Mexican BeatBox Battle

 

Hip-hop is either really innovative nowadays, or returning to its pre-80’s roots. The elements that’ve grounded hip-hop culture for the past three decades  fell out of vogue on the home turf some time ago. Rappers over 40 see more paper by going to Europe than during a Rock the Bells tour. (Dave told me something to that effect.)

In Mexico, where hip-hop culture is trapped in a kind of pre-mainstream fabric that used to house it here in the U.S., the second installment of a beatbox contest will have its second competition. Beat boxing isn’t something you see a lot of rappers doing these days. It’s relegated to a Justin Timberlake gimmick. But for all you 80s babies, you know how often you’d hear someone beat boxing on the subway or on TV:

Beatbox Battle Mexico is the brainchild of Berlin b-boy, beat boxer Dj Mesia. He’s an ambassador for American-style hip-hop, and travels the world doing workshops and competitions. Two years ago, I traveled to the middle of nowhere in the state of Mexico to a bar where Mesia was holding the first beatbox battle. It was an impressive presentation with highly practiced Mexico kids and a grown-ass man here and there, spitting rhythms into a mic and trying to belittle their competitors. I remember a Michael Jackson impersonator with a mean routine out beat-boxed the competitors. Mesia told me that trips to Mexico to meet up with a girlfriend inspired him to start a beat box competition there. While German ties with Mexico are a couple centuries old, it’s interesting to see this transnational effort to keep hip-hop culture alive in the world.

This event is seriously in the middle of nowhere in the state of Mexico. Good for the local kids and a hallmark of hip-hop’s travelling powers, but hard as heck to find if you’re unfamiliar with travelling outside of Mexico City. Luckily, someone made a map for this event.

If you live in Mexico and want to enter the contest, e-mail producer Speedy speedysrecords@hotmail.com.

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My 5 Greatest D.F. Rap Moments: #5 Bocafloja Show at Alicia (When the Lights Went Out)

bocafloja2009_07_18

I found the following piece in my blog drafts, dated July 20, 2009. Why am I waiting almost a year to publish it? Because this is a blog, and sometimes I have to let things marinate.  Besides, I knew I would do some kind of bloggery count down, so I needed some ¨new¨ material.

Being in the crowd at this concert, above, at the Foro Alicia in Colonia Roma, was one of my greatest Mexico City hip-hop moments. Not in my life have I been to a rap show where the lights and power went out (typical reaction to a violent thunder storm in this part of Mexico City), yet most of the crowd stuck around to hear rappers perform over a drum kit, or accapella. The image, if you were there would have been of a dark performing space and people busting out notebooks to participate in impromptu poetry recitals and top-of-the-dome freestyles. Those kids got to shine, in the dark, but kept things moving so the show could go on. The Foro Alicia was brimming with teenagers in that summer heat, while the D.F. rainy season was in full effect.

My good German geologist friends, Maria and Moritz, came out to the show. And they stood around just like everyone else when the lights went out. Check out some of their excellent photos of life in Querétaro, taking rocks very seriously for UNAM.

Continue reading “My 5 Greatest D.F. Rap Moments: #5 Bocafloja Show at Alicia (When the Lights Went Out)”

Breaking Borders in Neza York

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It’s actually really hard for a young Mexican man to get a visa to visit the U.S. these days. Doesn’t matter if you have a job, or if your parents are decent people. More people who go to the immigration office here get told NO, instead of YES.

But if your 3-man b-boy crew wins the Neza City Breaker’s 25th Anniversary dance-off next weekend, you can get a spot competing in Las Vegas in July. Visa included.

Neza, a part of town that I mention a lot here, is home to B-Boy Manolo and his Neza City Breakers. For reasons that I’m still trying to figure out myself, breaking in Mexico is older than MCing, or rapping.

There’s about a 10 year gap in between the time Mexicans took to backspinning, versus the time they’ve spent making MC tapes and cds. Of course, if I’m wrong, I hope someone will shoot me an email. I’ve talked to a lot of people and signs seem to point to a later start for rhyming on the mic, here.

In interviews, B-Boy Manolo has said it was the exporting of Flashdance (1983) that brought breaking to Mexico City. A key scene featuring the late Frosty Freeze of the Rock Steady Crew, is largely credited with pushing the lifestyle outside of N.Y.

R.S.C‘s Servin Ervin is scheduled to be a judge at the Neza event, set for next Saturday and Sunday.

For a list of whose coming to the anniversary event, which will also feature graffiti workshops and plenty of rappers, check out the flyer after the jump.

Continue reading “Breaking Borders in Neza York”

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: