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Cultura Londres Bring Latin Flavor to the UK
5/1/06 - exclusive interview


Cultura Londres picture

Latin Rap from London? While it's true that Americans generally don't look to the UK for up and coming rappers, Cultura Londres is definitely bringing about a change for Latino artists on the other side of the Atlantic.  Consisting of mic wielder Tiago, singer Suzi, Rich handling production and guitars, Juan on the Bass, Etien the DJ and the renowned Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill fame handling the percussion, Cultura Londres has crafted a new sound which is winning fans from London to Los Angeles.

Rich and Tiago took time away from their music to fill us in on Latin Rap in the UK in this exclusive interview. What are your backgrounds?

Rich: I was born and raised in London, my family comes from Spain, Portugal, and Ireland if you look back a few generations, but I’m not about to claim anything other than English really since we are talking over 100 years ago at least!

Tiago: Born in London then moved to South America when I was less than a year old, spent most of my time growing up in Argentina and Bolivia and then moved back to London when I was about 14.

Rich: Juan was born in London and his parents are both from Spain, Bobo is from Puerto Rican heritage, Suzi is English and Etienne is from English, Dominican Heritage.

What albums have you released so far?

Rich: I’m holding back on releasing a full album till we have made more of a name for ourselves on the underground level with our Debut EP “Todo” and the follow up EP “Cuando” in progress. It’s important for me to make sure we have built a strong foundation on an independent level before we go about trying to push the group globally. A lot of artists around today get caught up in the money culture and don’t even bother with the underground scene as it might seem a bit too much hard work which is there mistake as 99% of artists don’t go platinum fact, then they have to face reality and realize that they gotta put the work in but by that time their reputation has already been marked and people can smell a fake.

What are you presently working on at the moment?

Rich: We have just finished up our “Todo” EP which is five tracks and two bonus music videos that’s coming out through Altered Beats. At the moment we are working on the follow up to this EP called “Cuando” which will be more of a melodic chilled EP with heavy beats unlike “Todo” which is a lot more toward the darker grimier kinda sound, we are looking to have the “Cuando” EP out by June July hopefully. As well as this we are working on the debut album which will be a new sound for the group, a mix of Cypress Hill, Black Eyed Peas, Gorillaz and Portishead.

What artists have you collaborated with in the past?

Rich: We have been fortunate to work with some great people so far and they all appear on the “Todo” Ep. On the EP we have a track with Kemo the Blaxican called “Fiesta” which came out real well, it’s a party, old school club style track. We also have a track with El Gordo called “Todo” which we have also shot a video for which comes out any day now. We have a heavy breakbeat, guitar track on there called “Systema” where we hooked up with Sekreto from the Sones Del Mexside and finally a rolling breaks track called “La Piedra” which features a group called “Big Quarters” from Minneapolis.

Tiago: We have also linked up with Frost from Sindicato Del Argentino a couple of times but these projects have yet to come to light.

Any new artists you will collaborate with in the future?

Tiago: We’re bringing in some new collaborations for the next EP, so far its looking like we will be working with Los Tumbados, Filthee Immigrants and T-Weaponz. There’s a few other things going on but nothing set in stone yet so I will keep quiet for now.

Rich: Yea Los Tumbados are def peoples we will work with as well as a few cats outta Spain we have heard.

What artist would you most look forward to doing a track with in the future?

Rich: I’m looking forward to working with people like Pato, Sick Jacken and Malverde in the near future. It would be heavy to link with someone like Carlos Santana on a track too.

Tiago: I would like to explore a fusion of many types of music at some point in the future, presently thought I’d like to work with people like J5, Madlib, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Nelly Furtado even old school legends such as James Brown but right now just looking forward to our up and coming collabos!

Who are some of your musical influences?

Rich: Personally speaking as far as music goes I’m more influenced by groups like Led Zeppelin, Otis Reading, Pantera, Down and Rage Against The Machine, but hip hop production styles I like are a cross between old school Cypress Hill, Dan the Automator, Madlib, The Pharcyde, Company Flow and a lot of Timbalands work.

Tiago: I started out as a Drum and Bass MC but I have a wide range of influences, from bob Dylan to Jimmy Smith, Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley and of course Cypress Hill.

Whose doing your beats?

Rich: On the record pretty much all of it is handled by me but there’s always room for ideas from others as everyone has there own styles to bring to the table but I think its important to have one producer in any group otherwise you end up with a watered down sound when you try to keep everyone happy. When it comes to live shows, though, we work more as a band and everyone puts in there twenty percent as we try to do something fresh for the stage each time.

