Can Latino hip-hop in Houston continue to thrive as a black-market force, of sorts, whose sales are invisible to the IRS, and evolve into a powerful underground economy without the acknowledgement or praise of mainstream music media like Rolling Stone or XXL magazines? Or without the support of major music labels? Yes, it can, and it will. But, will hip-hop created by Latino musicians be limited to just that: the underground? No, it won't. It'll be more than that. By the time we are all through making fun of each other for thinking the world was going to end in 2012, Latino hip-hop won't be that underground at all. In fact, sometime during the next ten years, it will elevate to the mainstream, an evolution that will start in Houston. Yeah, we said it. Houston's Latino underground will be the discovery point where major labels congregate to find their next cash cow. They'll study and analyze this group of Latino rappers with the fascination of an archeologist who's discovered a new dinosaur fossil.
Major labels will come to our city and find the good and marketable ones, like Coast, and realize that their following reaches far beyond our city limits, into places like South Dakota, Arkansas, Colorado and Arizona, and they'll be spellbound by it. They'll go to those states and find that Latino youth in those regions, whose population and buying power are skyrocketing by the month, look and talk like Latino youth in Houston, not like the cholos in California, and then they'll discover that the reason they mirror Houston is because our city's hip-hop culture is strongly influencing theirs, and that the age of digital downloads and MySpace music profiles has virtually evaporated the miles that once separated Hispanic hip-hop followers nationwide. They'll discover a new, great musical market off which they can make money - fans who would buy more Coast than Young Jeezy, if given the even-playing-field-chance, and they'll, in turn, show Latino hip-hop artists the money. They'll invest in their music with beats composed by the best, fancy photo shoots and sharp-talking publicists. They'll influence radio spins, and when they're done with the few that are good enough to have natural success, they'll take the mediocre ones and do what they did to Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan: pretty them up and force-feed the consumer market until they shit artificial success. All of this is going to happen because of the 2010 Census, which is more about defining congressional districts for politicians and carving out new consumer markets for corporate executives than about counting all the people in America. When the 2000 Census came out, it really took the following ten years to get people, who weren't Hispanic, to truly understand the cultural dynamics of the initial 38-something million people who were suddenly discovered in this country at the turn of the century... and who, for the sake of sanity and bureaucratic efficiency, needed to be categorized under one label - Hispanic - despite widespread differences in Spanish dialect and hemispheric roots. And instead of concentrating on the ones who spoke English, preferred English media, were Americanized and have called America home for years, Corporate America's marketing experts created complicated acculturation scales that made the Hispanic community look like a kaleidoscope, which it is. So it scared people, especially those in the media, and it just became easier to focus on a smaller percentage of them that "crossed borders illegally, stole jobs, committed crimes and spoke only Spanish." So, for the most part, Hispanics like the ones who read this Rocks Off blog were largely ignored by corporate Hispanic marketing or were falsely put into a group that reads Univision.com and follows the Mexican national soccer team more than they do the Houston Texans. And it impacted the products Corporate America produced, which in musical terms; their choices were T.I. or Los Tigres del Norte - no middle, no relevance. You're thinking, "What does this have to do with Latino rappers getting a shot at the big stage?"
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Everything - it has everything to do with music, or should we say the music business. The 2010 Census, whether you read up on it, or not, especially when the slew of articles dissecting its results dominate headlines, will show that the sons and daughters of Mexican and Latin American immigrants speak English, consume English media and are reaching for some sort of American identity. We'll eventually learn - not through the Census, but through our own eyes - that they are grasping at hip-hop culture to give them that identity. And because of that evolution, the acculturated Hispanics that were slept on, who probably represent respectable percentages of Z-Ro, UGK and Trae's album sales, are suddenly going to be noticed and marketed to with something that looks more like them. And what product will they produce to do that? There are lots of answers to that question. Lil Young, Rob G, Big Cease, Grade A, Bunz, Stunta, Dat Boi T, GT Garza... we could on and on. And whether you're a music critic in New York who thought South Park Mexican's music was garbage, or just a music lover who thinks there's no place for these artists in good, respectable hip-hop, those individuals will find their opinion is becoming less relevant as the decade passes. Their voice will decreasingly matter, because the power in numbers will drown out the naysayers and the inevitable will happen - Latino hip-hop underground will rise like the Lost City of Atlantis in fiction books, only this will be real. So there's our No. 1 bold prediction of the decade and it's not based on hope. It's based on the fact that our day job is Hispanic marketing and Fortune 500 companies pay our agency millions to be good at it, which we are. Here are some others that will make you call us "crazy" today and "genius" in 2020. Actually, these are based on more hope than we'd like to admit.
Coast Goes Platinum Have you read the comments on Coast's feature last Wednesday? You'd think he was Jesus. We haven't seen that type of feedback on a blog in a good while. How can someone inspire that many people while living in a cave on the Northside of Houston and not eventually get a major label deal and not sell a million records, once the industry discovers his genius? Lucky Luciano's Nine Lives Pay Off; Give Him a Second Chance at Going Major This dude sent us his book and we walked away with one major theme. He is truly lucky...to be alive. Lucky has dodged the death bullet a good handful of times. Someone doesn't drop out of high school and come that close to death multiple times without eventually getting a shot to bring his music to the masses, as a sober, clean musician. It's got to be fate that he's alive. It's like that scene from Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks talks about the massive risk of life it's going to take to save Private Ryan. "This guy better do something big like invent a longer-lasting light bulb." Texas Latin Mic Pass Becomes Truly Texas; Eventually Goes National In order to truly flex its lyrical muscle to the nation, the mostly Houston Texas Latin Mic Pass will have a sequel. Houston will team up with rappers from the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso to make Texas Latin Mic Pass II. Toward the latter part of the decade, a U.S. Latin Mic Pass will be produced, serving as a national talent show for Latino artists who are making good hip-hop, bringing unity to the movement. Pepsi Adds Some Jalapeño to Its Corporate Mic Pass Ingredients Pepsi will come to its fizzling senses and incorporate more Latino hip-hop artists into its Mic Pass, not only in Houston, but all over the country. We hope they do it, not because it's socially responsible or because they want to silence critics, but because its representative of the hip-hop landscape, artist- and consumer-wise. Purple Prevails (Sadly) The other day, while at a video shoot, we overheard some Latino rappers talking about the various mixers they use when making that purple drank, which took the lives of Pimp C, Big Moe and DJ Screw. While purple syrup is the mascot for Houston rap, you don't always play with the mascots. Just because a bull is on the Houston Texans' helmet doesn't mean we are going to play hide-and-go-seek with it. If we stay on this track, at least one Latino rap artist will fall victim to it effects of screwing up the heart. We hope we are wrong on this one. Fellas, please prove us wrong. Chingo Makes "Wetback" Wonderful When you make the cover of a major national newspaper wearing a cowboy hat, shorts and cowboy boots, you can do anything. So why not use that power to take back a word that's been used by non-Latinos, and, yes, U.S. Latinos alike, to demean an entire community. Chingo Bling's latest album is named WorldStar Wetback, a powerful political statement, comedic or not. If the message is taken to the masses through national album distribution on a consistent basis, it could do some serious good. What are your top predictions? Let's hear them in the comment section. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.