Interview with Kemo the
7/28/04 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview
As Delinquent Habits' only
Spanish-fluent MC, Kemo spent twelve years with the group,
releasing four albums and taking the Delinquent sound
beyond borders and around the world. In 1996 the group
struck gold with their very first single "Tres
Delinquentes", a song that masterfully fused a traditional
mariachi sound with the raw hip-hop backdrop of the
streets. "Tres Delinquentes" blew up almost overnight,
selling over 1 million copies worldwide and pushing the
group's self-titled album to nearly the same figure.
Kemo has since decided to
leave the group and embark upon a solo career. June 29th
marked the release of "Simple Plan" his first album as a solo
artist. Kemo speaks to LatinRapper in an exclusive.
LatinRapper.com: Explain to readers where the name Kemo the
Blaxican came from.
It's a name that was made up that basically describes me best
as far as my nationality and background, I'm half Black, half
Mexican. The name Blaxican represented both sides for me, I
wanted to rep Blacks and Latinos, both sides.
Are you still a part of Delinquent Habits?
No, not at all officially. I've walked away and left the
group. It was by choice, so its official that I'm no longer a
part of Delinquent Habits.
Your new album is in both English and Spanish, ever
consider dropping an entirely English or Spanish album
I've considered it and I may do it in the future, really don't
know. As I'm making a record, I just do what feels right. And
doing "Simple Plan", it just felt right. I've never done a
completely Spanish album with D.H.. before, it just didn't
feel right. God willing I'm able to do more and more albums, I
may just do an entirely Spanish or English album, it all
depends on how I choose to express myself.
Right now artists like Juan Gotti, Sinful, Crooked Stilo
are getting a lot more attention for rapping in Spanish than
in previous years, have you yourself seen any noticeable
change in these listening trends since your first CD?
I have, I noticed that the trend is for Latin record companies
to be supporting rap in Español, noticed it more than ever
before. When we first dropped our record [in 1996], we were
considered Latin hip hop, now there are a lot of sub
categories. I noticed the attention being put on rap en
Español, so some of the artists considered Latin hip hop are
attracting major labels.
I still feel that just hip hop made
by Latinos is still somewhat kind of being somewhat neglected,
we aren't quite getting the attention we need to. I don't feel
like we have to flip our songs in Spanish only to get the
labels to pump money into us, what needs to happen is the
music needs to be nurtured, that needs to be the case with
English or Spanish or bilingual records.
I say that in full support of all that additional love we
are getting, that can only be good, however I feel that
Latinos that are still putting music out in English, if its
quality I think the labels should back it up, but the labels
are dropping the ball.
I'm trying to level the playing field for all of us. Truth is,
we're grinding every day just like any other hip hop artist.
Something needs to be done. I'm not tripping on it, I made
like 7 Spanish songs on my record, but I didn't do it for that
reason (to increase sales).
What about the cat that's not
writing in Spanish but he's a dope MC? What's the problem
there? Some say it's the dialect, the words we use, the accent
- I think that's all bull, man. I think good music is good
music regardless. I've read that we are the number one
consumers of hip hop music, and many of these stations, here
in L.A., how many Latinos you hear spun on the radio.
Latinos are the largest minority, contributing at least 400
billion annually to the U.S. economy, so that wouldn't
But all in all, I look at what is happening as positivity in
the game, ‘cause I think from the inside out, we're growing,
artists are growing, overall better production all the way
around, that has a lot to do with it. Hopefully some of these
labels will get smart or someone at the radio stations will,
they might get a larger fanbase because they are playing the
voice of the people listening.
I'm not talking about playing
ALL Latin hip hop, just adding it to the mix. There's groups
like Ozomatli, I'm like ‘damn that sh*t's tight', but I never
hear it played (on the radio). I don't mind digging for good
music, but back in the days the DJ would slap a record on just
because its tight, not off a playlist where you hear the same
song 15-20 times
How will your solo album differ from the four group albums
you've put out?
Well, it differs in many ways, first off I did everything on
this records, it's truly a solo project. Everything from the
production to all the writing to the graphics, it was a
challenge all the way through, I wanted the challenge. It's
really truly a bilingual record, I think it becomes a bit more
personal than it was on the D.H. records.
The D.H. records, we
accomplished a lot as a group, but this allows me to touch on
more intimate details about myself. Too often artists don't
wanna touch on issues... Like I have a song that talks about
good moms, how valuable they are. I talk about questions that
might arise that go through someone's head when they are about
to do something that morally they know they are double
checking themselves on. Songs that reveal a bit about myself,
much more personal record I guess, you'll get to know me
better with this album. It's just a real simple process, do
away with all the complexities of major labels, major studios,
I recorded it in a small home studio.
What rapper have you not worked with that you'd like to
collaborate with, and why?
I would like to do a collabo with Sinful, I always respected
his talent, his delivery, his lyrical ability, he's be a cat
I'd like to work with. I'd like to work with Xzibit for
similar reasons. I'm into what a rapper raps about, what he
stands for, their beliefs. And to tell you the truth, I think
Cee-Lo from the Goodie Mob, I wouldn't mind doing something
with him. There's others, but those are the first that come to
Who did the beats on your new album?
I did, I did the production. I created my production company
called Symbolix productions, I did all the production on the
album with the exception of Silent Dead, I co-produced that. I
really focused on lyrics on this record, it has its ups and
downs. Some of it's real cultural with the horns and flamenco
guitars. I even touched a bit of jazz on there, a little bit
of spoken word on there.
