Narco Corridos Uptown

Larry Hernandez at Club Luna in the Bronx last month.

This guy brought his narco corrido flavor to East Coast in late November. I heard this one, from a different group, on Saturday night filming some video footage in Washington Heights with Manny Wheels. It was for our updated digital media piece that I mentioned in a previous post.
We’re looking at narco corridos and their increased presence on the local Mexican off-the-radar dance circuit here in N.Y.

Not to give too much away right now, but the party ended before its expected 3:30 a.m. time, because some knuckleheads sprayed the front of the party location with bullets, hitting one kid in the leg. Someone got jumped and the response was to spray half a block with lead. No one else was hurt.
While a sonidero was playing (they rocked everything at that party from bachatta to ranchera to groupero to tropical), I saw a kid walk up to him and send some shouts to Sureño 13. I don’t know if it was him or his click who participated in the shooting. It really messed up a good night, though. I’m not trying to draw any real parallels between narco corridos and the shooting, although it’s possible gang bangers were at the party to hear some. The fact is that part of Uptown is really hot right now, hot in the sense of crime and gangs and drugs…the stuff of poor not-yet-fully-gentrified areas.

**UPDATE: I just got a call back from one of the security guards who works these types of events (allegedly, the Ecuadorian and Mexican public and private party circuit in N.Y. has a high demand for security).  He confirmed that a young guy was shot in the leg Saturday night, and said it stemmed from a beef between local Mexican gangs whose turf is divided along 155th St.

Los Traviesos were set tripping on a guy who rolls with Los Cholos. Neither had anything to do with the party (they like to wait outside for family, friends, rivals or girls I’m told. But maybe they were causing trouble because they couldn’t afford the $6 Modelos, or $5 waters that were being sold. Oops, I forgot to mention the ridiculous markup at this and many local events like this. I have to say I’m a little critical. Just because there’s a monopoly on these “authentic” spaces for Mexican regional music culture in N.Y., promoters don’t have to engañar la gente.

We were all set to check out the Grupo Illegales, which is an outfit that was supposed to play a song called “500 balazos”. Instead we got a hyper-authentic Norteño group called Conjunto Dinamico. Some cats from Chihuahua.
They opened their set with speedy Norteño jams before moving into the narco corridos, which really started to get the dance floor (gym floor!) packed.
Their youtube presence gives you an idea of how they get down:

Though they play a variety of music, they say the narco corridos are a must to please the crowd. Even though this is mostly music that tells stories of drug cartel life, it’s been a boon to the career of newer singers such as Larry Hernandez from Culiacan. One of his earliest albums was explicitly called “16 Narco Corridos”. He was recently in Neuva York. He played club Luna in the Bronx (check out a snippet, here). He puts some pretty revealing things on his Twitter feed:

While doing research for the piece I came across the always pretty grisly Blog del Narco.
If you look in the top, right corner of the site you’ll see a link to youtube video. It’s not a video of chopped-off heads like you’ll find in the blog’s forum, but a group music video. What I know is the future of narco corrido as envisioned in this track “C A R T E L E S U N I D O S”

It’s gangster music, but with accordions and the smell of a promoter who knows violence sells. (Download a mixtape, here)

Larry Hernandez photos via: http://twitpic.com/photos/larryhernandez1

Google Video pick of the week #008

This week´s clip comes via one of the greatest comedic writers of his generation, Paul Mooney.  ¨Jesus Is Black¨ (2007), kicks off its first 10 minutes with ruminations on Mexicans and illegal immigration in California. Funny stuff.

Mooney might lean heavy on his use of the ¨N¨ word,  and makes harsh assessments of race in America his calling card. Still, you have to respect him, because he´s an uncompromised comedic force, who hasn´t been made soft by Disney movies and Hollywood contracts.

For the uninitiated, he may be hard to stomach. Sure, he´s racist, but there´s no denying some of the stinging truths in his work.

You can find  tons of video of Mooney´s work online. From his earlier days writing jokes for Richard Pryor, to clips of his hilarious creations on Dave Chappelle´s show.

Pryor  goes in on Paul around the 5:34 mark of this clip from a comedy roast.  Ending his session by calling Mooney a ¨brilliant writer¨.

¨Brilliant¨ doesn´t seem like an overstatement either, when you consider that Mooney is the man who created Homey D.  Clown.

Essence of hip-hop en Estadio Azteca

In many parts of the modern world, graffiti is vilified. Here in Mexico, it´s a respected art form. Often encouraged.

From the renowned muralist culture, to even farther back to its ancient civilizations, communicating through art on walls has always been the way here.

Today, with the support of a paint company and local government agencies, what is essentially a free hip-hop festival will take over Mexico´s  main soccer stadium. A place were people go to worship futbol, for the 3rd year in a row, becomes a place for hip-hop´s faithful.

I went in 2009, and the event was regarded as too commercial by many graf heads. But, it´s one of the rare times in this megalopolis that lovers of rap music get a free open-air concert. ¨Wild Style¨ incarnate, here in Mexico City.

Below, Jezzy P , a rapper from Ecatepec who just dropped a new album     (she´s been putting years of work into her music) will be a featured rapper on Saturday afternoon. About two dozen rappers will perform over the weekend, while graf artists are competing on the walls of the stadium.

