La Bruja Casts a Lyrical
1/6/05 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview
Whether singing on
Telemundo, performing on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, or appearing in
History Channel docudramas, modern day renaissance woman La
Bruja (Caridad De La Luz) refuses to be put in a box. Her
unique creativity and charisma has taken her from appearances
in a Spike Lee film to running writing workshops for
inner-city youth and even modeling for Levi's in Glamour and
Marie Claire. Now, with her debut album Brujalicious,
this dynamic, gifted performer infuses hip-hop and reggaeton
with her irresistible blend of potent intelligence, hot
sensuality and lyrical skill.
A dedicated artist-activist, La Bruja also helped raised funds
for "Stop The Bombs," part of a successful campaign to close
the controversial US Navy Base on Vieques Island. We speak
with La Bruja about her craft in this exclusive interview.
LatinRapper.com: You're generally recognized first as a
poet, when you did you start rapping?
I started rhyming when I was really young, 'cause I was born
and raised in the Bronx. Its like poetry too, back in the days
I never saw a difference between it. I remember the first song
I wrote, I was like 14 with my homegirls, we used to call
ourselves Vogue even before Madonna came up with it (laughs).
When I went to the Nuyorican Poets Cafť, that was where it
really took off, people really recognized me as an artist.
Bobbito was a host back then, I went as La Bruja, he kept
saying my name all night, and it stuck.
I've always sang, I've
always acted, been dancing since I was four, it just happened
to be that poetry was the thing that people grasped on to. And
I came from a family of poets, and being from Manati, Puerto
Rico, its called the Athens of the Island, the home of poets.
It makes sense. But I'm really proud to be known as a poet, to
be acknowledged for my work.
Who are some of the artists that youíve collaborated with
Tony Touch, B-Real, Chingo Bling, I worked with Nore, Fat Joe,
hurricane G. Its so hard, you do these live shows and people
perform. In the poetry circuit, Mos Def was there, RAKIM was
there in the live performance, it was so hot.
Where does your pseudonym ďLa BrujaĒ come from?
Well my parents got married on Halloween (laughs), so I tend
to consider Halloween my birthday, in a way its kinda my
conception date. I gave myself that name 'cause I always been
a witchy girl (laughs), and I think witches cast their spells
with words, and thatís what I do, I put a lot of positivity
out there and a lot of thought provoking messages, I'd like to
I also have communicated with the other side, so I think the
dead are with us, and I hear voices sometimes. The first time
I ever wrote a Spanish poem, I'm not really that fluent in
Spanish, my first poem was like the most beautiful I've ever
written. When I wrote that, I was on the train, and I was
hearing a voice telling me this, and I swear it was my great
grandmother, the first poet, telling me this. Words like
Borinquien, Familia... I'm tapped in, I would like to help
other people tap in too. Its very empowering. I guess
depending on what you believe, it will work for you or it
Your name really got out there when you performed on HBOís
Def Poetry Jam, how did you get about appearing on the show?
The first season I had seen on TV, and I said, this is ME
right here! So I heard they were doing a second season. I
parked my little car on Broadway illegally, and ran up to the
Phat Farm office, and it was the last day they were doing
interviews. I had a head shot, and a clip of me performing for
the Pinero movie, and I gave them that tape and the bio and
said look, I'm wearing a Phat Farm jacket, tell Russ I'm here
and he needs to holla. I was loud, I'm never like that. They
said if they donít call you by Friday you donít make the cut,
Friday by five they called and said ďYou think your kids would
like to see you on TV? Well you are." Stan Latham called, it
Thatís how I got on, but the thing was they wanted me
to do the Lola poem, which was a real grimy poem about a crackhead around the way. But I wanted to do the WTC poem
which is on my site. But they said if you donít do the Lola
poem you wont get on. So I was sneaky about it and did the
Lola poem then the WTC poem, and I was really happy.
How thin do you consider the line that exists between
spoken word and rap?
How thin is it? Transparent. You donít even see it, ethereal.
Thatís how I see it, other people see it different. People
that only do spoken word might be intimidated by hip hop and
rhyming to music, but I think its very similar. Life is
Which comes most naturally to you?