There's some killer vocals on there
by a girl named Monica Ortiz, she's bilingual, she just killed
it. Right now Simple Plan single is getting rotation in
different cities. La Receta is getting play in San Diego, I'm
noticing that its being received well. But the different
regions are picking up different songs. I thought that would
be a kind of challenge in marketing, good music is gonna
transcend borders anyway.
Are you going to tour to promote the new album?
Yeah, absolutely, touring is mandatory for me. Now being a
solo artist, its gonna be important to go out and tour and
prove myself as a solo MC, I look forward to it.
Where were some of the places you've toured before, and
which city outside of the U.S. has been your favorite
destination for you as far as touring goes?
I've toured all over Europe since 1996, Germany, Switzerland ,
Holland, France, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico. But the
city that comes to mind of course has gotta be Amsterdam, it's
gotta be a good place to visit. A lot of people speak English
over there, and anything you might need is definitely not far
A lot less stress, but I was really fond of Japan as
well, the hip hop scene was going well, I did a Tribal tour in
1998, along with Tribal and ourselves came Funkdoobiest and
Psycho Realm, Rock Steady Crew, Tony Touch, Mr. Wiggles, the
vibe there was incredible. I'm looking forward to going back
out to Japan too, not only that but I have a clothing company
that is carried by twelve different stores in Japan.
You have your own label, Dead Silence Records. What are
some of the projects you're currently working on for it?
Aside from this, Simple Plan, next in line is an artist by
Jehuniko, Monica Ortiz, Sickle, basically everybody that
participated on my albums. Number one, they got the talent,
but to add to that they got a whole lot of passion and they
are very driven. I think you have to be relentless in this
game if you want to succeed. These guys are 100 percent
committed, same thing as Delinquent Habits, that group was 100
percent committed to what they were doing.
I know these guys are hungry, sometimes its hard ‘cause
unfortunately they have to be extra patient. One thing I don't
do is offer to sign anyone to Dead Silence off the bat ‘cause
I don't wanna tie up anyone's career. For now I work with
them, I do tracks, I record their music, once its done I can
offer them something its cool. Jehuniko is first in line.
What made you decide to start Joint Clothing?
Because I think part of it is I want to add to my arsenal, of
stuff that I can claim, start another business. But it was a
money thing, a way for me to make some money, and at the same
time I wanted to promote unity. Joint clothing to me is
unification, a universal clothing line. I was living in a
two-car garage, I was going through some label disputes, "Here
Come the Horns" wasn't going too well, so I started a clothing
line. Invested some money, lost some money but learned a lot,
that was back in ‘98, just another way to hustle, do something
You've sold over a million albums with Delinquent Habits.
Have you met the goals you set for yourself, or do you still
have goals musically?
I think my goal is I continue to grow, so I would say in the
beginning for myself, and same for many, is to actually just
have a record come out, a real album to be put in stores.
Later you hope to hear it on the radio, all those goals were
attained. When I first dropped Tres Delinquentes, to actually
have a hit, you never know when that's gonna come.
And we had
a song that was a number one hit that crossed over to
mainstream and became a number one video on MTV. I never
thought that far ahead, that I would be on MTV, let me just
make a solid record. I had achieved success at that time, now
they've evolved ‘cause the more I was in the game the more I
learned about it.
I started setting my goals, now its to push
this music to where it needs to be. To help shed some light,
that Latino hip hop needs some labels to do some things and
help blow this up. So I'm not done yet, I don't feel that I've
peaked. And I don't mean just musically.
On the East coast there is nothing uncommon about Cubans,
Puerto Ricans and Dominicans being both Black and Hispanic.
Coming up on the West Coast, did growing up both Black and
Mexican have any effect on you or how you were treated by
Growing up on this side, it was a little more uncommon than
maybe on the east coast, but I had my incidents when I did
experience racism and prejudices from both sides. But it was
rare, I never let race be a major issue in my life, always
proud to be Mexican, proud to be African American. I grew up
the Mexican way with my mom and the Mexican side of my family,
that's what I know most.
You know what, I never had major
issues, on occasion, there would be some racial slurs thrown
around. I've been called "mojado" and "mayate" on the same
day, those things I overcame and if anything it was more of me
kind of finding myself and being cool with being the blend,
being cool with knowing myself and accepting that whole
Blaxican thing. Its not necessarily a take sides thing, just
what you felt in your heart. I didn't have major issues too
long (laughs), I just rolled with it. I feel like I'm rich and
blessed with a whole lot of history, whole lot of culture.
Many people who will read this interview hope to get a
career in the music business as rappers. What advice can you
offer them as a start?
First thing I would suggest is to stay as original as
possible, if you are gonna be rapping and creating hip hop,
keep the core foundation but don't look to be the next so and
so, try to stay true to yourself. With your lyrics and with
your music. Lyrically try to stick original, I always stress
to be educated in the business, so I would recommend picking
Education goes a long way, it sure works that way
for music. Learn about contracts, how record companies work,
distribution, what points are, all that business. When it
comes time to sit down with a major label, you will know what
you are talking about, that's power. They wont be able to
swindle you. No pussyfooting your way around, you gotta be
committed one hundred percent and be prepared for some
rejection. But if you ‘re driven, I think people will get
where they gotta go.
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