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Lil Rob's Summer Nights
8/7/05 - exclusive interview (click here for 1st interview)


Lil Rob picture

Chicano Rap on MTV? Some said it would never happen, but one artist is on the verge of changing all that.

San Diego rapper Lil Rob has been a part of the game since '92, pushing as many as 90,000 CDs per album while continuing to stay underground. His new album, Twelve Eighteen Pt. 1, has pushed the mainstream limits of Chicano Rap and has gotten the subgenre a new level of attention nationwide.

In our first interview Lil Rob discussed what it meant to be Chicano, how being shot changed his life, and what it would take for Chicano rap to get respect. Back on the grind, Rob took a break from his hectic schedule to speak with LatinRapper on his new album and brown pride. Big news first, new album out. Tell us a bit about Twelve Eighteen.

Its Lil Rob, some good music out there, different music. Neighborhood music with the oldies samples, club music, stripper music (laughs). Just a big variety, bro, hip hop, a big variety of everything. Everyone likes a bit of something different, I didn't wanna put just one style on the whole album, hit a wider audience. It can be played in the clubs now, in the neighborhood too, just a well rounded album.

What exactly is the significance of the number twelve eighteen?

Just a neighborhood thing, homie. Like we tagged up the neighborhood, we used the numbers instead of the letters. 12 for L, 18 for R, it had a ring to it, I ended up tattooing it on my arms. Determined to make something happen out of it. It's working homie, its my biggest album so far. So now that's my thing, it will be attached to everything. When I do get my clothing line up homie, that will be 1218, anything that has to do with Lil Rob will be 1218.

You spoke about finding your niche with Neighborhood Music, did you stick to that formula for this album?

I mean I did, its not really that I found a niche bro, I just found out that if you put raza first, you can't lose. I did the whole gang thing, I grew up, now raza is raza to me. I drop it for everyone, homie, not just my click or neighborhood. People said I changed my flow or whatever, but its still me on there. Still brown and proud and raza related. I haven't changed, I don't think it sounds any different. Just gotta give it a listen, be open to new things so I can open up, so people can listen. I got added to all these stations because I opened up and experimented, now we're being seen and being listened to, before we were just getting put down.

How is Twelve Eighteen Part 1 different from your last album?

Like I said bro, I don't feel that it is different, the production is different. I still use Moox out of Austin, Texas. We recorded 26 songs, we took the best 13 for this album. I recorded enough to do a part 2, we had a hard time choosing for this album. So we just compromised and put out certain things, but in my eyes it's the same.


But it's old school sounding, people said I changed my flow up, I been doin' different flows throughout my whole career, its always been something different. Trying to do the radio thing, trying to blow it up, believe me it was hard for the label to work me, I just looked like trouble to people. There are a lot of good people that represent brown, a lot of us trying to do good, we shouldn't change the way we dress, just conduct ourselves with some class.

I heard Summer Nights on the radio, which is the first time I've heard Chicano rap outside of the Southwest or West Coast. What does it feel like when Chicanos to get mainstream acceptance like that?

It's cool. Especially if you don't change who you are, I'm that same person that came out 15 years ago, bro. A lot of work, a lot more work than I thought, it feels good to stay on the front line and finally get respected from people. Radio, rappers, everyone else. The hating comes with the territory, but you just put that aside. Definitely feels good to be doing these big shows, real cool, especially to go all the way to the East coast.

What motivated or inspired you to do Summer Nights in the first place?

That's my thing too, bro, not just like I did a song to hit radio. A singer played a beat, asked if I would rap to it at the studio. Sounded like a feel good song, he played a good beat and that was it. If I hear a good beat, I'mma write to it. Whether its hip hop or anything, the blues, I'll rap to it if I like it, that's why there's a bunch of different types of music on the album, we all grew up with different types of music.

What artists appeared on your album?

Actually there's no other artists, again I just don't try to trust people in the business, I've been through it where they're friends one day and backstab you the next. I got a lot of people I know in the business that last I know I was cool with them, now they talking sh*t about me. I don't even waste time putting people on my album anymore. I've never had a feature on my album just because I don't trust people, they're out to get theirs.


I wish people weren't like that, wish I could help them, but I do my thing homie. Just the producers and label that helped me out, otherwise people taking credit for stuff they didn't even do, but that's expected. You don't see me hanging out with other rappers just because of that fact, some are real caught up in the rap world and forget to be humble. Without the fans, you can't do nothing. Respect those people that made you.

