Since the last post was about a mambo tune that I won’t be playing out anytime soon I thought I’d start out with a fun spanglish mambo party jam that I DO like and got a big forward at the last New York Tropical Dance. Bachata meets Mambo meets ATCQ.
Sakawaka by the official Dominican Pimp Makaraka y la Grande Liga
Tiroteo [tee-roh-te-o] or alternatively Tiradera [Tee-ra-deh-rah]
1) A shoot-out
2) gunman lyrics in latin music
3) Battle tunes dissin other MC’s in latin music
I could draw on a million gun choons you’ve heard so I’m rollin with definition 3 here and offering a nugget from an unknown young Dominican duo called The Mr. feat Yankee Next. A ting called Ratata
Another bachata meets mambo tune, this one takes aim at the big boys of Mambo: El Sujeto, Jucafri, Tulile and Omega. The Mister who refuse to be pigeon-holed as Mamberos or Reggaeton artists fuse all sorts of urban and caribbean music and are comprised of Wagner Jesus Ortiz aka Mr. WJ and Franklin Emilio Gomez aka Mr. Frank. In recent hip-hop history this underdog tactic was deployed to career-launching success by one Mr Curtis Jackson on the now legendary How to Rob.
I went back and found the video of El Sujeto I mentioned in comments of the last post. Here he and up and coming latin hip-hop artist El Lapiz are in a parking lot cheezin for the camara, flashing loaded clips, matching hardware and rattling off lyrics…. they then take turns exchanging poetic two-line couplets of street verse (as u watch, think bomba improvisada)
Now, I’ve got guys and girls in my family that freestyle and act just like this on and off camara so here’s some thoughts on the gangsta/bling ethos infiltrating the jibaro homelands.
At home in PR, after a blunt, my cousins are easy enough to get along with. We spend our time together laughing at some of their admittedly moronic antics; a 26-man brawl with a police squad, pranks played on crack-heads, stealing cars (na dawg- sorry to break it to ya…. playing Grand Theft Auto does not a gangsta make), motorcycle crashes, bar fights, turf wars etc. Every visit is replete with new stories and matching battle scars. They boast of a revolving door at the local precinct that was recently installed, just to keep up with our brood. As they’re telling me all this, I watch two of them bitch up to raised hand from Titi Lulu, standing a towering 5’4 en chancletas y rollos.
This in-and-out of jail pattern that has developed for my cousins on the island (and in the Bronx), it causes grief to both their families and the community. Some of crimes are necessitated by survival, but most of it is carried out just to get a rep. (There is also a percentage of our cumulative arrests that is attributed to cops being pigs, racial profiling and babylon system)
I ask myself where they get it from because we were raised together outside of the fact that I left the island our biggest differences aren’t a formal education. I stand with them as a student of life educated by my environment who chose to go my own road while good friends opted to finish school and then college to get their degree. True enough, the experience of coming to the states lends me some advantages like mastering English as a first language but that gets balanced-out by other factors. They own their houses, while I pay rent. One even has a garage below his house which has rented as a tire and mechanic shop his whole life, so he’s learned a trade by osmosis. Neighbors come to him for the odd jobs they cant afford to pay a trained mechanic for. Nobody offers me gigs for my superior tele-marketing skills and DJ’ing has yet to re-coup the amount of money I’ve spent on music, my drug of choice.
Then there are my cousins in the Bronx. Like me, they are transplants that have been here in the states for more than ten years. They speak English as a first language and spent most of their lives here but they share equally riotous stories. Difference between me and most of these kids? Surprisingly, neither camp watches much TV so the best I can pin down is that Hot 97, La Kalle and NYC’s mixtape circuit dominate the South Bronx, PR is bumpin reggaeton and I’m the odd man out that listens to as many genres as they do artists. Obviously, I’m tuned into the internet streams on BBC radio, Samurai.FM and the elsewhere in blog-landia. Therein lies the discrepancy. Puerto Rico’s internet is still largely dial-up last I checked and neither they nor the Bronx camp are web-crawlers so they are subject to whatever information is given to them.
I wanted to hold off on the following for a next conversation but I welcome your thoughts this: Gangsta rapâ€™s ideology, the image of guns and bling being cool wasnâ€™t made popular by the general American public or the hip hop community at large. Industry force-fed it to us with little alternative until we got used to it and its now grown past our borders and is affecting other communities. This isn’t my opinion as much as a springboard for dialog I’d like to engage in with you in the comments section. If you wanna go deep in the hood chronicles dig up Bushwick Bill’s album Lil Big Man and try that on for size before writing your response. What I’m getting at with this is until recently, when $mall Change invited me to play on WFMU, no one ever asked me what I wanted to hear on the radio, much like no one I know has ever participated in the political poles that CNN and other media outlets wave as hard statistical data.
