El Chombo

Where in the World Is El Chombo? A Conversation With the Man Behind 'Dame Tu Cosita'

It just keeps going up the charts. El Chombo’s “Dame Tu Cosita” (Give Me Your Thingy) is at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart and at No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, thanks mostly to streaming. As previously reported, “Dame” was originally recorded by Panamenian DJ El Chombo (real name Rodney Sebastian Clarks Donald) back in 1998 as the intro to his album Cuentos De La Cripta Vol. II.

Back then, El Chombo was known for his dance/dembow hybrids, the early days of reggaeton. Two years ago, an animator from Madagascar, Artnoux, used the song as the soundtrack for a video of an animated little alien. It took off thanks to musical.ly challenges, leading French label Juston Records to contact El Chombo and order an expanded version of the track. The label also got the rights to Artnoux’s video and asked him to expand that as well. Earlier this year, Ultra jumped into the deal and licensed the track worldwide.

So, where has El Chombo been through all this? We caught up with him. and this is what he had to say.

You released “Dame Tu Cosita” in 1998 and haven’t released music since 2007. What have you been up to?

I’ve been a radio DJ all my life. I’m also a publicist and I have my own TV and radio studio. That’s what I’ve been doing. You can say I retired in 2007.

Urban music is all the rage now. What were you thinking back in 1998?

I believed in the concept. In fact, I wrote on the album [Cuentos de la Cripta, Vol. 2] art: “One of these days, this rhythm that’s just beginning will take over all the radio stations in the planet.” Everything is a cycle and everything comes around. It doesn’t surprise me that something that’s big today was done 10 years ago. It does surprise me that it’s gone this far. I never thought “Cosita,” which is so old, would come back. 

How did you find out it was becoming a viral hit?

People started tagging me. The first animation [by Madagascar animator Art Noux] was from 2015, but it was different. Nothing much happened. They tagged me with the second animation. I saw it the first time on my phone while I was driving. I liked it a lot and I reposted it. People started tagging me more and more, but truth is, a lot of videos had used songs of mine, like “El Gato Volador.” I thought it was just one more. 

At what point did you start charging for the use of the song?

Sony BMG had the licenses for all my songs. They eventually expired, and I started to get offers. I ended up working with Juston Records. The original “Dame Tu Cosita” was a 50-second intro to 1998’s Cuentos de la Cripta II. Then in 2002, I released Cuentos de la Cripta Remixes, and that’s the version I worked on now with Juston Recrods. The original animated video was only one minute long. We extended it, adding two new verses, and they did the choreography.

What are you going to do now?

The truth is, I wasn’t looking for a hit. I’ve been retired from the music business for years. The hit found me. I’m excited and more, because I like that it represents reggaeton. The genre is 20-something years old, and this is one of the early songs. I haven’t started working on new music. That’s a process, and I don’t want to ruin what’s happening right now. I have to wait, study the market and see how far this can go before I think of touring or anything else.

Give me your favorite "Dame Tu Cosita" anecdote.

People send me videos of their kids dancing to it and they call it a “new” song. New? It’s 20 years old! It’s older than you. But the animation gave it new life.

So what is the "cosita"?

I’ll leave that to your imagination.