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Know The Game: Hip Hop Veterano Kemo the Blaxican
8/8/07 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview

 

rapper Kemo the Blaxican

After 15 Years and four albums with Latin Hip-Hop Pioneers Delinquent Habits, Kemo The Blaxican, the Bilingual MC, returns with his strongest and most musically ambitious work to date.

 

The second solo album from Latin hip hop legend Kemo The Blaxican, ‘Not So Rich & Famous’, follows the success of Kemo’s 2005’s ‘Simple Plan’, whose single “La Receta” was included in multiple films and landed videoplay on MTV, Mun2, and LATV.

 

It's been two years since the release of his solo debut ‘Simple Plan’ when we last spoke with the conscious bilingual rapper, as Delinquent Habits’ only Spanish-fluent MC he spent twelve years with the group which released four albums and went gold with their first single "Tres Delinquentes."  We catch up with Kemo in our second exclusive interview with this legend of Latino Hip Hop.

LatinRapper.com: Tell us something about your new album.

The new album is titled "Not So Rich and Famous", I got through recording it seven months ago, just after I finished construction building this new studio, my new studio where I recorded this record. I took some time off between projects, that was one of my primary projects, building this studio which I'm very proud of. Built with my own hands with the help of my friend Menos, he designed it. We went in, day in and day out, hand built it, and I had the help of my homies, the Dead Silence family came in and helped me. The follow up album to my last solo record, Simple Plan, I basically just wanted to come back with a fresh record. little more upswing on it, a little bit of a good time record. Its still all me, I still come with the topics I want to touch on. I did all the production once again, its all symbolic, it's all me. I wanted to keep it up tempo, on the good time, party feel with the exception of a couple of songs.

Got some collabos on there, got together with Q-Unique on a cut called "Disposition." Also a track with Sinful of Dead Silence called "Ugly", touching on the ugly state of mainstream radio. How it can be quite an ugly situation just trying to get radio play, everybody knows it. Money still exchanges hands one way or another, there's still payola in different forms that go on, touched on that quite a bit. Then there's the song "5th of May", which I collaborated with Tetsuya Nakamura who played harmonica nine years with WAR, he came down to the studio and laid that down for me. There's a few collaborations on there, I feel its definitely my best record. I like the way it came out, I feel its a notch above my last album.

You produced most almost all the beats on your last album, was that the with this album?

Last album I produced all but one song, which I co-produced with someone else. On this album, I ended up producing the whole record. It's not really my intent to produce a whole record, I really thought I would get some other production, some other cats. Sometimes the timing, or the vibe, the direction I'm going in, turns out that I end up using all my beats. That's what I did on this one.

As far as guest features you mentioned Q-Unique, he's on the East Coast, right?

Right.

How did you end up connecting with him?

Right, right, from the Arsonists, Uncle Howie Records and all that. I met Q through a friend of mine, Renzo Devia who does the whole Latination and Urban Latino TV.

Right, Renzo runs AIM TV.

I met him through Renz. I knew of him and met him at Renz' office, I would say a couple years ago. We exchanged records, and we both dug each others projects. I guess we were just feeling each other's styles, and we had the opportunity then to talk about doing a quick collabo. So as soon as we could, we knocked that out, that's how that came about.

You said that this album was more upbeat, so how is it different from Simple Plan, is it more radio-friendly?

I would say, number one, the record style is completely different from one another. It's not as bilingual as the first record. Simple Plan consisted of maybe 40% Spanish, 40% English, and 20% bilingual. This album just has more of an English feel to it. It's laced with Spanish here and there, but that alone makes it more of an English record. Second of all, I think that its just the writing is some of my best writing. I feel that I was able to get my point and messages across while keeping you in that funk feel, that uptempo funk flow compared to the other records which had a different overtone. Simple plan was right after I left the group, it was experimental stuff, trying different things, finding what I was gonna do on the solo tip. How I was gonna resurface. By the time I got to this record, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, whereas Simple Plan (laughs), I felt I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it. I feel Simple Plan accomplished what it was supposed to, I'm very proud of that record, and the feedback I got was positive. But this record, I don't feel that there's anything to explain on this record. Play it, it gives what its all about, no questions, plain and simple.

Why did you decide to make this a more English-oriented album?

I don't think it was necessary a conscious decision throughout. I think early on, one point from a marketing standpoint, that Simple Plan... Being that I am an independent record company, I have to look at the marketing and those things. And as much as I love that record, its so diverse, the language made it kind of hard to market on either side. I remember thinking about that, and working on this album I thought I would keep it pretty consistent. Just blending Spanish in, almost undetected, and then bouncing back in English. It could have been a marketing thing, where I put my business hat on for a minute.

