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Tego Calderon Part II: El Abayarde Strikes Back
8/25/07 - interview by Dante (click for 1st interview)


Tego Calderon picture

Considered by many to be the most respected rapper in Puerto Rico since Vico C, Tego Calderon is back with a new album, a new movie, and a new outlook on life since his trip to Africa.


Our last interview with Tego was a year ago after the successful release of El Subestimado - The Underdog, which received international acclaim for its mix of salsa and Afro-Caribbean rhythms with hip-hop and dancehall reggae influences.

Tego 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.


Tego returns with his latest offering "El Abayarde Contra-Ataca", and a featured role in the new John Singleton film "Illegal Tender", now in theaters. We've got the questions, and the voice of the barrio has the answers in this exclusive interview. The last interview we did with you was a year ago to the month, what motivated you to put out a new album so soon?

I'm coming out with this movie. John Singleton, when we shot the movie, he encouraged me to do an album so that it would be dropping with the movie at the same time. I started working on it, I didn't know if it was going to be ready by the time the movie was going to be out, but it happened and it's out. I have so many lyrics that I didn't use for The Underdog, plus I have crazy producers that are doing music that I love. They put me on the right state of mind with the music, and it just happened so quickly, I couldn't believe it.

What can you tell us about El Abayarde Contra-Ataca?

It's like El Abayarde strikes back, I'm coming back with my old ways. On The Underdog I came out on a personal level, more personal album with the influences that I love. Maybe some people didn't get it. Now I'm coming out simple, simple lyrics, simple stuff, you know, what made me. That's why I named the album El Abayarde Contra Ataca.

What track on this album was the most important to you personally?

Well, the most important song is the first one called Alegria. It establishes a time which is a state of mind, there's no need to be - how do I say it - be happy no matter what, do whatever you gotta do, don't be like... Don't complain, don't complain, don't complain about life, just keep doing your thing. There's people that are doing worse than you are.


I got to this point, you know, I think, from my travel to Africa. When I went to Africa, the Sierra Leone, I started viewing life in a different way. And that's the most important one in my opinion, the first song on the album. Ni Fu Ni Fa is one with an African flavor with to it, it's like three different stories, and I love that one too.

I read that you stopped wearing a lot of jewelry after you went to Sierra Leone.

Yeah, before going to Sierra Leone when they showed me the clip, I didn't know that's what happens over there. When Sandra showed me the clip, I couldn't believe it, I stopped wearing it right away. I never loved jewelry that much, I was doing it because people were doing it. I just started wearing it. One time I got to New York and this guy showed me a medallion, and I loved it and I bought it. But I'm not a jewelry person, so it was easy for me to take them off.

About the album, who did the beats?

I had a lot of people who aren't known, people from Puerto Rico. New people, man, new faces, new blood. It's great, they did their thing, I'm very happy with it. They did it fast too. That's why I didn't chose none of the top names, I needed it to be done fast. I think they did the job, and fast too, and they were happy doing it.

For the people who don't know, where did your nickname "El Abayarde" come from?

It's like a fire ant from Puerto Rico. It's not an ant (laughs), but that's the way I can explain it to you. It's a small insect that bothers a lot. When children behave in a bad way, the grandmothers used to call you, "Oh, you an abayarde". You don't behave, it's like a nickname for people who don't behave properly.

I've been been hearing good things about you for the new John Singleton movie "Illegal Tender", how did you get cast for that?

Oh, it was Franc Reyes, he wrote the character thinking of me, at least that's what he tells me. Then he presented the project to John, John loved it. Then he had just two characters that he had the actors for, it was me and Rick Gonzales. He wanted Ricans, he wanted Tego, John met me in Puerto Rico. We got together, I told him yeah, I'm down with it.


At the same time, other people were trying to get me to do other movies. And I said no, to the reggaeton movie [Feel The Noise] by J. Lo, to el Cantante, to a few movies. But John, I love John, I respect him, I know what he is to the Hip Hop game. I said yes man, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

So we're going to start seeing you in more movies now?

Yeah, he already got me another one. I called him, after we finished that movie I called him from Miami and told him that I wanted to do this comedy. And he was laughing, he was like 'now you want to direct and write and everything'. I was like, no, no man, I want to do this comedy. He was thinking about it, when I went to L.A. last week, he told me that he had this idea for this new movie with me. I was supposed to be a coach of a baseball team. It made sense to me because I love baseball, so it's gonna be a great experience, I'm looking forward to it.

You told me before that you considered Chino Nyno to be the future, have you still been working on projects with him and other Jiggiri artists?

Well Chino is my only Jiggiri artist, I'm fighting with him because he's taking too long to do his thing. He did this mixtape the other day, but he's not working on his album. So we had this argument the other day. I'm pushing him to release his album, but he's got to drop the right way, 'cause he's got this New York mentality of Hip Hop, Hip Hop, Hip Hop, and punchlines. And that s**t doesn't work over here, you know what I'm saying?


People don't get it like that. You gotta be more simple, and do what people like so they get to listen to your other stuff. I'm trying to explain that to him, to get through to him. I know what he is, I was the same thing, I love hip hop, and I didn't want to do reggaeton. But its sometimes its something that you gotta do to get people to listen to your other stuff.

Tell me one thing about yourself that most of your fans don't already know.

Well, I think that most fans don't know that I used to be a drum player, and that I used to be in a heavy metal band. (laughs) I used to play a lot of Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, all that music and I love it. I like it too, I'm a real musical person.

Any last message to your fans?

This album is a good album. I did it with a lot of love, with a lot of respect for my fans. I hope you enjoy it, much love. Go see my movie Illegal Tender August 24, El Abayarde Contra Ataca August 28, much love people.

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