man. I'm in this fucking hot-ass LA weather. We're chilling out here,
grinding, trying to keep this movement moving.
on the Interscope deal. How did that come about?
out. It came about with this BYI Entertainment thing. I put out the mixtape
City of Gods last summer and that got a big buzz in the streets. We dropped
Blow six months later and kept the buzz going. We have Mister Cartoon
doing all the artwork and all the art direction. Between him, me, and
Lulu, we got the buzz we needed. We dropped Cruzifixion a month ago, but
that was after we had already signed.
you feel comfortable going with Interscope?
a lot of different reasons why I think Interscope is a label artists look
up to. The independent game is pretty big right now. I think Jimmy Iovine
is a big reason. When he supports you and feels your music, nothing can
go wrong. Tom Punnunzio from Geffen is the person who got us our deal
over there. Interscope is that machine that allows your art form to get
to a larger audience. We need that big machine behind us because it's
really hard out here for someone to get that exposure if you're not getting
pushed. It's hard to get everyone to listen to you when you're Latino.
With that big machine behind you, you can't lose.
it been going so far?
We just started
working on the album. We're gathering some tracks, trying to get the sound
the same and get the direction. We're looking at a first-quarter release.
it was tough having people listen to you because you're Latino. What challenges
do you face?
been the same since Big Pun passed, Rest in Peace. What Big Pun did was
sick. He was a monster on the tracks so it didn't matter what race he
was. I'm trying to do the same thing on the west coast what he did on
the east coast. It's a little different out here because it's more spread
out. I'm pretty sure it's the same challenges Em faced when he was coming
out. We have a stereotype of cats thinking we can't rap or that we all
do a certain kind of rap or that we all do reggaeton. To get them listen
to you is hard. I've been getting that for the past ten years now.
look at TI who's making statements about how immigrants should go back
to their country. That's an ignorant statement. A lot of people have a
different perception of us. I just saw a Saigon video where he's mimicking
us and trying to talk like us like he just saw an '80's gang movie. A
lot of it is they don't understand the culture and that's what I'm trying
to bring to the table. That's what we're dealing with. I'm trying to break
that stereotype and let them know we're heated and we have spitters. I'm
trying to bring that to the forefront.
you say to T.I. if you saw him today?
I was at
the BET Awards looking to talk to him. I think me and Pitbull were the
only Latino rappers on the carpet. I was out there twenty-deep with my
Dodger fitted. I would have asked him if he wanted my mother to go back
to her country and my father to go back to his country. That means I wouldn't
be here. What are you saying, duke? Get educated. I'm not even mad about
that, but blanket statements shouldn't be made like that by someone in
his position. He probably said that because he thought no one would respond.
That's a plus to being on Interscope. I have a platform now and people
have to watch what they say now. I know there are Mexicans in Atlanta.
I'd have to take a walk with him and talk to him and just school him on
some shit. I know he knows about LA. We're deep out here, so what is dude
saying? Those are the obstacles I'm going to have to deal with that a
lot of other rappers don't have to deal with.
just don't think a lot of people have their pulse on the LA streets. He
must have not been out here. I don't know who he was rolling with out
here, but you can't say things like that and not expect repercussions.
Latinos are deep in the game and now we have a voice with me and a few
other artists who are bubbling. I just don't understand why cats put themselves
in these positions. They must have just seen some '80's gang movie. That's
not how we talk. We don't wear hairnets anymore. We're right there in
the game. I guess it's just a matter of time before they start seeing
us more and they start to realize we're not just extras in these videos.
at that, do you feel any pressure to change the stereotypes?
so much pressure as it is that I'm going to do me. I grew up in the westside
of Los Angeles. The westside is different than most parts of LA. There's
more money on the westside so the way people dress is a little different.
Hip-hop has borrowed our culture a lot, like the white tees, so now we're
going to get our chance to really represent it. There's a lot of the black
and gray style ink. That came from the prison Chicano culture and Mister
Cartoon is bringing that back. A lot of our culture has been injected
into the industry without having an MC to back it up. My father is from
Columbia, my mother is from Mexico and I was born here in LA. I have all
these stories to tell so that people can understand us a little more,
so the next time they get on DVD's, they don't have to make stupid comments
telling some of those stories on The Cruzifixtion.
a good example of what to expect from a Latin cat out on the west coast.
The first song speaks a lot about the whole struggle of being the first-born
son of immigrants and my parents thinking that by having me here, it was
all going to be good and not thinking about the gang traps and the violence
that affects the Latin communities. That's a trap for us to avoid going
to college and becoming members of society. We're stuck in the streets
and sometimes our parents don't realize that. Sometimes they think it's
all gravy just because they made it to the other side of the border. That's
what I try to touch on on that album.
treat this like an album and not a mixtape?
I don't really
approach mixtapes like a mixtape. I put albums out. City of Gods was like
an album even though there were some instrumentals on there. You can download
music on BYIEntertaiment.com. I approached The Cruzifixtion like an album.
I tried to bring the Latin sound into it and it's all hip-hop. The struggle
between music and the streets saved me. I was talking to Lulu about this
yesterday. We feel we have a responsibility to our people, our culture,
and the music, and they all tie in. Ten years from now when we leave the
game, we can say we made change for our people and we made it easier for
our people to get in the game and we put our stamp on hip-hop culture.
of artists say music is therapy. It seems like it's much more to you.
