Semillas Rebeldes: Harvesting A New Sound
It’s on picture perfect days like today when the unspeakable beauty and energy of the city awakens. While soaking up the sun in Dolores Park, I realized that I haven’t paid proper dues to the vibrant music and general cultural activity coming out of California. I thought I’d start by giving you a taste of four of my favorite raperos based out here in the Bay and LA. The first emcees in the spotlight are the guapos, DunDun and Rico aka Filthy Ritch, photographed above that make up LOS RAKAS. Hailing from Panama but now residing in Oakland, Los Rakas blend Hip Hop, Reggae and Dancehall music with Spanglish spit-fire lyricism creating a unique, multi-layered sound that reflects the changing nature of language and music at large. I first encountered this dynamic duo at The Living Word Festival (as the opening act for mighty Mos Def) where I was exposed to their lyrical heat and explosive energy. In an era of wack, un-imaginative hip hop shows, it is a rare and beautiful thing to find true performers who bring their music to life on stage. Whether you’re listening to tracks off “Panabay Twist” or rocking with them at live shows, you will inevitably catch the contagion that is Los Rakas. You’ve been warned.
“From the womb, a sense of nomadic creativity embedded itself in his membrane. As a child of immigrant parents, he crossed the border in his mothers belly to be born in the city of Angels. Olmeca continuously migrated between Mexico and the U.S. Those experiences helped shape his view of what sort of world was needed. From this point, music became his passion and people who struggle; his motivation.” — Olmeca Musik
I’m proud to call this next emcee, OLMECA, a friend and compañero. Unlike artists who simplify their sound to fit narrowly into the confines of a genre, Olmeca speaks from a generative place of fragmentation, intersecting identities and liminality that cannot be easily located or classified. For MC’s of Olmeca’s mindset, music is a “form, a way and a means of creating rebellion.” But don’t get it twisted, Olmeca escapes the traps of “conscious rap” that imply weak lyricism and self-righteous content. On the contrary, Olmeca has developed a reputation for his bilingual rapping skills and innovative song writing. After spending 3 weeks traveling with Olmeca throughout Zapatista caracoles, I witnessed firsthand the power of his “nomadic creativity” and the transformative potential of music grounded in realities often obscured. The world is thirsty for raperos armed with the heart and mind of Olmeca.
“hip hop universal y eclectico / es mi universo, concientizacion / siempre inmerso, señalando y criticando a pseudo revolucionarios bandalos / en la calle armando escandalos / optamos por el cambio de paz alternativase ideas / el rap merece union y respeto / no mas peleas!” — Boca Floja “Rap Conciencia”
Boca es amor / Boca is love. The last (but not least) rapero is another friend and freedom fighter. Hailing from Mexico city, Bocafloja “strives in search of alternative forms of classic hip hop structure in the form of MC. Bocafloja uses Hip Hop as an educational model and free style poetry as a resource” (quoted from his biography). Though a self-proclaimed “conscious rapper”, Boca is determined to break from outdated modes of struggle by creating art that considers the contradictions and complexities of present day resistance. Similar to the aforementioned artists, Boca is a skilled lyricist with an undeniable flow. It is artists like Boca that prove music with a message can out shine, in quality and originality, mainstream rap in spite of disparities in funding and exposure. With gigs booked everywhere from the South Bronx to Rio de Janeiro, Boca is looking to speak to whoever is willing to listen. When he’s not on tour or traveling in between Mexico City and the United States, he’s grinding on projects for QUILOMBOARTE— an organization he founded “that seeks to produce cultural events in which hip hop functions as an educational tool and an essential collaborative adhesive to social and political leftist movements in the processes of transformation throughout Mexico and Latin America”. Luz pa’ tu conciencia. Peep game: