At first glance, there is no doubt that Jonathan Anabo, or as Oakland knows him, LIL’ THOW WOW, is the life of the party. As a DJ and event host, there’s truth to that. His dance parties aim to bring a one-of-a-kind experience to the audience by having a fun atmosphere and unique props. Take a look at his “Prom Rave” party series, where his props include photo-booths and palm tree & flamingo pool floaties to deliver a unique, memorable moment. LIL’ THOW WOW makes it clear that he is the type of person guaranteed to turn up any function.
However, his performances as a DJ and party host only touch the surface of who LIL’ THOW WOW really is. When uncovering the layers, you’ll find that Jonathan is a family man at heart, with DJing being only one of his many hustles. The other curiosity-driven efforts reside in the kitchen, barbershop, and in the studio where he is working to keep his Filipino culture and story alive. His next venture is in film, where he is currently planning to release a documentary. It’s clear that LIL’ THOW WOW is always searching for more, especially when it comes to staying true to the hustle.
Whether his endeavors be in music or in film, LIL’ THOW WOW always makes sure he gets everything done on his to-do list. LIL’ THOW WOW walks us through how to host parties, while shining a light on his roots as a Filipino DJ. He shares how he got his name and the story of how his grandpa pulled his grandma.
Your DJ Name, LIL’ THOW WOW, is pretty funny, tell us the origin behind it.
Ah man, I was with my boy, DJ Jack, and he was the one who showed me a lot about DJing early on. I remember we were in his room chillin’, and I was like man alright, “If I’m going to come to DJ with you at this party I need a poppin’ ass name. I need something that’s hella dope.” We were just going back and forth, and then it finally hit me: “ahh, LIL’ THOW WOW!” just cuz I thought, I wanted to pay homage to E-40 in a way, to let people know, “Oh look, I’m from the Bay.” It kinda has a Bay feel to it. I feel people can have a connection with it, off rip, just reading the name or hearing the name they connect it to E-40. It forever made myself a youthful character in the Bay.
How did you get into DJing?
I was always making music and would make beats all the time. I would get kinda frustrated because you would have to deal with different people to try to get your music out and I was really personal about my stuff. I would go to a lot of the homies’ events and stuff. My boy Jack and also Raphique had a weekly, every Monday, at Radio Bar. It was a whatever little dive bar, I asked if I could DJ a little bit and that’s how I got started. He showed me a couple of things, and from then on I was just cooked! People were dancing to the songs I was playing and then I just got obsessed with it. I loved making my own flyers for events. I loved inviting people and seeing people come out to support me. It’s a pure gift to see and have people dance. That was my whole thing.
Did you learn producing from YR Media? How did that come about?
I was already producing a little bit. When I came to YR Media in high school, I got more of a breakdown, mathematically and sonically, as far as what you can do with music and beats.
Do you Feel like DJing was more of a way to give back to your community and have more of a personal connection with music?
Yeah… and also to express myself. To have an outlet, and to just to create a fun environment for myself and the people around me
What makes you want to focus on the happiness?
Because of how the music industry is now and the type of music is being created. A lot of it is fun but the music that’s negative in some ways doesn’t feel appropriate. This is me trying to show people you can have fun doing something around music. Once I knew that my name was going to be LIL’ THOW WOW, I felt like people were gonna gravitate towards the energy I wanted to bring coming into the game. Who wants to be at a party that’s not smackin’?
How is it negative?
You know how people talk about guns or sipping lean, just very explicit lyrics, but is kinda a part of hip-hop. Look at Lil Pump, for example, he has such a large fanbase and he just can’t switch up and be a J. Cole all of a sudden. As an artist, you’re putting your intentions out there and people can already feel that from your name off tops. I try to be very cognizant of that. Kinda like the alchemist, it’s written, you kinda write your own page in the book and go with it.
You have a history of hosting parties, you’ve founded Prom Rave and you threw day parties at Eli’s Mile Club, so what got you into hosting rather than DJing.
It’s all one thing, it all goes hand in hand. To be a DJ you don’t have to be great technically. You just need to be all around. You gotta be an artist. You need to be a dope ass DJ, and you need to be a sick ass party promoter and a dope host. All of that goes hand in hand when creating your brand. When I approached my girlfriend to do Prom Rave, I was just putting ideas together for one cohesive experience. I was making flyers, collecting emails, emailing blogs, finding sponsors, then reaching out to get a photo booth. If I reached out to someone else to do that, then the party wouldn’t have happened or wouldn’t have turned out the way I wanted it. If you wanna be a DJ, go out and be a DJ, but you’re only gonna be limited to a few things. When you’re more original, more hungry, more creative, you can step out of those boundaries and create something new and exciting. That’s where my head is at, I want to be in control of the experience.
