Sunday, October 16, 2011
R.A.P. SQUAD-De Este Lado (Craneo Kafe, 2011)
In recent years, however, I was sucked back in. I first met this one mexican guy who's a very active Spanish-language rapper in the bay Area scene and through him I started to become acquainted with everybody else and soon I was getting invited to DJ at pretty much all their gigs. I hadn't suddenly recovered my enthusiasm for hip-hop, and in all honesty, I wasn't a fan of any of the artists in this local scene, but I kept hanging out with them, mainly because of nostalgia. This tiny rap-en-español scene in the SF Bay Area reminded me a lot of the origins of my own scene back in South America in the mid-'90s, when we were just a bunch of kids (99% male) trying to build a scene from scratch, out of absolutely nothing, in an environment that was extremely unwelcoming.
It's all about that Spanish Rap Paradox that I mentioned last year on that controversial post. Rap in Spanish made in the United States is a niche within a niche and has to confront so many negative stereotypes that it's pretty much impossible for a local scene to emerge successfully. Anglo-rap fans don't pay any attention to rap in any other language because (unlike us) they're unable to appreciate music in a language they don't understand. Mainstream latinos look down at rap music with distrust, and automatically associate it with gangs (and sadly, local rappers do very little to break away from this prevalent misconception) and the few Latinos who understand and appreciate real hip-hop are often involved in the Anglo scene so they don't even know there's rap in Spanish going on in their towns.
So if you go to these events where I was invited to DJ and it's usually just a bunch of dudes (with a few girlfriends hanging out on the sides) watching each others perform. One artists goes up on stage, then comes down and becomes the audience for the next artist and so on. They get very little if any fan support.
And it's in that struggle that I find myself reflected because that's the way it used to be for us, back in my hometown, back in 1996 when we were trying to start a scene, even though we were fighting against very different opposing forces and negative stereotypes (mainly because of the overwhelming dominance of rock music).
Anyway, out from this Bay Area rap-en-español scene came R.A.P. Squad, formed by four Mexican immigrants. One of them you're probably familiar with because he was a guest in my song "Cumbia Nena" included in the Stronghold Sound's Audio Refuge Compilation. He goes by Nes and he's a really cool guy. He pretty much put together this coalition of local rappers, who were all doing their own thing, independently, in the scene and together they made this self-released debut album. Compared to the current most progressive hip-hop artists in Latin America they're still a bit behind, attached to many trite clichés, but this is just a start (not only for them but for their whole scene) and hopefully they won't lose momentum and will keep developing their own style. Check them out and support them by purchasing their album, available in CD format in select record stores throughout the bay and digitally on Amazon and everywhere else.