Now, back to my hick relatives. Talking to most of my primos (i’m the fourth oldest of 32 blood-related cousins) I find they all share a highly-animated sense of reality, one in which being gangsta is how u gotta be ‘cuz that’s what its like in the streets yo! But when I look down the hill we all grew up on in Puerto Rico, there is still a huge field that horses graze. Behind that, the race track belonging to El Recinto de la ‘Yupee’ Bayamon (University of PR). Standing there, I often myself pondering if I had stayed would have stayed in Puerto Rico, living that close to a great university…
The oldest of the my cousins back on the island has enough crack-heads and ganja smokers in the area to pay the bills, but overall its really not that gully in Barrio Juan Sanchez where we’re from. The neighborhood remains mostly friendly jibaros, who now lock their doors because scattered corrillos of kids with shaved legs and plucked eye-brows are tryna act hard?!? These kids perceive their world through a lens calibrated by the gangsta-ideology that permeated reggaeton and now merengue and what we are seeing are consequences of allowing music and other forms of media to go off into the wilds uncontested.
One of our daily newspapers in Puerto Rico is named El Vocero. On more than one occasion and from both younger and older generation sources I heard it described like this…. when you pick up El Vocero, (holding it out pinched between thumb and index finger) ….it drips blood. During a two-week stay there, I read 3 separate articles about mercenary style killings; bag over head. hands tied to their feet behind their back- shot in the back of the head; all of them within a few miles of where I was staying and suspected to be carried out by guys my age and younger. These were separate articles over the span of a few days but there was no visible thread between them one was a car robbery, one over a girl, one over drugs. It seemed to me at the time, that several one-up ‘a ver quien es mas gangsta’ disputes had climaxed in tandem, resulting in copy-cat atrocities.
I’m not blaming artists or their music for the violent acts committed by individuals. But denying that the demeanor and attitudes which have become prevalent in the current generation is not in some way affected by the music these kids are digesting seems beyond naive. We can take a lot of what singers say with a grain of salt but the question I’m posing is why is the line so far off center? Does calling a spade a spade have to = censorship? I’m not saying these guys shouldn’t have the right to make their music or that it shouldn’t air. But is there a forced emphasis on new jingles or the dance of the week and an oppression of air-play for thought-provoking music, or is it me? What I see is a bunch of kids setting the coordinates to stat quo and forcing themselves into the cookie-cutter gangsta image in hopes of making it so they can get outta the hood.
I speaky di inglesh and my native tongue and I understand quite clearly the words that are coming out of their mouths.… so when do we get to the scene where bubble-gum gangstas get knocked the fuck out by artists with more talent and a different set of standards? At the very least lets call them out on their shit and ask them to elaborate. There are circumstances where letting art speak for itself is useful but when you have so many clones I think we would all be better off to challenge an artist on what they are trying to accomplish with this a piece of art beyond just making money. Those who put thought into their art will usually rise to the occasion. You can get into the ‘why does art have to mean something’ question if you wish, but I won’t be taking part in that with you. I’m busy looking for art with substance or both new and old genres to explore and learn from. Too busy working with MC’s that CAN break the mold. To watch artists hide behind the stage persona and do and say ridiculous things while in character seems a cop out even when factoring in that being an entertainer is, in rare cases, a well-paying job opportunity to someone who comes from bleak circumstances.
Here’s an all-star line up of MC’s with real street-cred that aren’t afraid to face the wind and are ready to blow the current whackness out like the flickering flame that it is. Jahdan Blakkamoore the man Guyanese from Crown Heights Brooklyn, Princesa hailing from Argentina, recent unsigned hype inductee Homeboy Sandman outta the Qboro serving nourishment to the masses, Durrty Goodz in the UK whose Axiom EP raised the bar for grime MC’s, and MV Bill who lives in the City of God, Brazil (his documentary Falcao is story more people should be aware of- large up to Maga Bo on this one). All of them have wicked flows and make it a point to challenge norms plus know how to rock a party. Show them some love ya’ll
Now, I’ll admit to getting older, ornery and detached, having not owned a TV in 8 years. I still manage to enjoy the art of story telling in rhyme, slang and street context. Can you admit a large percentage of new artists out there offer very little lyrical song-writing ability and rely on good publicists to determine for the audience what’s hot? I have to believe at some point society should hold people accountable for their words and actions and at the same time strive and get to the root of our problems. As a Latino, I take it upon myself not sit idle and watch apathetically as my family and culture are brainwashed. I’m happy that Immortal Technique is doing his thing but he’s got a way too much M.O.P. in ’em for the average listener, myself included. Nobody likes Debbie Downer so I search far and wide for party-rockin music I can stand up for because, often times, that can’t afford a publicist. Challenge yourselves to create play-lists that work well on the dance-floor and balance lyrical content. You’ll find its a lot harder than keeping your eye on what everyone else is playing but infinitely more rewarding. That’s how we go ’round payola. Thank you for pushing good music forward via your blogs and the encouragement to air these ideas. –
run go tell dem come…we ready fi dem- Gex