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Tego Calderon Represents for the Underdogs
8/15/06 - interview by Dante (click for 2nd interview)

Tego Calderon picture

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Tego Calderón - AKA "El Abayarde" - has earned international acclaim for his unique musical style, which mixes salsa and Afro-Caribbean rhythms with hip-hop and dancehall reggae influences.


Lyrically, he has forged a revolutionary flow inspired by his authentic street roots, creating a social chronicle that openly addresses such issues as racism, poverty, and class oppression. 

Combining hip '60s slang with modern urban language, and set apart by his unmistakable Afro hairstyle and captivating stage presence, Calderón's appeal transcends economic, social, and age barriers, as he creates music with truly universal appeal.  The voice of the barrio speaks with LatinRapper about his upcoming album "El Subestimado" / "The Underdog" in this exclusive interview. Can you tell us about the new album?

The new album's called "The Underdog", coming out August 29. Its crazy, its different from the one I did before. Its full of different rhythms from the Caribbean, from America. I got a little bit of Blues, a little bit of Rumba in there, Bomba, different stuff that I sang in Salsa. I got Hip Hop mixed with Latin flavor.


I did a good job, I know that everyone says the same thing when an album's coming out, but in my case its honest. Its a real simple album, honest and very real. People, when they hear my album, they gonna know, they gonna have a lot of answers to the question of why I took so long to come through with a new album. They gonna get a lot of answers to why Tego took a break, its full of life, its like a diary the way I see it.

How is The Underdog different from El Abayarde and Enemy de los Guasibiri?

El Abayarde was really my first album and my only album, el Enemy de los Guasibiri was something I didn't approve, never. It was full of old records I had done, they released that. El Abayarde, its like when you graduate from high school. This one is like a Masters degree, I came through hard with different beats, a lot of music, a lot of changes.


You don't know where you're going from song to song, you don't expect the path you gonna take. Its not like these albums like you hear these days that only have one song good, its all the same from top to bottom, not in this case.

I know you're performing at Amsterjam, are you doing any other touring?

I'm doing tours, I'm going to America, going to be this week in Atlantic City, Washington, we gonna be touring.

You have a couple of big guest features like Oscar de Leon and Don Omar, is there anyone else that you'd like to work with?

The Marley brothers, I would love to work with the Marley brothers, the children or Damian. I would love that to happen. Besides that, in the Latin side, I would like to work with Juan Luis Guerra some point in my life, Ruben Blades, Jose Feliciano. Mostly on the Latin side, I don't like what's happening that much in hip hop these days, so that's why I'm stepping away from that. There's nothing that really gets me.

I know you have girls, can they listen to this album?

Yeah, yeah. Everybody can listen to this album.

At your album listening party you told LatinRapper that you don't completely consider your music reggaeton, is this album more Hip Hop than reggaeton?

Its a little bit of everything, like I was telling you. I've never done just reggaeton, all my albums are filled with different types of music. People... If you're a merenguero and you do a salsa, you're still a merenguero, that's how [the fans] they're doing it.


But I don't feel like I only do reggaeton, this album got hip hop, got salsa, got a little bit of everything. Trying to show people where I'm at and what I'm able to do. There's nothing you can tell me... its not like you can tell me reggeaton fall off - nothing's gonna happen with Tego. Its not that way, I'm showing in this album, I feel like I'm a musician and that's what I'm showing these days.

Is the Reggaeton movement improving or getting worse?

I don't know, I think its stuck right now. It depends on a few things, we need more new artists with new ideas, new producers. I'm gonna keep working, cause I got children to feed.

You're known throughout Puerto Rico and the world because your music is more political, more about the people. Do you feel more artists should go that direction?

I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do, what's really you. That's me right there, that's why I got into this game, that's why I do it. But you can't force someone to do something that they're not.

Are you doing anything outside of rapping, as far as businesses or management?

I got my own label called Jiggiri records. I got this artist called Chino Nino that's coming out after my album. I got this movie called Illegal Tender with John Singleton, from reggae. I got my studio, that's gonna be my main business these days. Gonna be done by September, I'm happy about that too.

So your main artist is Chino Nino?

You gonna like him, he's real special to me. He's the future, for real.

I read an interview long ago that you originally rapped in English but changed your mind. Would you consider doing an English album in the future?

No, I don't see that happening. At least for now, maybe in the future but I don't think that's gonna happen, that's not me. If I had the skills to do it, the vocabulary and everything, I'd do it, but I don't consider myself an English rapper.

Because you can't get your point across the same way?

I aint gonna be able to get my point across in a way that people are like "Yo, he's an intelligent motherf**ker" like they do in Spanish, I wouldn't do that.

Where do you see yourself in the music industry 10 years from now?

I would like not to be in it. I would like to be far away from it. I will keep doing my thing, maybe, on the down low, but I would like to be with my kids, in the country, with the gallo pelea and the animals in the country. Chilling, relaxing in a hamaca. 10 years from now, I would like to have my situation covered financially, just waiting for God to call me.

Any last thoughts?

For real, go get this album, its worth it, its gonna be out August 29.

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