Be specific: Gordo Brega on Latin Hip-Hop
Remember when hip-hop music played in nightclubs inspired people to jump up and down and ram into each other rather than perform cheesy dances or just stand around and look cute? For anyone nostalgic for that sort of hardcore hip-hop club music, Gordo Brega’s new single “Monster” provides a much-needed fix.
The Dominican-American rapper, who is from the Bronx but now calls the DMV home, recently released the track, which features him rhyming in Spanish and English. He's also prepping his album “M.W.A.” to be released later this year. Click Track talked to Gordo Brega about “Monster,” “M.W.A,” and how Big Pun not only inspired him to become an MC, but helped him learn English.
Tell me about the “Monster” single… It’s interesting that you’re pushing it as a club track, because it’s so different from what hip-hop club tracks are these days. It’s more of a go hard track, more like what hip-hop for the club used to be.
At the time, I was going through a lot -- there were things going on in my life, and this is how I felt at the time. A lot of the MCs in the city were going on the angle in their lyrics of talking about fashion and stuff, but I wanted to stick to the roots of the street.
When it came time to do the track, I was venting, feeling like I’m a monster, a killa -- not in a harmful way, but because of what I’ve been through. It’s more of a venting track. I never felt the track was something to put out as a single, but because it’s so real, that was the one we chose. I want people to hear it and feel like I was feeling, I want you to get your mean mug on, like, “I’m a monster!”
(Big Pun as English teacher, after the jump.)
Do you think that sort of aggressiveness is missing from club rap tracks these days?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely what the game is missing. A lot of artists influenced me when I started writing: Big Pun, Jay-Z, Biggie -- they talked about their lives and their lives are so close to mine, it inspired me to do the things that I’m doing. With the youth, it’s cool now to go dancing, that’s a part of our life, but I also want to let ‘em know the reality -- but make it fun, make the best out of it.
I wanna be that person to come out and be what Pun was to me -- a lot of kids here in our city don’t get on the Internet, I want to reach out to them, let them know somebody is listening to them -- especially for the Spanish community. I moved to D.C. from the Bronx in 1999, so I got the last of it, but here in the ‘90s, from what I’ve heard of that time, it was hard being Spanish in D.C.
You rhyme in Spanglish -- do you get rap fans who don’t speak Spanish asking you to translate your lyrics for them?
Yeah -- and what’s a good feeling is my friends, people I be with, in everyday conversation they might throw some Spanish words in their conversation, or see a Spanish girl and try to throw some Spanish at her, because they’re listening to my music. I just wanna close that gap between the African-American community and the Spanish community -- we all in the same boat, doing the same things. Growing up, we were always segregated, even in school in NYC, there was a Spanish side and a black side. All my life it was like that, and then I came to D.C. and it was like a melting pot. So many different people from all over -- it was amazing.
I’m coming with the album, “M.W.A,” -- Migos With Attitude -- and we’re dropping April 28, the same day as “Capital Punishment” dropped --that’s my way of paying homage to Big Pun, it’s like the rebirth of Latin hip-hop.
You mention Pun -- do you think that he gets the credit he deserves now? Do you think Latin MCs in general get credit they deserve?
Nah. To this day, everybody knows about Biggie, Tupac, but Big Pun -- he should be an inspiration for every Spanish kid trying to do hip-hop in this world, but he doesn’t get acknowledged like that. That’s where I come in -- I try to acknowledge, pay homage to people like Pun, Cypress, Beatnuts, Fat Joe -- the people who paved the way for me.
I’m from the Bronx, I’m from where hip-hop started, and I didn’t know English for so long -- I didn’t even know that [the Bronx] is where Kool Herc and them started hip-hop, I didn’t really speak English until I was 17,18.
A lot of MCs who speak languages other than English as their first language say hip-hop helped them learn English.
Yeah, it did for me. The first time I heard Big Pun, he was just rapping so fast, and he put a little bit of Spanish in there, so I was like, “Oh yeah, that was hot.” I took time to learn rest of his stuff, that’s how I took it upon myself learn English -- I also learned English with little [language] tapes. And that’s how my style came, with the Spanglish, and how I learned to speak the language.
Talking about Latin MCs getting their due, what do you think of reggaeton? Even though it has some hip-hop roots, do you think it took emphasis off of Latin hip-hop, at least for a time?
What reggaeton did for us was more like start a movement in putting Latin American music in the mainstream. In our country, it’s more about reggae, salsa, bachata -- more based on tradition. For hip-hop and reggaeton to come out, it was big. And the roots of reggaeton are underground. If you go to jail, back in our country, you hear reggaeton -- that’s how real it was.
But then it became commercial. For me, when I say, “I do Spanish hip-hop,” People will say, “Oh reggaeton?” “Nah -- Spanish hip-hop.” Reggaeton is cool, though -- the girls like it, like to dance to it. And if they like it, I like it.
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