What’s a song that you know will get people turnt up no matter what?
It depends, it depends! If you’re a good DJ, you’ll know how to read your crowd. You can play a slappin’ r&b song but for some reason, it might be a sleeper and no one is going crazy. However, if you play it at the right party, in the right sequence, it might hit. As far as a song that always gets it poppin’ I’m playing an ALLBLACK song or whatever, that’s a LIL’ THOW WOW vibe. I’m going to fuck around and play ALLBLACK, or I’ll play some fire remixes and some r&b songs, then drop some Mike Sherm like, enjoy you’re welcome.
I want to put a spotlight on your monthly Filipino sets that you do.
Oh yeah, shout out to ET, he’s the guy that’s putting that together, he reached out to me. I guess he saw me do a lot of stuff with Chitae, another Filipino DJ collective.
How do you feel being able to give back to your community by putting on these DJ sets?
Aww man, it’s a great honor. Not only do they get to hear a set that I worked on, but I’m at home tripping myself out listening to the music that my grandfather, grandmother, mom, and dad grew up listening to. All the music I was pullin’ up was funky stuff: rock, indie, and hip-hop. It’s like Filipinos are super talented, we’re musical, and we revolve around a beat. We just don’t have that spotlight yet in America.
What were some of the artists that your grandma and grandpa showed you?
My grandpa was telling me this crazy story about how he pretty much pulled my grandma. My grandma used to work at a restaurant on the side of the road. The restaurant had a jukebox, but everyone over there was hella poor. My grandpa figured out how to hack the jukebox with a skinny stick and make it access the songs. He would make it seem like he was putting quarters in, but he was triggering to play music. He played this one love song all the time, “Habang May Buhay” by The Flippers. He would say that everyone would like him over there because he played music but no one knew he was rigging the jukebox. He was a DJ before all of us.
How do you feel about fellow other filipino DJs like SOSUPERSAM and Noodlez?
I think they’re great and I love that they are getting recognized for what they do. Some other DJs I rock with and look up to are Jugg Mac, Mister Jazzbooth, Salty Sherlon, Drewskee, Stag Palmer. These cats got the flavor. They inspired me with it all the time. They’re super professional and got their own things going on. We’re a team. We can come together. Lean on each other if need be. I think all the recognition Filipinos are getting, music wise, DJs or not is dope. Especially like with acts like P-LO and Another Parth Fam. It’s about time and way definitely overdue.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to those who wanna host parties and how do you do it? I know you mentioned making flyers, can you break down the process?
If you’re going to host a party, my only advice is to meditate on it. Have an intention behind your party. Don’t limit yourself and don’t let self-doubt get in your way. If it does well or does terribly, try to think of it as a learning experience and use that momentum to fuel your next party. The goal is to bring people together at your party or put a dope party together with people who are going to bring people out. Before the party, concentrate on collecting emails. That way you have a running list of people you can promote to in the future. Marketing your party is also important, so hire a photographer or videographer so you have content! If you’re hosting a party, and you want to have artists make an appearance or performance, make sure they sign a contract via email or via text. Having a record of the agreement, that contract can be, “Hey you gotta post this flyer three times” or “We need you to show up at 6 o’ clock.” Lastly, make sure you’re organized, personable, that you show up on time, and that you’re flexible.
What’s the other side of LIL’ THOW WOW that people don’t get to see when the party’s over and when it’s time to turn down?
Man, LIL’ THOW WOW is a foodie, dawg. Right after a gig, LIL’ THOW WOW wants to eat and relax. He is a people person you know. He’s willing to shed a layer of himself to have the people around him so he can get to know them better. After it’s all said and done, LIL’ THOW WOW knows the bills aren’t gonna pay themselves. I’m working til’ I’m living good. I swear to god, I gotta cut some hair after this, and that’s me. That’s the type of grind I bring. When the beat turns off, you gotta turn the grind up.
I feel like you’re definitely the epicenter of the culture. In a sense that every culture has its own food, every culture has its own things to have fun, music, and you’re definitely at the epicenter of it all.
I get to mix it with different things that I like. I’m not just throwing down on tables, I’m going down in the kitchen and I’m cutting in the barbershop. My next venture is getting into cinematography and telling my story on the big screen. I want people to hear and see my narrative through film. That’s my next goal in life. I don’t just wanna be known for being a DJ, or known for working at a Filipino restaurant. I want to take LIL’ THOW WOW, the brand, or myself, to new heights. I want to live off of my creative work and have multiple ventures.