"La Receta" had been featured in movies, gotten buzz, a hot single with hot production. Did the single build up expectations for this new album, adding pressure?

I didn't feel any pressure from that. Other than the natural pressure of copying yourself, if you have that competitive nature, outdoing yourself. La Receta was successful, got recognized street level and commercial level, but I didn't feel that I pressured myself to do that again or beat that. I felt that overall I done that on this record, its a very consistent record. I just always want to keep improving, I want to keep making better material, I want to gain fans as I do it. La Receta is one of those kind of songs that kind of let my fans from the past get that same feeling that they got when I rhymed with Delinquent Habits. "Not So Rich and Famous," I feel that there's songs on there that can do the same thing. LCL has that same bilingual feel, Latin feel, still different from La Receta but you can feel that pride when you hear it. There's a song called "No Que No", it has some blaring horns, but it has rapid fire Spanish. Not so much pressure because of that one song, but pressure to keep growing.

Are you doing any tours to promote the new album?

Promoting this record, like the last album, focusing on the states because I feel its important to make some noise here. In the past we didn't really rock the states as often as maybe we should have. Whatever would have been good for us, I don't think we did it enough. So I'm working on trying to get something together. I've been on the phone with some groups that you know, trying to get a tour going. It looks positive, the groups I'm talking to, they're all on board, its just a matter of mapping it out. I anticipate a lot more shows, but I do plan on really getting out to Europe this time. I didn't even get distribution out there, but I know that there's a base out there To get Europe locked down, the states, South America and beyond including Costa Rica and Mexico.

Some people might refer to your music as Urban Regional. You're Black but also Mexican, do you feel that puts you in the realm of what's considered Chicano Rap?

Being that there are so many subgenres of all this hip hop, period, I believe that the way I create music puts me in the realm of all of it. Where do I categorize myself? I like to just say that I'm a hip hop artist. But I'm also very proud and very much aware that I'm a Latino hip hop artist. If somebody were to say, are you following the realm of Chicano Rap? I would say yes. If they said Latin Hip Hop, I would say yes. I wouldn't say it myself, but if they say it, I would say yes. The reason why I say that is because I'm all of that. If someone wants to put me in one subgenre, I don't think they can. But if they feel that by doing so and breaking it down its gonna help people understand and realize whether they might like that vibe or not, I'll say yeah, I'm all of that. I'm that blend that covers it all. If you like Chicano hip hop, there are substantial listeners and fans of Chicano rap that dig my music. If you're just a hip hop fan period, you're going to appreciate it.

There seem to be a lot of fans of Chicano and Latin Rap in Germany and Japan, have you seen that while touring with Delinquent Habits or while touring solo?

I've seen it first hand in Japan, I've seen it many times in Germany and a lot of Europe, including Spain. Early on it was a little difficult, because Hip Hop was still really evolving in those countries. It wasn't quite at the state is now. Even though it was there, as hip hop has grown, there are more and more artists rapping in their own language. So they get their fix of hip hop, without a doubt, even if it aint coming from the states or some other country. I know that there's a very strong demand for Latin Hip Hop and Chicano Rappers in Japan, Germany. From my experience, where I've been and the shows I've participated in, it's always that raw hip hop they're looking for. The shows I've attended or been to, it's never that mainstream top 40. I know they're looking for raw hip hop, they're checking to see what L.A. is doing, they're checking to see what the Chicano and Latino rappers are doing, The demand is strong, especially in Japan.

Outside of the music, I know you've been doing Joint Clothing, how's that going?

It's just been steady. It has not exploded yet, but it's always there, the streets are always checking for what's new. We still ship out frequently to international countries, orders on the streets of L.A. and throughout the states. It really is one of those things that takes a back burner, and then I get back on it and it resurfaces with something fresh and new. 2007, 2008 it has an enormous amount of potential, with the help of some friends and people in the right positions.

Aside from the music and clothing, do you have any side ventures going on?

Currently I don't, just really focusing on Not So Rich and Famous. Very proud and pumped up about bringing this out there. Joint Clothing, those two I focus on, the things I can nurture.

You've sold over a million albums thanks to "Tres Delinquentes", do you still get royalty checks from that?

