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Chingo Bling: They Can't Deport Us All

Vandalism, gunshots and hate mail mark a local entertainerís transformation from comedian/rapper to rapper/activist

"All I say to people like that Soundofhiphop guy is that I just try to take advantage of my talents, which are to entertain, be a businessperson and have an appreciation for rap music," Chingo responds. "I'm just one little person out of 39 million who is just basically the underdog. I'm going up against NBC, Viacom, I'm saying some shit that maybe MTV might not wanna play. I might not fit into anybody's commercial radio format, so that guy doesn't really need to worry about me until I'm all over MTV. Then he can spend his computer time Googling me. But right now I'm just a little speck of dust and way too insignificant for a New Yorker to be wasting his time on me."

To be fair to Goya, he did grant that the "They Can't Deport Us All" slogan was something other than "Latino jiggaboo" behavior. "Yeah, basically, how could I be a dancing buffoon, how could I be a puppet of the status quo? A jiggaboo is someone that makes the right feel comfortable, because they have you where they want you. You're not a threat, you're scared of massa, you're scared of being deported. Basically, it's not a very empowering role to play, and neither are the other roles Latinos have been forced to play, like the Latin lover or the gangsta."

When Chingo first emerged a few years back, he was a comedian/parodist first and a rapper/communicator second, a guy often compared to Weird Al and Ali G. Turns out the latter comparison was closer to the mark, and not just because the comedy of both Pedro Herrera (Chingo's birth name) and Sacha Baron Cohen aims to shed light on our racial assumptions. But unlike Ali G/Cohen, Chingo/Herrera also has the uplift of his people as a goal, and that paradigm is slowly shifting. For one thing, the Carnival Beats-produced lead single "Like This and Like That" off of They Can't Deport Us All is really hot, and Chingo, whose famously thin voice is finally filling out, gets off at least one very memorable, resonant line: "Now they got us cleaning up Katrina / and Kanye West don't like Mexicans either." (And neither does George Bush, he says elsewhere.)

"I think people are going to be surprised by this album," he says. "People now might not know what to expect from me, 'cause 'Like This and Like That' doesn't sound anything like 'Taco Shop.' Program directors might say, well, 'Taco Shop' did well for us, and I'm not sure this is the same thing.' Parody is safe, dancing is safe, silly is safe. But when you're saying Bush don't like Mexicans either, it changes the game.

"Number one, I'm a Mexican rapper from Texas, so I might as well be a Martian, because a lot of people just see us as busboys or slaughterhouse workers. Number two, I have gotten lots of attention for my parodies. It was like dessert, and people were like, 'Look, I got a cherry with whipped cream on it,' and no one's afraid of you. But now other doors have opened."

And whether or not the new, improved Chingo sticks with radio and the suits on Fifth Avenue in New York, don't expect the man himself to back down from anything he has said. Defiance is in his blood. "I've always been a little militant. My mom and dad raised me to believe in freedom of speech. At the end of the day, they raised a man, a guy who's not afraid of saying things 'cause it might be keepin' it too real.

"My dad's real macho. He's from Mexico, so he was always telling me stories about Zapata, Benito Juárez, Cuauhtémoc and stories of Indians who had their feet burned because they wouldn't give up their treasures, and he told those stories like he was there, like, 'They tortured this dude, burned his feet, killed his family and not once did he sell out his people.' And that's something that I've always remembered."

So, Mr. Tamale Truck Vandal, if you're reading this: Step away from the spray paint. If you think you're gonna silence Chingo, the fumes have already gone to your head.

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