Chingo Bling vs. La Migra

If you’ve been cruising the area around the South Loop and South Wayside Drive in the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably seen a billboard with the rather blunt slogan “They Can’t Deport Us All.” That’s popular Houston rapper Chingo Bling’s provocative means of promoting his new Warner/Asylum album, also titled They Can’t Deport Us All, which comes out today. “It feels like I gave birth to a baby,” Chingo says from Dallas, en route from one promotional appearance to another. “It’s something I’ve been waiting on and working on. It feels good to share it with the world.”

Chingo Bling's lost truck: The downside of street promotion
Chingo started working on the album shortly after he signed with Warner last February. The title, he says, came to him one day while having lunch with his manager in Orlando. “It just came up in the conversation,” he says. “We both kind of stopped. I had Welcome to the Border at first, but I didn’t think that one was edgy enough.” This one certainly is, as Chingo’s previous promotional vehicle (literally), a taco truck emblazoned with the slogan/title, was shot at, defaced, illegally towed and finally stolen from a flea market parking lot at I-45 South and College. “At least my dad wasn’t in it when it was shot at,” Chingo sighs. Strait-laced columnist and Fox News talking head Michelle Malkin isn't exactly a big fan either.

Houston Press: What sort of comments has your billboard drawn?

Chingo Bling: It’s only been up for a couple of weeks. I’m getting tons of feedback. I’ll be in a barber shop, and people won’t recognize me because I don’t have my hat on, and I’ll hear people talking: ‘Chingo’s representing, he’s going to piss off a lot of people.’ One guy was joking, he said ‘He’s just going to speed up the process.’ One thing I’ve noticed, this debate over the border, a lot of people say ‘Oh, it’s against the law, that’s why I’m against it.’ But I’ve gotten letters from kids in school, where they’ve made them turn their shirts with “They Can’t Deport Us All” inside out. It’s just a statement. There’s no obscenity in there.

HP: What’s been the positive/negative split?

CB: I’d have to say mostly positive. I haven’t checked my hate mail; I need to go through that. But I think people like to see somebody standing up for what they believe in, and obviously a lot of people agree with what I’m saying.

HP: How much of your album deals with this issue?

CB: Honestly, I’m not, like, preaching. I couldn’t break it down into a percentage, but the overall theme is there. As an artist I chose to deal with a lot of different topics: fun topics, introspective topics, even strip-club topics. But I also like to throw different lines in [the songs] about it.

HP: Why do you think immigration is such a controversial issue?

CB: I don’t want to turn it into a race issue, but I think if Mexicans looked like Canadians, where it seemed like we were assimilating easier… I think there’s a lot of fear and ignorance. A lot of people are immigrants. If you go to the George R. Brown Convention Center when they’re sworn in [as citizens], there’s all kinds of people, not just Mexicans. Mexicans are just a scapegoat. For the most part, we’re honest, hardworking people who just want to make our daily bread.

HP: You’re a U.S. citizen, born in Houston, but have you ever been mistaken for an illegal?

CB: I’ve never been involved in any kind of roundup or anything like that, but I’m sure if we don’t take a stand and start showing the human rights aspect and the rights people have as citizens… here’s how I want to put it: if certain laws are passed that give certain officials the right to basically profile people, many citizens will have their rights violated. It’ll turn into that airport thing where I’m always the one “randomly” selected [to be searched]. I always like to joke with them, ‘Is it my clothes?’

I’ll give you an example: Today I’m in Dallas. I was supposed to appear at Irving Mall for an in-store autograph signing at the record store there. But they threatened to charge me with trespassing if I set foot on the mall premises. Legally, I guess it’s not an absolute human right to shop at a mall. If they want to say I’m too famous to be there, that’s a different story. But I know Kelly Clarkson has done it there. They threatened to terminate the record store owner’s lease. They kept going in circles, saying ‘It’s nothing against Chingo, we just don’t do events like that,’ when we know they do the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and other artists.

HP: If you were, say, a congressman what sort of solution would you propose?

CB: The whole purpose of my slogan – I’m not trying to be a politician. The only thought I’m presenting is: we’re here, get used to it. This whole Wild West attitude of rounding people up could turn out to be very disruptive. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I just think we need to have a little more tolerance and respect, and be a little more realistic, and understand we are the backbone of America. We help build cars in Detroit, people’s meat comes from slaughterhouses where immigrants risk their lives. I could go on all day telling you about this.

HP: Do you have any idea what happened to your taco truck?

CB: No, we don’t. My dad thinks maybe they stripped it down and sold it for metal. All it was was an empty bread truck. Really, there’s no telling. I haven’t got any clue. The only thing we suspected was this tow truck guy who got in trouble for illegally towing it stole it. It didn’t really run that good, so whoever stole it would need a lot of patience to get it wherever they’re going.

HP: Has the controversy over your billboard and the album affected your tamale business at all?

CB: I think it brings light to what I stand for as a businessman and an artist. It shows I’m investing my dollars into issues that affect the community. I could have named it something else, less controversial, gone for more jewelry instead of the billboard, but that’s not what I’m about.

Chingo had to go, as he was due for another autograph signing across town “at a mall that allows us to set foot on the property.” He’ll be back in town for the They Can’t Deport Us All release party 9 p.m. tonight at Pink Monkey, 709 Franklin, 713-225-7465. -- Chris Gray

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