You can see all the religious undertones, with the title Cruzifixtion
and in a lot of other ways. When you come to my show, you're going to
church. Picking up the pen and pad is my confessional. I'm not trying
to overdo it, it just is who I am.
started your debut album?
on it and just going through some tracks right now. We have in-house production
from ROME. He's bringing that sound that you hear a lot on The Cruzifixtion.
He did the meat and potatoes of that. He's bringing that soulful, Latin
sound. We're also looking at other cats like Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze,
and the Dr.
Dr. Dre for advice on the mixtape cover. What advice has Dre given you?
me direction as far as where to stay with the music- keeping it street
and keeping it gully. As long as it doesn't go too far overboard and you
keep your ear to the streets, you'll be good. That stuck with me. There
is definitely a lack of Latin MC's in the game right now and I'm just
trying to fill that void. In talking to other people from New York as
well, they've been saying it's time for a Latin cat from LA to come out.
They're saying it's the next thing. I'm not saying it's the next big thing,
but there's definitely a lack of Latin MC's.
is tattoo-legend Mister Cartoon to your team?
grinding for over ten years and I met him through Lil' Lucky over at Joker
Brand. He's been instrumental in helping me to get my name out there.
I come through with the lyrics and he comes through with the art direction,
cinematography, and the videos. Lulu is the CEO of BYI and our team is
so tight and everyone comes through. We're able to do what we need to
do in the game and back each other up in our individual art forms. Cartoon
is a huge hip-hop head. He loves the old-school. Whenever I'm over there,
he's blasting my music or the oldies. I don't think you can have the artwork
without the music and vice versa. For us to hook up, it wasn't a fly-by-night
thing. We've known each other for years. To have him in my corner is a
it like getting tatted by him?
That's therapy right there. He never told me, but he might have a Master's
in Psychology because you come out a lot smarter than when you went in.
He's a very smart individual. I guess he's been talking to a lot of different
people and he's picked up on a lot of shit. That's definitely therapy
for me. I come out of there a lot smarter and his advice is very valuable.
I think that's why people like to go to him so much, because it's like
an experience. You don't just go to get an "I Love You, Mom"
tattoo and pay him $40. There's like a six-month waiting list, but it's
worth the wait.
some friends get messed up by some crappy tattoo artists.
I would never
let anyone touch my skin but Cartoon. It's going to be on your skin the
rest of your life and I don't understand why people want to cut corners.
If you need a heart transplant, would you go to a bootleg spot because
you want it done cheaper? If you have your idea, let Cartoon do it and
you'll have it on your body for life. It's going to look good and it's
going to be on your body until you pass.
would you say your team is?
I don't think people realize that's what it takes in this game. I could
never take all the credit. I do what I do and I know it allows everyone
else to move as well. Lulu is the CEO of BYI, which stands for Beyond
Your Imagination. We're claiming that new dynasty. We've looked at what
all the great teams in history have done, like Dame and Jay, Rick Rubin
and Russell Simmons, and Diddy and Biggie. If it's done the right way,
it can last. There has to be loyalty. It allows us to move forward in
the game and take people with us. We have a strong team in the streets
with the flyers and signs. The big thing is we're letting people know
that we're here and it's time for them to get used to us. The team is
essential. A strong team is essential in this game.
face any challenges with the name change from Blunts LLA?
It was also
a growth thing for me. I wanted to put more of myself in the music and
it allowed me to get a fresh start. I put the Blunts LLA name to rest,
but I still claim the LLA. Omar Cruz is something different now, but it's
still me. It was like a natural progression.
your next move?
have a show this weekend at the Envy Expo. Game and a bunch of cats are
going to be there. That's going to be crazy. Other than a few shows here
and there, I'm just working on my debut album. I'm putting my heart and
soul into that. I'm going to be working on that for the next six months.
I'm trying to get out to New York. I might get out there and record some
of my album out there. I'm looking forward to that. We get a lot of love
online from cats in New York, Brick City, and Miami. I'll probably get
out there and show some love back. It's going to be hard for me to not
drop anything between now and then. I'll definitely be dropping some things.
album change the way people think about LA hip-hop?
I think the Game definitely brought some light back to the west coast.
I'm going to illuminate it in a different way. There were no Latinos on
both of The Chronic albums. I'm definitely going to change the big picture
to what LA hip-hop is. I'm going to place the final piece of the puzzle
that hasn't really been placed. God willing, it will shine through.
ever get frustrating that LA is known for being super-gangster or super-backpack?
I think that's
because we're all touched by this gang lifestyle, and sometimes you want
to take it the other way. All these gangs used to do diss raps against
each other. This was when the Pharcyde was coming up. I was thinking LA
hip-hop is bipolar and there is no in-between. Either you know someone
who gangbangs, your family gangbangs, or you gangbang. There's no separation.
You have cats like Jurassic 5 and Dilated who go the other way, and they
still talk about street shit, but they go about it in a different way.
I don't know if I'm going to be in the middle or not, but we're doing
LA street music and they can take it however they want.
you want to say to everybody?
now and just keep your ear to the streets. We're in the building.
info, check out http://byientertainment.com