I would say poetry. Just writing and free thought without
rhythm. Different kinds of structures. My MC flow, I had to
work on that (laughs). I had been told early on, even by my
husband, youíre a poet, youíre not an mc. I said aight. I'mma
show yall! (laughs). I would do a lot of work at the community
center, I would just work on my flow all the time. I started
an open mic show at the point called Verbal Ingredients. We
had a drummer come in, it kept developing into MCing. But
poetry I guess is what comes most naturally. I can write about
Tell us about your new album, Brujalicious .
I'm really happy about my album, and its funny, at this time
last year I didnít have most of those songs. So it was like
during this time last year that I really dove into the studio
and just went nuts, and was constantly writing this music all
the time. Usually my fall into winter is very internally
reflective in my mind, and the late winter, January February
into spring is when all of it starts to blossom. Brujalicious
is everything I have inside of me on a CD. They host in
between the songs so I get to do my comedic side, so itís a
perfect brew of all that is me.
Youíve also done a bit of work on commercials, correct?
Oh yeah, I did stuff for Spike Lee, then I was on the Levi ad
that was in a bunch of magazines: People, Entertainment
Weekly, Elle, Oprah. If you go to levi.com I'm one of the
models that pop up. They did a campaign of real people, they
used my Nuyorico poem and my artwork. Basically my butt but
painted with all my words. That was really big, I was really
happen to be chosen for that, I had to audition before
everyone else. I think I was the only Latina, I was really
happy for that.
Were these companies specifically looking for you? Or did
you approach them and they saw something in you that they
I think they saw something in me that they liked. I donít know
if most of them know me, but Spike knew me. I did looping for
his movies, improvising, conversations to fill in the movie.
Bamboozled, She Hate Me, his new movie. If not for spike I
would not be in the Screen Actress Guild movie. And he helped
me write my movies, Famers, those looking for fame by way of
I was in this other movie, Down to the Bone, it won
at Sundance. I met all these actors like Danny Glover, but all
the movies I saw that were about Latinos werenít written by
Latinos. So I went home, in a month and half I wrote my own
movie. Spike showed me how to register it so I own it and all
that stuff. The writers guild is what he recommend. He said as
a director, even before he reads a script, he makes sure it's
registered with the Writers Guild so he isnít liable for
stealing anything. I'm mad cool with his sister, theyíre
funny, heís mad cool.
I'm very happy to be able to do or have
done all these different projects and dramas, thatís what La Bruja is about, challenging yourself and doing the things you
didnít think were possible. Thatís part of the Bruja message,
giving that empowerment to everyone, to believe in yourself,
chances are you will really succeed if you try. My boy Bio
from tax school said if you believe it, it aint a lie, and I
still tell myself that.
So is acting a direction that youíd like to continue in?
Oh yeah, I love acting, acting to me is a lot of fun to
challenge yourself, to become yourself, to really believe it.
What was really convincing about the movie Down to the Bone is
that we were really in a rehabilitation center in Kingston,
New York, we put ourselves in this really dreary environment
and setting. I played the main actresses best friend, when she
would cry I would feel her pain and it came across on the
screen, it didnít seem forced.
We were there so long, it was
like we were different people. I didnít feel like acting, I
feel like I'm channeling these people, mediumistic, kind of
like a sťance, I really feel like I'm investing my soul when I
do these people. And people bug out, they were like, you even
look different. I do this old man, I do this b-boy named Tito,
and when I do this girls bat their eyes at me (laughs), they wanna kick it with him. As Tito I could pick up mad chicks
As far as poetry events, you donít perform strictly at
clubs, do you?
I do colleges, schools, elementary schools, jails, anywhere
and everywhere. Hospitals. I'll entertain anybody that will
let me (laughs). And thatís part of my success, I'm not
limited to any audience. I've done shows in Europe, Poland,
Belgium, Amsterdam, Spain, and I've been well received. And
plus I donít even see my audience as a certain kind of
audience, the world is my audience. I share my stuff with
everybody, 'cause weíre really all the same.
What advice do you have for readers who are interested in
becoming recognized for their spoken word performances?
Write what you know, what you know is true. Stick to that
first, once you get all that out, you can expand into whatever
else. Just keep it real. I saw [the article on] the guy from
Airmagination, he did something like that, keep it real. Do it
every day, donít be concerned about if the audience is big
enough, its like tomorrows not promised. Do what you can today
before you lose tomorrow. Feel lucky, if you have the ability
to do it, just do it.
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