Hip-hop, Tejas

Latinos take on rap music and make it their own

Garcia-Lopez has another one: naco. "A nigger taco," he says. That's what the Mexican-Americans in the Rio Grande Valley called him when he played some hip-hop on a boombox.

And even among the Hispanics in Southern California who do rap, there's a tendency to radicalism and militancy off-putting to many Texans. "There's still rappers out there that want to keep it brown, stay Chicano, stick to their raza and all that," says Chavez. "That's perfect. They've got to keep their niche and develop it. You just have to make sure that you can make a record that everyone is going to like."

"We go about it a different way than Californians," says Chingo Bling. "Out there, the rappers use a lot of different symbols: the Aztec calendar, their style of tattoos."

Baby Bash tips over the Suga Suga bowl at Los 
Daniel Kramer
Baby Bash tips over the Suga Suga bowl at Los Magnificos.
Frankie J. has helped create a genre: "new urban 
Travis Shin
Frankie J. has helped create a genre: "new urban Latino."

"California is still more into gangs," says Chavez. "The South is more into ballin'. We're past that. The East Coast is more philosophical -- they're into talking about education and making sure their race is treated like everybody else, which is great for them too, but here it's still all about 24s, pimpin' hos and all that stuff."

"We just mo' playa down here," sums up Chingo Bling.

Chavez is supremely disinterested in the Angeleno view of Texan Hispanics as "brother-lovers." "When they see us making money," he says of the Californians, "they'll say, 'I wish I was green like them.' "

For their part, many local Mexican-Americans resent the cultural imperialism that radiates out of East L.A. On the rare occasion that Hollywood or the networks acknowledge the fact that Mexican-Americans are now a full two-thirds of America's largest minority, the Big Media in Los Angeles presents the cholo life of the SoCal barrios as the one and only Mexican-American reality. "They look at us like we wanna be black, and we look at them and say, 'Man, them fools are straight outta movies,' " says Chingo Bling. "That's all we know, that's all we see."

On a Web site like, it's more of the same. More militancy, more radicalism, more talk of Aztlan and la raza. Though it purports to speak for all Hispanics, and especially Mexican-Americans, there's a definite California slant. "We go on there and we think, 'Damn, this is just a California thing,' " says Chingo Bling. "And then we look at TV and they all dress a certain way…Probably the majority [in California] is like that."

There are also subtle variations on the theme in Texas. "It's hard to generalize even in Texas, because you've got El Paso and Odessa way out west, Amarillo way up northwest, and cities like San Antonio, that have a stronger, I guess, California feel," Chingo says. "You do see Aztec calendar shirts and hear people talking a little different. It feels like you're in Phoenix or Albuquerque or somewhere, just a little bit."

Not that Houston is a paragon of acceptance, either. There's a Latin rap syndicated radio show called Pocos Pero Locos that airs here on the Party. Pocos Pero Locos is California-based, its playlist Cali-dominated. "We're kinda closed-minded about it here," admits Chingo Bling. "We're like, 'Oh, man. Fuck that Cali shit. I can't jam to that. I wanna hear that dude up the block, I wanna listen to the people from here.' I hear that shit all the time, people just automatically not giving that stuff a chance."

Chingo adds that he believes things in California are changing, slowly but surely. "I've been out there and I've talked to tons of people who tell me they're tired of all the cholo stuff, the oldies [music] -- we're tired out of that. They like the new stuff, they like Jay-Z. Kinda like us, you know?"

And he sees the Pocos Pero Locos show and the success of someone like Bash -- a Californian with one foot in Texas and the other in his native state -- as vital keys to understanding. And then there is his own self. Chingo's act is not a fusion of Tejano and Dirty South hip-hop culture, but one of North Mexican and Dirty South hip-hop culture, and as such is much easier for all Mexican-Americans to deal with.

"The bridge is missing, but I think shows like Pocos Pero Locos are helping to bridge that gap. We're at least exposed to what's going on over there. We know who Lil' Rob is, we know who Mister Shadow is. And I think somebody like Beesh can help -- he's from California and he's bringing that Bay Area slang out here and mixin' it with the Texas stuff and taking it nationwide. With myself, people can relate to what I'm doing out there also. So I'm telling them, 'Hey, this is the words we use, this is how we feel.' When it comes down to it, we're probably not even that different. We all have pride, we're all like, 'Our town is better than yours.' "

Meanwhile, some blacks in Texas and elsewhere also resent the Hispanic incursions into their culture. There's the rap, the clothes, the fact that many Hispanic young men are sprouting braided hair. "That comes up all the time," says Chingo. "You hear comments from these [black] guys all the time like, 'Oh, these dudes getting braided up, they tryin' to be like us.' Our comeback is 'Y'all took our low-riders, so we can have the braids.' "

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