It looks like you had an additional producer involved this time around, right?

Fingaz, he's bad, bro. He did like 8 of the tracks on this new album. Sounds good man, good mixture, different sounds.

I noticed you're all over the place right now, are you touring or just promoting the album?

Just promoting, did a retail tour right now, different city every day. 42 cities, we just did Phoenix, there was 1500 people in the store. Albuquerque, 3500 people in the parking lot, I did a free show out there, hang out. Every spot that I hit so far been a good turnout, good to see people come out, be proud to be who they are, proud to be Mexican. They got someone representing now on a high level, I don't mind staying ‘til I'm done. It just feels so good, some girls are crying, it feels good.

How important is it for artists on the grind to do the music store and radio station appearances?

Ah bro, it's real important man. If I don't do those things, the radio doesn't see the people that dig me. Like today, 1500 people at the store at the mall. They have to respond to that, like ‘damn, this guy has listeners.' I'm pulling a big crowd, some places it's a bigger crowd than anyone else brought.


 It took a long time to get respect homie, I just waited for it, now people see we aint goin' away, Rob aint goin' away. Long as the fans are there, I gotta keep dropping music. They gotta know that you're out there, that you actually care. Its real cool, its very important. To get your face out there, do your thing.

What would your advice be to someone who enjoys rapping and wants to make a career out of it?

Just not to quit, don't burn no bridges, respect people. Don't step on nobody's toes, that comes around and kicks you in the ass, bro. I got people wish they never did what they did, I'm a good dude, would have been helping them all the way through. But they learn the hard way. Keep practicing, don't get caught up in any rappers drama. You don't need theirs, they don't need yours.

Like you said, every rapper picks up some haters, so what makes you wake up every day and decide that you still want to be a high profile artist in your subgenre instead of a more quiet job?

All the fans, bro. All the fans that are out there, they don't want me to quit, homie. I'm on a different level now, I get outside dude, see people all over the place.. Certain people rap about a certain place where they're from, but I don't. I got checked a long time ago, nothing wrong with getting checked. If they call me sellout, call me whatever they want, but I'm proud to be brown. I know I aint no punk. We can get down, I'd rather not, I'd rather live without having to watch my back. You gonna rap then rap, you gonna be gangster, then be gangster.

Last time we spoke, we discussed what it would take for Chicano Rap to get national attention, have you seen any changes that tell you this is happening?

Ah yeah, the first week I sold 35,000, know what I mean, that's the most I ever done [the first week]. It's crazy, all the work we're putting into it. Its happening now, bro, getting the respect, going out and the crowds are bigger. Lotta people think we don't need radio, that's fine, but there's a way to do it to where we don't change who we are. Long as I'm making hits. You should know, I‘m proud to be brown every time I spit. Gotta make something for everyone to listen to.

What's the story with 1218 clothing?

It's still there bro, but now that everything's happening, its to a bigger level, we gotta make it happen. Before it probably would have worked, but it's a way bigger difference now. Something for the homies, it creases up real clean. It's a process, one thing at a time, I don't wanna overwhelm the setup.

Any other side projects or activities we should know about?

Right now dude, Part 2 is ready to go. So when this one starts dying down or whatever, we got Part 2 ready. That's about it. Doing the movie thing with Suspect Entertainment out of Los Angeles. Two movies, one is coming out in November with MTV films, little cameo where I do Summer Nights on stage. And the other one with Cuba Gooding JR, called "Dirty", coming out in December. That's another thing, doing a little bit behind the camera. We just did the video for Summer Nights, someone told me its on BET right now but I haven't been around a TV. But gonna be on MTV any day now, MTV accepted the video. Everything good is happening, long as it stays on that route, we aint gonna stop.

Tell me one thing that people don't know about Lil Rob.

I'm really down to earth. People mistake me for being gang related like crazy, but like I said, it's a raza thing. It's a matter of where you're at, and what you're claiming, but to me its about good music people can listen to, no matter what neighborhood.

Is there anything else you want to add for the LatinRapper readers?

Just be open-minded, I'm doing my thing trying to blow it up. Some people don't understand, think I'm trying to sell out for mainstream. I'm just trying to make music. I'm not trying to say I'm the downest gangster around, or the baddest rapper. I'll just do my thing, if you cant respect that, step back (laughs).

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