Deep underground; way below the mainstream music land of Top 40 Billboard
Charts and MTV countdowns thrives another existence entirely, made up of independent, Houston Latino hip-hop artists who didn't get the memo. You know the one. It reads: "All aspiring artists must plead big record companies for the four jewels of rap - money, hoes, cars and clothes."
Houston-based rapper Christian Garcia, better known as Lucky Luciano, is sitting on the throne of the Houston Latino hip-hop underground. For the past four years, the 28-year-old has executed a business blueprint drawn out by H-Town rap staples like Slim Thug, Chingo Bling and DJ Screw, to perfection.
It looks like this: Build your own studio. Write and record your own music. Network so you get the beats for free or damn near close. Design and package the CD album yourself. Directly contact the merchants who sell music and strike a deal. Get your ass to the UPS store at 8 a.m. every day and ship your product out to anywhere from San Antonio to Japan.
That's the life of Lucky Luciano.
If you don't know him because you don't speak "underground" - only "mainstream" - well, that's understandable. New land. New language. Let's open up the translation dictionary.
- A 28-year-old hip-hop hybrid of Houston's Black urban influence, 90s Southern rap funk and the type of entrepreneurial spirit that lives in Latino new-comers who go from dish-washer to Mexican restaurant chain-owner.
- A person who has distributed nearly 20 mix tapes since going independent in 2006 and has die-hard fans who religiously buy his music.
- A person knee-deep in six-figure earnings through mix tapes, features on other artists' tracks and roadshows.
- 2009 Texas Latin Rap Awards' Artist of the Year.
That's Lucky in a definition, but you won't find any lucky charms in his life's cereal. The Eisenhower High School dropout is all hustle, and through the last decade has charted an untraditional course, going from belonging to a label and hitting mainstream by being featured on and collecting royalties from a platinum-selling Baby Bash album, to mastering the underground way of making and selling your own music - not vice versa.
No middle man. No taxes.
Signing with South Park Mexican's Dope House Records in 2002, his advance was a $10,000 check and a Cadillac Escalade, and he admittedly did what the typical Meskin from the hood does when they get a little change in their pocket: Act rich.
"I was spending all my money at strip clubs, buying steaks for my friends, and spending money on my addiction to drugs and alcohol," Lucky tells Rocks Off. "I crashed a Mercedes and flipped a Tahoe. I was forced to do the independent thing, because I ran out of money. I had to make mix tapes because I couldn't afford beats."
Today he's married with two kids, drug and alcohol free...and focused. He has to be, as Lucky is at the helm of a movement that's quietly writing an entirely new chapter in the history book of Southern hip-hop. They're Latin rappers selling out shows from Oklahoma to Phoenix to California's Bay Area, building a rich fan base who are making their pockets rich, too.
They're following Lucky's lead, because lyrically and business-wise, he's arguably best in the Latino rap game, but if you see him in the streets, don't give him your demo. As they say, just follow suit.
"Why do you want to give me your demo?" asks Lucky. "Make your CD and go sell it. And if it's good it'll sell and if not, do something else with your life."
Deep underground, it's kill what you eat. You make your own Lucky. I mean, luck.
Rolando Rodriguez is managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Email him at [email protected].