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Vico C Still Holds it Down for Puerto Rico
4/13/06 - exclusive interview

rapper Vico C picture

Puerto Rico's biggest artists today are enjoying mainstream visibility, but most owe thanks to artists like Ruben DJ and Vico C for laying the foundation.  As a teenager, Vico C made a smash debut in 1989, following up with multiple hit singles in the early 90's which gained him recognition throughout Latin America. Having endured various hardships in life including drug addiction, Vico C would become a born-again Christian and return to the Hip Hop scene as a new man.

Having won a Latin Grammy, and now a nominee for the 2006 Latin Billboard awards, Vico C the "Hip Hop Philosopher" speaks openly with LatinRapper about the past and present in this exclusive interview. Are you working on something new in the studios right now?

Well not in the studios, but I'm always working. The fact that I write the songs and do the arrangements, at least most of them, the melodies and lyrics, it makes you understand that you can always work your mind. I get to the studio with the label's present (laughs). I'm basically always working, like in terms as a composer as an artist.

Do you have a new album in mind?

Right now, and this year we're coming out with a musical called Tony Presidio, and we're gonna put it in the theater now. And then I'm coming out with a soundtrack, the CD of the story with different artists. Besides that, this year I'm gonna go to the studio and record the new album. That's besides some other stuff. When it comes to music, that's my plans.

For the new album, whose doing the production?

That's what I'm saying, I always go to the studio, work the most I can to invent in my mind. When I go to the studio, I'm doing everything. There's some technical things I haven't learned like messing around with the equipment. So I create, I play around with keyboard. Sometimes I play the keyboard or this and that, but I create it and leave them to getting them whatever I want to get, and I write the lyrics. I always produce my records.

Do you have any big collaborations planned?

For example, Juanes came to me and wanted to do something, so I don't know if he wanted me to do something for his record, or for my record, the thing is I wanted him in my record. And we've been talking to some people, I don't want to mention out of respect for what we haven't done, but yes there's a desire to do it. That desire is in many other artists that want to record something with me, I know its there, I wont say nothing specific. The Juanes thing, so I might have four or five big people, when I say big people, I mean in the popular Latin music in general, not just reggaeton or Latin Hip Hop.

Is there anyone out there you want to work with?

Oh yeah, there's Juan Luis Guerra, Ruben Blades, I'd like to do something with Don Omar too. When it comes to Reggaeton and Latin Hip Hop, I've only done something with a few people in the reggaeton industry. There's only a few people that I really I respect as complete artists, and Don Omar is one of them. But most people, not because they don't sing reggaeton, I wish, but people I really admire as musicians. If you ask me about English, aint gotta be American, you go to London and there's Paul McCartney, I'd like to do something with that guy. I've never stopped wishing and hoping, I'm a fate man, I think if God wants it, sometimes I'll work with anyone I can.

What do you think about the reggaeton movement in Puerto Rico, being that you've been a part of the Puerto Rican Hip Hop movement from the beginning?

There's many people that see reggaeton as a new thing now, which is not true, it has more than 10 years. Now they call it reggaeton, it used to be another word, another time when it was there, I used to do it also, but it wasn't the main thing, a strong thing. It makes people know about it later because there are many things we had to achieve as people from the ghetto, to make ourselves respected. Until that day came, we had to struggle with it. That's why many people didn't know about it. People know about it now with the name and artists they have now, but this this thing came from 10 years.

Right, back in '95 when I started listening to it, it was called Underground.

Even before then, it was rub-a-dub, come from Jamaica and the states. They used to do the flavor of singing, what we call reggaeton now, I remember that from the early 80s. It was just an influence that it was kind of compatible with the Hip Hop generation because it was represented by the same people, that's why the flavor is compatible. There's no problem with a rub a dub artist doing Hip Hop and vice versa, its like a salsero doing merengue or a merengue doing a salsa, which is not that far. Its not the same thing, but comes from the same people and the same towns, how you say, idiosyncrasia. The rhythm's not the same, but the essence, when it comes to people, its the same.

How much has rap changed in Puerto Rico since you got started?

well, many changes, different era, because when I came up with my first record in '89, you're talking about 17 years, the movement started musically. When it comes to style and everything, it changed every three to four years, changing little by little. Every three years, four years, like many people go and many people come (laughs). Some people stay old and some come new and take over, then they're passed two years more and there comes a new hero.


