
This is why Andrés received those drums at such an early age. His father, Humberto Nengue Hernandez, was born in Cuba, moved to Detroit during the Motown era, and has performed at a high level for 40 years. (Andrés grandfather was Cuban vocalist Andrés Hernandez, who introduced Nengue to the congas at the age of five.) Following his arrival in Detroit, Nengue was exposed to soul, R&B, and jazz, and eventually landed primetime gigs with Dizzy Gillespie, local trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave, and the Roy Brooks Jazz Ensemble.
Andrés' family moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s.
The relocation proved fruitful for both father and son. Nengue began to circle back to his Latin musical roots, hooking up with players in the West Coast Afro-Cuban and salsa scenes—in 1988, he played a drummer in the film Salsa—then later found his way onto tours and sessions with Mickey Hart and Carlos Santana. Meanwhile, Andrés was getting turned on to vinyl via hip-hop, and began scratching in 1989 at age 14.
Following the stint in LA, Andrés wound up back in Detroit.
In the middle of his teen years, Andrés' family moved back to Michigan. He eventually began working at Buy-Rite, the perfect environment for timely exposure to house and early techno records. One of his co-workers was Kenny Dixon Jr., who was also the son of a prominent Detroit jazz musician and would eventually become known around the world as Moodymann.
"Trues" was Andres' first release.
Recording as Andrés, Hernandez released "Trues" via Dixon's KDJ imprint (a companion label to the better-known Mahogani Music) in 1997. Over time, he put out seven recordings on KDJ, but he kept such a low profile in the Detroit dance music community—which is famously secretive and filled with anonymity and white-label releases—that for years, people thought Andrés and Dixon Jr. were one and the same.
Hernandez didn't limit himself to house music.
At some point in the late '90s, Andrés' hip-hop moniker, DJ Dez, began to appear. The northeast side of Detroit was where the action was—in particular, the basement studio of Amp Fiddler, who was working with some younger musicians, producers, and rappers in the Conant Gardens neighborhood. That is where Andrés met J Dilla and other members of Slum Village, eventually becoming the group's DJ.
Hernandez was open to collaboration.
In the late '90s, DJ Dez also joined the 12 Tech Mob, a group consisting of DJ Len Swann, DJ Motion, DJ Digital, DJ 2 Smooth, DJ Daddy Riff, and DJ Shotgun. His first contribution was for a ghettotech/booty mix CD called Bounce Dat Azz 2. As Andrés, he was also part of a Theo Parrish-led collective called The Rotating Assembly, which included Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite, Duminie DePorres, Pirahnahead, and vocalist Genevieve Marentette.
For a time, DJ Dez was loosely tied to Underground Resistance.
As DJ Dez, 2003 saw Hernandez releasing both an instrumental hip-hop full-length, Mass Destruction, and an EP, Da Arsenal, on Underground Resistance's Hipnotech sub-label. The following year, he released The Natural EP for the short-lived imprint.
Andrés releases remained steady, even after making the leap from KDJ imprint.
Since 2003, most Andrés releases—including three full-lengths—have come via Mahagoni Music, the most recent being the soulful Andrés III in 2011. The following year, he released a single-sided 12-inch, "Ribena," on Soul Jazz sub-label Sounds of the Universe. He also launched his own imprint, La Vida, that year, issuing the "New for U" and "Second Time Around" 12"s. The title track of the former was widely hailed as one of 2012's best songs.
There are a lot more than 10 interesting things to know about Andrés.
Hernandez's life is full of miscellaneous factoids. He played drums in a Black Milk video, and has contributed to multiple albums from the Motor City MC. Using the alias A Drummer from Detroit, Hernandez released a three-track EP, Drums #1, on Detroit's FIT label in 2011. He's a graduate of Detroit's Mumford High School; other notable alums include Hollywood movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer, jazz guitarist Earl Klugh, Motown songwriter Roger Penzabene (who penned The Temptations' "I Wish it Would Rain") and Alex O. Smith, better known as Omar-S.
Special thanks to Aaron Siegel of FIT and Iron and Metal Publishing for his help in creating this article.
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