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Crooked Stilo: Urban Regional Veteranos
4/1/05 - exclusive interview

rappers Crooked Stilo

Victor and Johnny Lopez, better known as the group Crooked Stilo, are taking Rap en Espanol back to the forefront.

From the projects of East Los Angeles to their war-torn homeland of El Salvador, the Lopez brothers continue to sample traditional Latin music to give each track their cultural seal of approval.

Last year the brothers dropped "Puro Escandalo" through Fonovisa Records, a medley of Salsa, Merengue and sensual rap in Spanish, the duo now prepare to release their new album "Retrasalo."  We caught up with Crooked Stilo to get the scoop on the new album and more in this exclusive interview. What have you been working on lately?

We're in the studio right now for the second album, we're doing the very last two songs today, so that's going well. Working hard at it, trying to take it to the next level, musically, lyrically.

How does Retrasalo differ from the last album, Puro Escandalo?

It's more rhythmical, more club tracks. You know, we hit 'em again with a couple of the samples, a little less sampling on this one, all the other stuff is pretty much us. Our twist on hip hop. We got a couple of tracks, we call it crunketon because they aren't really reggaeton tracks. We're going to do a remix of Mentirosa, a reggaeton remix featuring La Seria from New York.

I understand you just shot a new video?

We just show the video last week, for the song Retrasalo. We're gonna make it available online, as soon as the single hits the airwaves. All those [TV] stations, they given us love on the first album.

What distinguishes your group from other groups

I think its just the music,the first time you listen to it, its out in the left field. Its not your typcial gangster rap, its just corooked, and I don't think anyone else has that sound. Thats how the name came up, when I frist started as a producer I tried emulating other prodcuers to get that sound, it always came out crooked, thats how we came up with the name, with the style. At first we were pissed off then we just accepted it was gonna be like that.

You released an album in ‘93, what was the reason for a decade long hiatus?

We've done two albums. I think the first one was out in 93-94, called Crooked For Life, half English half Spanish CD. We did a little small tour, Arizona, New York, but most of the comments I got back from people in email is that the Spanish was off the hook, just raw. So after that we just started working on an all-Spanish album. It took a while because we wanted the right person to put it out, we wanted it everywhere, so we couldn't do that so we went back to the same small label, 805 Records. That one came out in 2002-2003, so that took us a little while to do, 'cause we actually were gonna release two albums but ended up doing a Spanish one.

How does being Latino fit in with your music?

We use a lot of the sampling that we use is based on Spanish music, even when do were doing the English tracks. Somehow, someway we wanted to make sure that people knew that we were Latin.

Many Latin hip hop artists living in the U.S. do an album in English and appear to a broad spectrum of fans. By doing an album in Spanish, you seem to limit your audience to mostly Latinos. Had you considered doing an all English album to appeal to more listeners?

Yes, the very first one we did was gonna be all English, but we put some Spanish on it. The response we got was good from the fans of English, but the people who listened to the Spanish were overwhelmed by it because they hadn't heard that. The new generations, the ones we identify with, all speak English, so we would wanna do an album in English.

Were there other Latinos in hip hop that influenced your music or how you conducted business?

The person that really gave us the main influence was MC ALT. He lived just across the street from us in San Gabriel Valley. We watched this guy, him and my brother would battle, at first my brother always lost. All of a sudden we saw him on TV, he had a big hit back in the days, and had another hit with Kid Frost, so that kind of opened our eyes and made it seem like it was possible for someone from the hood or without all the resources to do it. So we started taking it more seriously. Aside from them it was Cypress Hill, made a huge impact on us. Delinquent Habits, Psycho Realm, Beatnuts.

You lived in the projects in L.A., but originally you came from El Salvador, a country that was known for rampant violence and disappearances. How would you compare the two areas?

Completely different. We were very young when we were out there. We had a chance to go back when we were teens, we got sent back for two years 'cause we were doing stupid things. It was culture shock, a lot of the things you have here you took for granted: food, cars, electricity. We didn't have that. We went to a school where we couldn't come out except for the weekends. And in the weekends we had to stay with our grandparents in a rural area, where electricity came and went, outhouses, stuff like that. I think being out there, if you can live here in the projects you can live 100 times better than areas in El Salvador.

Would you consider going back to El Salvador to perform?

Definitely, that's one of my wishes, go back there and either give a free concert, [for] the people to see. El Salvador is a pretty small country, as a people we rarely had any artists that were big outside of the country, the biggest one, that was probably a decade ago. It would be like the maximum reward for me.

Any noteworthy collaborations in the works?

I did a track with Daddy Yankee on his Barrio Fino CD, big opportunity there. I just did a track with Don Chezina, for a compilation.

Urban Regional really blew up in 2004, what do you credit that to?

The big labels opening up their doors, backing up the movement, really showing their support. Also the media did that, the press, people like you guys. You got to the ears of the street. Also acts like Akwid, that brought good music to the table.

Reggaeton had been around since '95 and before but only now is getting mainstream acceptance, do you think you'll ever see an Urban Regional video on BET or MTV?

What's gonna happen, the collaboration has to happen, and I haven't seen that yet. That's what helped reggaeton a lot, Daddy Yankee; Gasolina was a hot track, then he did a collaboration with Nore and Nina Sky, and that's pretty much what put reggaeton in the world eyes. Its gonna take Akwid collaborating with Nore Or Jay-Z to put it in the world's eyes. We tried to do it with this album, but there's a lot of red tape with the label. Not our label, but other labels. We had to finish the album pretty quick, and usually labels, you give them like a release, its takes a long time.

Do you ever think that your subgenre of music is starting to get saturated with new artists?

Not really. I think its good when new artists pop up, because if the new artists is good, it gives the other artists more competition, which is good. It makes you put hot music, put out a hotter album than before. The ones that aren't good get weeded out.

Have you been touring at all?

Yeah, we been doing shows all over the U.S.. We did a show with Fat Joe, we did stuff in Spain for a month, we just did a show with Don Omar and Pitbull and Nore, that was huge. And we plan to stay in that arena with those cats, try to get to their crowd. A lot of them haven't heard of Región Urbano, try to give them a different taste of Latin music.

Last time we spoke, we discussed Crooked Stilo dropping an all English album, does that seem like it would still happen?

Yeah yeah, in fact, in this album half of the album was in English. Towards the end, we dropped a couple of the tracks. Again, just because of the timing issue, because of stuff not coming through. The single is a bilingual track.

What can we expect from Crooked Stilo in the future?

We are still gonna keep making noise in this rap game. Either producing a new album, definitely gonna push ourselves to the next level. Might be a Spanish album, might be an English album, I'm still trying to run to the next level.

Any last message you'd like to add?

May 17th, the new album. Different level, adding our crunketon in there, a new twist on hip hop. Be on the lookout.

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