Yeah, its still a trip, you definitely still see the benefits of something that was a huge success 10 years ago. Its one of them things - people don't lie when they say you have that one hit and you could be set for the rest of your days. That song wasn't quite that kind of a hit. It was a hit, it wasn't quite the kind that set you up for life, but my point being, there's a benefit. Something does take off and does well, you can see a benefit for years to come.

So it's no Aerosmith single, but you're still eating okay?

Well, you know, there's definitely benefits. Times when you get checks in the mail, it shows you were it all comes from, what part of the country is using it, what it's associated with. You get to see how it gets used. If you do get that one track that just blows the hell up, some people can really eat fine. Sometimes I sit back and reflect and think of old rock fans, Zeppelin, classic stuff that gets played, Hendrix. That stuff still plays all day, those records will continue to sell forever. Bands that might have had big successes five years ago, maybe you don't quite hear about them anymore. Provided those guys are the writers, there are still benefits. They're gonna benefit 15 years down the road.

Speaking of down the road, where do you see yourself 5-10 years down the line?

Five years down the line, I still see myself active, musically. Creating music, recording, performing. 10 years down the line, if the direction that I intend to take works out, I could still see myself performing in some cases. I want to take the artistic part of what I'm doing, the performing part and take it to another level. Incorporating a live element to it, but a full on live element, not just a percussion player. Playing everything with a live band. To actually record live. Its just a vision, its not set up, but I can't tear my thoughts away from it. Hopefully, Dead Silence will be well established and supporting and putting out other artists. A back road to these young cats that represent the label.

I know where the Blaxican name comes from, but how did you come up with Kemo?

(laughs) Are you referring to something you read online about cancer?

Yeah.

(laughs) That's crazy. Someone called me and they're like, yo man, I read that you have cancer, that you survived it. That's on that one website where people get to input as much info as they dream up, there's no verification to what you read on that site. Really, Kemo is short for my middle name Kimante, which is a Swahili name. My pops just called me Kemo for short. I keep it to the credible sites that I'm cool with and can get credible information.

So the moral to the story, if its not on LatinRapper.com don't believe it.

That's just what I was gonna say, man, that's the truth. You gotta go with the credible sites. So the fact is, you're hearing it right here on LatinRapper.com that I never had cancer, that's not where the name came from.

Going back to the album, what's the significance behind the song "5th of May?"

I wanted to really represent as a West Coast Hip Hop artist on this record. I made a point to make the song 5th of May, it's really a good vibe party joint, but the reason I wrote that song... You know how it would feel like to have a regular rotation for myself or any other Latino hip hop artist. It's like 5th of May, on Cinco de Mayo there's meetings on how mainstream radio is gonna celebrate that day to acknowledge it. Let's call up some Chicano rappers, some Mexicans, Latinos, lets talk to them about what it means to be Chicano. But its just for that day, just that day you might hear a little bit more of that Latino rapper. Its bulls**t, after that it's done, its back to the same old same old. that was the reason why I wrote that song. I wanted to bring some attention, to acknowledge and call out certain areas of the games that are neglecting areas that should be shining, that they could shine upon.

For me its not about "I aint getting enough attention", its not about that at all, its about this whole movement. This whole scene is thriving with so much rawness and talent and diversity, yet the main cats that can really help to bring this out, and not only will they be helping the artists, but helping hip hop period. The main radio stations are supposed to be the hip hop source for all the listeners. But its so skewed, playing a limited amount of music. Its not because I want there to be just one Latino rap radio station that plays only Latin all day, I'm talking about playing more music, giving the fans more than the limited amount they feed them. There's so much out there, you can't play everybody, but you can definitely expand on what you're doing.

If you're in Los Angeles, you might have a song every five years that hits, but there's about five other songs out there that you can add to the mix. Your fans will appreciate that, especially over here, where most of the listeners are Latinos. They're the ones paying the bills, the reason why why the advertisers advertise what they do. L.A. is one of the only cities that doesn't support its own artists that much. You can go to other cities across the country and hear artists from their area mixed in with everything else. Aside from a few mix shows and specialty shows, Julio G's West coast radio show, mix shows, Heavy Hitters and all, Friday nights, that's the only time you get that diversity. West coast radio needs to take a look around and support their rappers. I don't even blame the DJs or the on air personalities, its the corporate mobsters.

Any last message for fans?

My message to all my fans is thank you for all the support, throughout all the years. Picking up the records, supporting me through Simple Plan. Pick this record up, tell a friend, support that raw hip hop.

Kemo the Blaxican official website: http://www.kemotheblaxican.com
Kemo on Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/kemotheblaxican 

Kemo the Blaxican on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kemotheblaxican 

 

 




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