Are you doing tracks in English, or do you plan to?

Rich: At the moment its about eighty percent Spanish, so far we have done about three tracks with English in, one is called “Good Times” which we did our first video for and has been played out on MTV ESP in the US, we also have a track on the EP called “Chant” which Suzi is on and “La Piedra” where its Suzi and Big Quarters, who rap in English. I want to keep this project as a Spanish project with English hooks and maybe a few collabos in English thrown in now and again. Maybe we will add a US mc to the picture sometime down the line but for now its working out nicely.

Tiago: Yeah mostly in Spanish right now but if it works for the song we will do something in English so we are not really afraid to mix it up same reason that we are not following certain trends that are popular at the moment, if we don’t like it we wont do it simple as that. I think somewhere down the line we will mix in more languages, maybe not even English, who knows?

How receptive has London been to a Latin hip hop group so far?

Rich: We haven’t really promoted ourselves that much in London, UK, as the plan has always been to concentrate on LA, Spain, South America, et cetera, having said that the scene is building nicely and there are a lot more Latin clubs nights opening up, we headlined a show to about 600 people here in London at a Latin festival before Christmas, which was heavy, and are looking to do about four shows here in the summer with Bobo, so there is definitely a scene building, problem is we are the scene at the moment (laughs)

Is that the Eric Bobo from Cypress Hill that you just mentioned?

Rich: Yeah, Bobo joined the group recently, which has been a real nice addition to the crew, just came about after he heard a few tracks and we linked up with him on some of the tracks on the EP and also let him use a couple of joints on his new Album called “Meeting Of The Minds”. He's still working with Cypress as well as his solo projects but obviously he's got time for this too which is an honor, and we are really looking forward to recording the album over the summer as its gonna have some crazy percussion driven beats in there!

Are there any other big Latin rap acts in London?

Tiago: We are pretty much the only ones in the UK right now, there are a few acts here and there but I haven’t heard any of their music to even be able to discuss them and they lean more towards the reggaeton and R&B vibe which is something we don’t really get involved with.

Rich: There’s a lot of things going on with clubs and shows, but nothing really that stands out yet, hopefully in the future we might see more Latin hip hop acts but at the moment everyone is on the reggaeton, salsa tip.

Have you been doing any touring or big shows?

Rich: We have done a couple of big shows of 500 to 700 people just to test the water, but really at the moment its all about getting the music down on record and start selling some units. We are looking to go out to Spain and LA soon, but that’s not cheap, so we are waiting till we can push this project with the help of a major label.

What makes Cultura Londres different from other Latin hip hop groups?

Rich: Well obviously the fact that we are from London definitely brings a new sound to the table, as the music scene here is a huge melting pot of sounds and ideas but confined to a relatively small area, so you get a lot of cross over sounds and bands appearing. I also think the fact that between us there are a lot of different influences, granted the main influence is and always will be Hip Hop but its good to throw in ideas from metal, acoustic, blues origins to create something fresh. No doubt at the end of the day we are always gonna be compared to one group or another since there is so much music out there now, that’s cool as long as the group has got its own vibe going on and isn’t biting anyone else’s style intentionally.

Cultura Londres is pretty familiar with the US hip hop scene, how much does the UK's hip hop scene differ from the one in America?

Rich: We I think the UK scene will never ever have the global impact that the US scene has had purely due to the accent of the mc’s here and the fact that a lot of people outside of the UK cant really relate to the s**t that’s being said. The UK scene has more of an underground vibe compared which is cool as you find that there is less bulls**t and less money talk s**t like that which is refreshing too be honest as it gets a lil' boring hearing about how much money someone has and how many clubs they go to, that’s not hip hop to me that’s just ego. Even though that’s been going on since day one in hip hop there’s something about the way it is today that’s just not right, too much big business interest really.

Where do you see the group five years from now?

Rich: Well it’s hard to say really since anything can happen but I would hope that we would be on our 5th or 6th album selling out good size shows worldwide and putting out honest and innovative music. I will take this project to the highest level that I can but as long as I can put food on the table and provide for my family in the future then that’s all I need from music.

Anything else you'd like to add for readers?

Tiago: Thanks for taking the time to read this far! (laughs) But seriously though, we love to hear from people that are feeling the music so anytime people wanna drop us a line please feel free to do so:

Rich: Yea thanks for checking out the group and all the support from fans, readers, industry so far!

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