That time I went to a barrio in Venezuela to talk to a religious rapper

It was Twitter that led me to this chamo. The story I worked on before that was about bitcoin or something.

I wanted to get back to something that had the potential to entertain in a city that was hyper violent and barely had toilet tissue. It came in the form of a group of guys who made home movies to show to the hood and also rapped on the side.

The leader, Joe, was a rapper who had the story of redemption through God and beats. I met a bunch of guys who were doing some reggaeton-rap stuff. They made a movie that reminded me a little of “I’m Bout it”. It was mostly because of the production value. It’s always the production value with these hood movies.

We went to their hood; their community center. It was beautiful, rising there were the slums, the barrio that ran up the mountain.

And I was safe, because the Garcha twins were right there with me.

The twins were working on Marty’s movie. We had all worked on Marty’s movie by this time.

Watch the video at the top if you haven’t already. It took some time and some care. Plus the kid from the La Linea hood, who hops on to bust a rhyme around the 4:34 mark is everything about hip-hop culture.

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Live by the FunK

Flickr Photo by Michael Tapp https://www.flickr.com/photos/59949757@N06/8720840260/
Flickr Photo by Michael Tapp 

I first met DāM-FunK at Cinespace in LA some time in 2007. He was something I never saw before, a funked out space alien with turntables, shouting out the names of $200 records as he played for a crowd of hipsters. Well, the man, a former Inglewood hip-hop keyboardists, now key-tarist, has made some big strides in his career and is the modern day incarnation of a funk artists. And instead of playing for other people at Cinespace,  he has his own long running L.A. residency called Funkmosphere.

I caught up with DāM-FunK before he stopped in Houston (for those taking notes, si…I’m in Houston now, but more on that later.)  Here’s what we talked about. Full interview at Houston Press.

Rocks Off: So what happened after you saw that tweet about modern funk, and why was it incorrect in your opinion?
DāM-FunK: One of the guys on Twitter was like “Nah, you can’t forget about Dam-Funk.” So, it’s like it caused a little lightening storm a couple of days ago and I watched it. I would hope that people, the historians, writers and critics can keep the facts straight because now they’re going to try to use “modern funk” as the term now, because they know they can’t say neo-soul any more.

And I just hope that people don’t forget about some of the funk that really is happening with synthesizers, drum machines, and beautiful chords. It’s not the chicken scratch type style of funk or soul that was considered modern funk. So the guy from Jimmy Fallon’s show, he incorrectly is trying to change history — innocently if you will — because I think right now people are just do excited that D’Angelo dropped this record.

Continue reading “Live by the FunK”

Cholo Rap: From California To Neza York

Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009    Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez
Pabellon Lindavista, Ticoman, Distrito Federal; October 18 2009 Photo Courtesy: Isela Martinez

A hard-core rap concert takes place in a mall, just upstairs from a movie theater. No police presence to speak of and very light, but focused security.

Mexican rap (if it’s any surprise) thrives with its own sub-genres. You get the political message from a group like Advertencia Lirica, aging thug wisdom from MC Luka, the spirit of hipster D.F. gets a boost from Mood-Fu, and Pato Machete keeps heads nodding in his post-Control Machete years.

Nothing I’ve heard from groups like Kartel Aztlan or Cartel de Santa prepared me for a showcase of Chicano-style rap that I saw Sunday headlined by Kartel de las Calles along with acts like Neza’s El Plata Ramirez.

Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009
Rapper Plata Ramirez performing in Ticoman, October 2009

This was gangster culture as pop culture that I was witnessing (there was one vender selling Nike Cortez, Joker Brand bandanas, Dickies pants and dark sunglasses — a certain type of Mexican-American Apparel and the look of the SoCal cholo.)

Hip-hop culture is being used here to create an identity where rasta, emo, goth, punk, or sporting tight jeans and a colorful scarf just won’t cut it.

KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
KDC rap crew take a breather after a quickie performance. Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

Concert-goers came from nearby places such as Naucalpan, Iztapalapa, Ecatepec, La Raza, and of course, Neza York (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl) taking the bus or train in to commune with their peers.

Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009
Entrance to Pabellon Lindavista in Ticoman (D.F.) where the rap show was held. October, 2009

There were young men and women with bandanas, jerseys emblazoned with “Los Angeles” in gothic text, “Sureño”, or the always ominous number “13” (as in the Mara kind) scrawled on their shirt backs, their necks, arms and hands.

Writing about the globalization of thug culture and cholo culture in Mexico is nothing new. I’m actually glad it’s been covered before.

Cholos grew out of Chicano, or Mexican-American culture, and found their greatest expression in East Lost Angeles.

Cholo style was most definitely a result of the Mexican immigrant experience in the southern U.S. as opposed to a style found in Mexico itself.

Wrote Jeremy Schwartz in a blog post about noted Mexico City photographer Federico Gama’s pictorial on Neza York cholos in the late 90’s.

Gama’s is a fascinating piece of work and you can see more here, following his bio.

Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009
Fans show their approval with distinct hand signs, or just mimicking L.A. gang culture? Ticoman, D.F.; October 2009

It can seem like aping the culture created in Southern California, but without the high potential for danger associated with venues exclusive to gang-friendly crowds. Still, how can you judge how peer groups want to express their identity? Besides, with every “carnal” or “güey” that I heard, I realized this was Mexico’s young generation making cholo rap their own.

Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009
Rapper Tetos gave a controlled performance. Ticoman, D.F.;October 18, 2009

Here’s Teto’s set.

Plata Ramirez had good energy:

Sombras Urbanas also did their thing:

For more on other performers that played on Sunday check out:

Nasion Sureña Mexicana (NSM)

Loco Nueces

Kraneo

Don KFE

And for more info on cholo rap on it’s home turf, check out:

Chola rappers

Surenorap.com

Chicano Rap Mag

Looong list of Chicano rap artists

And what some of the smarter folks have to say about it.

IF that’s not enough, download this mixtape for healthy dose of Mexican rap: