Lil Rob Represents Brown
9/15/04 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview (click
here for 2nd interview)
Chicano Rap. To those
outside of the West Coast, the term conjures up images of
shaved heads, shades and khakis. To look past that is to
recognize one of the strongest growing subgenres of music
today, being made and purchased by part of America's largest
minority group. At the forefront of this music is
San Diego rapper Lil Rob. Rob made his debut on wax back in
'92, and as an independent artist has sold as many as 90,000
units per CD with virtually no mainstream radio or video play.
Taking a two year break from music after being shot, he
returned to the game, moved away from other successful
formulas and instead focused on music that he and the people
in his neighborhood could relate to. Rob speaks with LR about
his music and what it means to be Chicano.
LatinRapper.com: So what are you working on at the moment?
The new album right now, after Neighborhood Music I think I
found my niche. I think it's more neighborhood pride instead
of gangbanging, homie. The new album is a compilation of my
favorite oldies, more of the hard to find oldies.
1218 is the
clothing line that I'm working on right now. Kind of clothing
we wear, homes, you know cuffs sewed in how we wear them, easy
to crease up. ‘Crisp and clean 1218' (laughs). Also working
with Suspect Entertainment out of Los Angeles. A lot of
homeboys, ex-gang members, people that have been in the pen,
just getting people parts. Parts in Bruce Almighty, Training
Day. I'm in a movie called Party Animals. Little 45 second
clip, debut right there, its at Blockbuster right now.
Hopefully doing soundtracks for movies and all that.
trying to get Mexicans known, have our slang known. Everyone's
talking like the blacks do, we want them talking like the
Mexicans do. Lots of homeboys don't speak right and look right
in the movies, we want it to be a bit of class in the movies,
have them look right instead of just the gangbanging. There's
The music you put out is generally labeled as "Chicano
rap", is that what you refer to it as, or do you consider it
something bigger than that?
Its rap, man, know what I mean. I'm a Chicano so you can label
me what you want to. Stereotypes... It's cool and everything,
but nowadays you get a little older, you get shot for your
neighborhood, you look at things differently.
step up their game. Black rappers, you can't deny they got
skills, Chicanos gotta stay home and get their skills tighter.
I gotta get my skills tighter. Now I gotta live up to that, I
gotta be as good as the next guy getting played after me. You
get played in the radio, you better be good as the next
artist. It's a different ballgame, homes, just trying to keep
up. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to be Chicano, but its just
As an indie artist pushing regional music you've had great
sales, what do you think distinguishes you from other West
I just pretty much stay true to what I'm about. Neighborhood
pride. We drink on our driveway, typical things we do, it
stays in our music. I don't change my slang, the way that I
talk is the way that I talk. Just telling our own stories, we
have our own stories to tell and if people can respect that,
it's all good. If they cant respect that, hopefully people
will get the understanding of it later on.
A lot of radio
station are scared to play it (gang-themed music), I hear
black rappers talk about red shoelaces, red shoes, you know
what they're talking about. But when it comes to a Chicano
saying it, they get scared. A lot of stations scared to play
me, I'm on the frontlines trying to get played. Bash is doing
this thing to knock down the doors. That's all we can do is
You first got some shine back in the early 90's when you
were just 16, how do you feel that you've grown or changed as
an artist since that time?
Well man, I look back and I think that I used to write better
back then, when I turned 22, the rhymes were coming outside.
Sometimes I feel like I can't even write like that no more
since so much has happened. Gotta get motivated, put my
problems down on paper. I understand life a little bit more,
you can't trust a lot of people, can't trust nobody.
it was just a little gangbang thing, tagging up on fences, now
I write on reminiscing back on the days. Older people don't
get offended by what I'm saying. Teenagers or old people, a
lot of moms bringing their sons and daughters to the concerts,
giving me props. I'm not talking about being the baddest one
around, I'm just like you. Just grew up, more problems.
Only a handful of West Coast Latin artists were really
blowing up in the early 90's, how does being Latino fit in
with your music, is that significant to you?
Yeah it is, to put in the slang words so people know how I am.
Not necessary saying ‘puro Chicano' throughout the whole
thing, but letting people know where I come from.
Back in the
days, like you said, Proper Dos, Spanish Fly, Lighter Shade of
Brown, Mellow Man Ace. I think I was lucky to get my shine
when I did. I think if I hadn't started back then, it wouldn't
be crazy now. Now there's a grip of Chicano rappers I haven't
even heard, there's so much competition now, to be seen is kinda hard to do.
So many rappers, so what I do to stay away
from all that, I don't hang with no other cliques or groups.
‘Cause everyone got their own drama with other people, so I
stay away from all that. Still strugglin' though, know what I
What does being Chicano mean to you as a person?
Just being proud of who you are. We have our own stilo,
sometimes people look down on us.... But it doesn't matter how
you dress or how you talk, just long as you represent. Our
families worked hard for us, and for us to take advantage of
that... people messing up the streets and poisoning our kids.
It's cool and everything to be proud of where you're from. But
to kill someone you don't even know because of where you're
from, that's crazy. Be proud of who you are, nothing wrong
with being Chicano.
Have you ever considered dropping an album entirely in
Yeah I thought about it. I haven't tried it yet, so we'll see
Were there other Latinos in hip hop that influenced your
music or conducting business?
Back in the days it was Kid Frost, Lighter Shade of Brown, Ese
Rich Rock and Spanish Fly. Proper dos, Mexican Power, that's
what got me go to the studio. I was rappin' over oldies at the
pad ‘cause my homies took me to a producer's pad in San Diego.
That's what got my foot in the door. Pretty much been around
since then. As far as right now, I listen to Psycho Realm, I
dig the way Jacken puts it down, they got skills. But then
again I haven't listened to a lot of the Latin rappers that
are out there right now.
What can fans expect from your latest effort, Neighborhood
Just like I said, homes, neighborhood pride. Story of how we
live: drinkin' 12-packs of beer in the driveway, scrapin' the
back bumper of a Cadillac. I know how it feels to have
problems, problems with your girl. Talkin' about people who
don't like me, boo hoo hoo, I don't need your crying in my
When the album came out, that was the first one on
Upstairs Records. And to be honest with you, I wasn't really
feeling rap no more. I been through so much in the business, I
been burned, sold a lot of copies. I was pretty much done with
rap, dude. Then I started doing shows and seeing more fans
that I never knew was out there.
So when I busted Neighborhood
Music I put a little bit more in there. I aint goin' nowhere,
gonna keep dropping neighborhood music long as people are
Who did you collaborate with on your last album?
Me and the producer, Mooks out of Austin, Texas. Another dude
named Craig, Groove out of Alabama. And fingers out of
They did all the beats?
Yeah, they do the beats and I did all the lyrics. David Wade
Have you considered getting beats from any of the bigger
names in production, like DJ Muggs or the Alchemist?
Yeah, I mean I do, but right now I got my little thing going
on. It's the money thing, dog, there's a lot of underground
people that can make beats. And if I can make those sound
cool, than cool.. But it's a money thing, and I'm not gonna be
one to go out there and pay for everything, pay for my fame,
I'll take it when it comes.
If people can help me out and
offer their help, otherwise, to pay for someone like Dre,
that's out of my league. I wouldn't even attempt it unless
they came to me like helping me out. I really aint got the
money. That would be nice (laughs)
Indie artists have proven that you can eat well without
going gold, but how important is it to you that you get a gold
or platinum plaque?
It would be cool to get recognized, just to see a Latino hit
the Grammies. Seen anyone that dresses like us, or see a show
on the regular Grammies where we go up there with the Jay-Z's
and Eminem, ‘cause there's a lot of Mexicans out there that
buy their music. Crazy how many Mexicans in L.A., and they
support black rap, they can support our rap.