It´ll be like a day in the Bronx circa 1979.

Check out the list of scheduled rap performances on Jezzy´s blog.

In addition to Jezzy, highlights include performances by 2Phase,  Skool 77, Ana MC, Van T, T-Killa and Manicomio Clan, also check for ongoing cyphers in the parking lot.

The 3er. Concurso de Graffiti en tu Estadio Azteca 2010, co-sponsored by the Secretary of Public Security, takes place  April 17 and 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mexico City´s Azteca Stadium.

For the Mescudi stans

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Alright, so WordPress threw this slideshow function into the mix and I plan to aprovechar. Just something for the stans who like my previous Cudi post.

A  little background on the images above:

Cudi came to Steve Aoki’s Tuesday night party at Cinespace two Springs ago, along with his manager (and former Kanye A&R)  Plain Pat.  He wasn’t all Baped out at this point in his career. He still rocked The Hundreds.

He was riding the high of having a single that was just beginning to beat up on big city airwaves. He had the silver sneakers on, a bottle of Grey Goose and a friend from back home, now living in the Valley hanging out with him. He was Scott Mescudi.

Onstage, Kid Cudi came out.  He was warming up earlier, in the V.I.P with that bottle of Goose. Plain Pat reminded him of a Kanye warning: don’t get drunk around reporters. It was too late.

Nothing crazy happened, though. Cudi was a personable dude. This was before the record sales and tour, of course.

What I enjoyed about Cudi’s set was that he had a heck of a good time with the audience. He was a little bummed that I was only writing for a blog.  He said he wanted his mom to be able to read it, and that she was too up there in age to be checking for her boo on the Internet. I’m sure, two years later, Scotty gets all kinds of ink.

Outside Cinespace, on Hollywood Blvd., Cudi asked a few people for directions so he could direct his homegirl back to the Valley. Some dude, salty from all the groupie love Cudi was getting, was like “go back to Cleveland–this is Hollywood”.  Cudi, taking a long drag off a Newport, gave him a delayed look, like what you say!? Then Wale’s manager softened the moment by yelling, “White Power.” Weird moment, but whatever animosity there was in the air got diffused immediately.

You can catch Cudi on HBO. Or get your so-called emo-electro rap fix, with about a  half dozen Cudi mixtapes.

A Night With El Pinche Brujo

When I first heard El Pincho Brujo in his video for ¨Guadalajobru¨, an ode to his state´s top ranked soccer team and hip-hop lifestyle in Guadalajara, I thought I was hearing something special.

I didn´t realize regional Mexican rap had such a strong representative outside D.F. This guy, who came out of the Jalisco graffiti scene, hustles. ¨Brujo¨by the way, is the masculine for ¨witch,¨ and ¨pinche¨ as it´s used in most parts of Mexico, means either ¨damn¨, or  the adjectival ¨fucking¨.

On a Saturday night late last month Brujo showcased his skills. No DJ. Just him, a beer, and roomful of teenagers and curious hip-hop fans. He even took shout outs for rugged spots like Chalco and Iztapalapa.

He prowled the stage in mock drunkenness.  Hitting his rapped punch lines with a nasally flow ala B-Real, but with more bass in his voice. A few times he mentioned the drug cartel devastated Ciudad Juarez. But only got as deep as saying, ¨Man….Juarez.¨ Of course what more could he say?

On a sidenote: El Universal, earlier this year, did a good video report on hip-hop in Juarez. (via Red Barrio)

I´ve been told by one Monterrey performer that drug gangs are known to ¨tax¨ performers sometimes for their show money. It´s rare to hear the type of drug trade braggadocio here that litters U.S. rap.

Nedman Guerrero performed about an hour before Brujo´s midnite set.  One of Mexico City´s more practiced MCs, his style is strictly based in the old school New York-flavored street rap. Learn more about him in this interview (in Spanish) with the Grita Rap blog.

Continue reading “A Night With El Pinche Brujo”

Busting Flicks in D.F.

Toy Selectah
I first started hearing photos referred to as “flicks” sometime in the mid 1990s. Up to that point, a flick to me was a movie. One of the things a lot of guys and girls in my neighborhood would do is take a flick outside of a club against a spray-painted backdrop, usually a huge dollar sign or something else that signified urban cool. If it was a group of ladies, you would get the sexy pose; a group of guys and you would get the hard-rock pose with one guy kneeling in the front somewhere. Someone probably had a gold grille in the pic, too. The photographer was probably using a Polaroid camera and sold the picture for around $10 bucks. I know my boy Marcus has a ton stashed in a box somewhere.

Coming to the digital camera game late, I decided to bust more flicks myself. In the past year, I’ve upgraded to a Canon G10 and focused my eye on hundreds of things. If anyone peeps my Facebook albums, they know.
Buraka Som Sistema Nov. 2009 Mexico City

I just entered my first photo contest, and didn’t win, but one of my photos beat out a couple dozen others to get printed and displayed in the exhibit for The Space Farm, a media collective based in Mexico City, check them out, here. Then, if you’re in Jersey, go to Space Farms, just for the kitsch-y flavor.

All flicks taken in Mexico City in 2009. They represent the four out of five I submitted that didn’t make the cut (from the top): Toy Selectah, Andrea Echeverri of Aterciopelados and Buraka Som Sistema.