But it hasn't changed much for me. What changed was the rhythms, the sounds that we used to produce, the kind of styles of the beat and everything. But Hip Hop is not fashion, its part of fashion but not fashion itself, Hip Hop is culture. And culture is about different things. The Hip Hop culture, the clothing is one thing, DJing, rapping, dancing. Styles of this movement are not committed, it doesn't depend on a style but a culture. Something that's already out there, projecting through music, clothing many things. It changes like the clothing, clothing changes a little bit but maybe 10 years, 15 years, and everything comes back.

You talk about things going back, your music has always been socially conscious, have artists forgotten about rap's roots and should they do the same?

It all depends on which kind of rapper you're talking about. There's some rappers that know about that but want to talk about something else. Just like me, I don't do what everyone else is doing, I do a different thing and they gotta respect that. They cant say I'm anti social, I just want to do my thing. It would be better, it would be good if more people did more songs like mine, not because they're mine, but because they say something, and we really need something. I can't blame them, I started as a kid, I started cursing and trying to make myself look like a gangster. But I was 14, 15, years old.


Depends on what kind of rapper, how young, your dreams, because you can't tell them they're wrong. First you gotta analyze their life, which are their priorities. I cant expect from someone whose priorities are violence or gangsterism, I cant expect them to write a social thing

So where are you from in Puerto Rico?

I'm from un barrio, a ghetto called Puerto de Tierra in San Juan. I grew up there, I was born in Brooklyn, went to Puerto Rico when I was five years old, and from then on I grew up in Puerto Rico.

Well your English is good, so are you going to do an English album?

nah! (laughs), thanks for that, I can do it, but the problem is that if I rap, I don't wanna sound like Tony Montana or a black wannabe. In hip hop there's something that you can sing with whatever accent you want. I'm not ashamed of being Latin, but I'm very clear what hip hop is about, American hip hop and people. We Latins can mix things, we like more music, more variety to choose.


But American, its like hip hop people, rockers, you know, hip hop is more specific art in the states. And when you do hip hip, you either do something very different and people like it, but its a risk because if they don't like it, it will look like a failure and like you failed in your career. But if I do it in the strain of the black people, I will sound like somebody I will not, which I don't like personally, and if people find out I'm not that, that's it. I don't want this risk, I feel very good doing what I'm doing. When it comes to English, I might do a movie someday, I'll do a character that talks English the way he wants to talk. Hip hop, that's a more serious thing, a risk.

So are you doing any performances outside of Puerto Rico

Yeah, almost all over through time. In between Santo [Domingo] and South America, the states, Spain, Caribbean, basically.

What's the most important track you've done?

Okay, well my career is divided in two periods, eras. Every era brought a very important record. To me, the biggest comeback I ever made, when I became a man and really understood many things, after I was messed up with heroin, I got out of it, that's when I moved here, and then I made an album called Aquel Que Habia Muerto, I think that album is not the best but the most meaningful because I was coming from. So when I came out of jail and made el Honor y el Verdad, recorded it and won a Grammy. Depends on the era and the achievement , I think Aquel Que Habia Muerto is the most special.

I remember in your track Xplosion you mentioned heroina, were you dealing heroin or have a personal problem with it?

No no, I used to do heroin, I didn't sell drugs, but I used to do heroin. The first time I talked about that thing, myself, about things that I lived was in that album. Its special because people saw a more honest man, something they could relate to even more than before. I always sang social songs, but Aquel Que Habia Muerto is deeper because it came from my experience. From there I always kept doing something from my life. Not because it works, but because I feel like it. I really like to let some things out and make people relate to me. To me its better.

Anything you'd like to add for the readers out there?

Be open with music, open with lyrics, that's all I ask for. People who never heard my music, don't put me in a stereotype, its modern, its real Hip Hop, its real reggaeton, it says something. Just give it a chance. For people who maybe heard some stuff about me but never sat down and listened to my music, listen to my lyrics, that's what I'd like to say. Maybe some people are going to listen. Maybe many of them wont know who Vico C is or what his music is about. Just give it a chance.

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