Hip-hop, Tejas

Latinos take on rap music and make it their own

Rodriguez says that idea only seems true. Mexican nationals are merely more apparent than Tejanos because they are more concentrated. "A lot of Tejanos are culturally assimilated. They're living in Clear Lake, Spring, The Woodlands and everywhere else. There are Tejano listeners out there, they just aren't coming out to the Saturday-night dances the way they used to. They're out there golfing, Boy Scouting, soccer and everything else, just like mainstream America."

Chingo Bling's family -- much more recent immigrants to America than Rodriguez -- are typical of many relative newcomers to America in that they never had much love for Tejano anyway. "I never did really like Tejano," he says. "That music was kind of annoying to me. And my whole family kinda feels that way. Culturally speaking, my family always looked at Tejano as music by people who were born here and grew up here. That's not a bad thing, but if you're not a Tejano it kind of stands out in your mind."

But for the English-speaking Hispanic kids out there, the way forward more often lies with hip-hop than with either norteño or Tejano, or with the ass-waggling rico suave lover-man stereotype of the Ricky Martins of the world. And now, thanks to people like South Park Mexican and Baby Bash and Frankie J., they see a way to make it big on their own terms. Even the joker Chingo Bling is part of the solution -- part of the method behind his madness is to help light the way, to show them that they can be "street" American-style and Mexican-style at the very same time.

Old meets new at the Los Magnificos Car Show.
Daniel Kramer
Old meets new at the Los Magnificos Car Show.
Dope House reps peddle the works of a fallen star 
(SPM) and a new one in Lucky Luciano.
Daniel Kramer
Dope House reps peddle the works of a fallen star (SPM) and a new one in Lucky Luciano.

"This is just a theory -- I'm not in every kid's head -- but I think what's going on with a lot of Hispanic kids is something, I don't know what the word is, 'displacement' or something like that," he says. "We can never envision ourselves as president. That's why I did this whole Chingo for President thing, as a parody. We can't really see ourselves going all the way platinum next to Nelly. I mean, yeah, you got all these fools like Enrique Iglesias, but that's love music, and we don't care about that. That's not some fool from the hood."

But others can see Hispanics going all the way platinum, just like Nelly. One such is Avery Lipman, the president of Universal Records. A few days after our initial interview, Charles Chavez called back following a discussion with Lipman. Bash and Frankie J. had just slipped into the Billboard top ten. "We were kicking around names to call this music, and he kept coming up with a bunch that I thought would be limiting," Chavez says. Eventually they settled on a genre name you just might be hearing a lot of over the next few years: "new urban Latino."

"Everybody asks me what kind of sound this music is," he says. "Is it Latin rap? No! It's bigger than Latin rap. Is it R&B? Yeah, but it's done by Latinos. Is it pop, is it hip-hop, what is it? It's our sound, that's what it is.

"Take it or fuck yourself," he says, breaking into a cackle.

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