That would be
important, not necessarily me, but it would be nice to see a
Chicano-style video on MTV. We need to see that because
there's a lifestyle out there, there's a lot of people out
there that want to see it. A lot of places that I been, they
say ‘there's no Mexicans here,' or ‘they don't lowride here,'
but then again they play Snoop who talks about lowriding, but
they talk about Chicano rapping it's a different trip. I tried
to hit the radio when I was 17 , I know I didn't have the
skills back then, but times are changing, its just a little
bit harder. I've gotten a good taste of that.
Its been said that you were breakdancing since you were a
kid, how important was hip hop to you when you were younger?
It was important. I mean, back in the days, my brother used to
DJ, back when Krush Groove came out. Breakdancing, I was in
third grade, they called me Lil Rob. I was performing, I would
go to the other elementary schools and breakdance with the
Hip Hop was always there, my brother was DJing
parties, blend some of the music together, learned how to
blend, scratching and stuff. Doing that in my room. Just
started rapping, I didn't know how that happened. One of my
homeboys was supposed to be rapping, but I ended up rapping
and doing my own thing...
Sen Dog once spoke on 80's Hip Hop on the West Coast, I
guess some people don't realize that breakdancing and all that
was big in Cali back in the days.
West coast pop locking (laughs)
You're from San Diego, I've heard people suggest that you
wouldn't perform in Northern Cali for any number of reasons.
Can you shed some light on that for those readers not living
on the West coast?
Well, I get death threats when I go to perform in Northern
Cali. ‘He's gonna get shot' or whatever. That all comes from
me being from Southern California. That comes from prejudice,
Sureño and Norteño. I don't even know about all that, I'd
rather not. I'm all about brown pride, dude.
I did a show in
Stockton, where they said I shouldn't be at. But I did my
show. Fresno, California was one of my biggest shows. Packed,
sold out. There's a lot of people that hate on me, but there's
a lot of people growing up that don't think like that. When
they say I shouldn't show up, that makes me want to show up
even more. I'm gonna go up there and represent what I'm about.
Brown pride, walk out there with a brown bandana.
A lot of
people don't know what its about, dude, claiming it but they
never been locked up. I guess its just the thing to do
I didn't know whether you wanted to touch on this or not,
but you got shot a while back. Did that have anything to do
with what you just spoke about?
I used to do my little neighborhood thing. Now that I grew up,
its just that one town we had problems with. If other towns
hate on me, they got no reason. I got shot when I was 18, back
in ‘94, got shot in the chin, shattered my jaw (laughs). My
Crazy Life came out, the title of the CD was "Crazy Life",
homie. That's what I was doing, being a kid but being lucky
enough not to die that night and not to get locked up. I been
lucky this whole little journey that nothing bad ever happened
Many Latinos outside of the West Coast, Southwest or
Midwest often write Mexican rappers off as Chicano rappers.
What do you think it would take to get them to open up more to
It would have to be blowing up, get on MTV, get radio play
nationwide, let them get something different. Rap, at one
time, was something different. It's just wrong, we should be
able to be who we are, Ice Cube was who he was back in the day
with NWA, we should be able to be ourselves.
Its easy to see that you're a car fanatic, what rides do
you own at the moment?
‘63 Impala convertible, ‘93 Cadillac Fleetwood, ‘49 Chevy
When people see you cruising through the neighborhood, what
are they likely to hear bumping out of your ride?
Oldies (Laughs). Or instrumentals when I'm riding in the car,
pretty much do all my lyrics while I'm driving everywhere.
What can fans expect from Lil Rob in the future?
Hopefully a whole lot, man. I'm back and I'm not stopping.
Whatever comes to mind, it has to do with how we live. Expect
it, ‘cause I will bring it. No one can put it down if its
something popular that we do. ‘Cause I been on the frontline,
getting made fun of ‘cause of the way we talk. But whatever,
we'll prove them all wrong someday.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Stay tuned for anything that I'm doing, ‘cause I'll always
have something coming.
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