Money and Masa

Though he's only 18 years old, he says he's been in the rap game for 25 years. They say he bought out Taco Cabana and will soon be renaming it Chingo Cabana. He's the number one free-stylero from Valle Hermoso, North Tamaulipas. He's been known to diss Donald Trump, Lyor Cohen, la migra and Ricky Martin -- they say he even laid hands on Suge Knight and lived to tell about it. Salma Hayek is his babymama, and he knows what J.Lo. smells like.

Like it says on the cover of his latest record, bootleggers avoid him… labels can't afford him… women all adore him.

Chingo's standard contract to drop a guest verse on an album is "twelve thousand four hundred fifty five thousand US dollars (not pesos, puto)." John Leguizamo begs him to co-star in his movies -- especially his new remake of American Me -- to be called Mexican Me. He'll pop-trunk on his own grandmother, just to show you that he's real. Cleto, his fighting cock, is 45-0, against pit bulls, Chihuahuas and other roosters. Some say Chingo is the great-great-grandson of La Llorona, the weeping ghost-woman of Mexican legend.

Who is he? Chingo Bling! What's he got? Da mos' ices-es, stooooo-pid.

Chingo Bling made his fortune smuggling tamales, one dozen at a time. He built his empire on masa, pork shoulder, salt and cumin. He'll let nothing get in his way. As he raps, his hands "done got careless from slangin' them tamales from San Antone to Houston and all the way to Dallas."

"I don't have a conscience," the Geto Vaquero says at a recent clandestine interview, conducted at one of his numerous safe houses. You can practically hear the light blinging off his ice grill. "Old ladies, little kids, pregnant women -- I don't care who I sell to."

He has lots of enemies. The usual jealous haters, la migra, the pinche bootleggers, and the Food and Drug Administration are a few. Recently, he says, the FDA seized a truckload of his piñatas at the border and smashed them open, hoping to find his masa shipment.

Still, he's avoided capture, despite prowling Texas and North Tamaulipas in his tirado Buick Regal with the 22-inch sprewells on the wheels. ("Tirado" is Chingo-Spanish for "throwed.") He always keeps it real -- he wouldn't dream of not wearing his orange rainbow Astros throwback jerseys, a Chingo Bling belt buckle the size of a dinner plate and his patented Nike-swooshed ostrich-skin boots. ("Another ostrich had to die," he raps on one tune, "for me to look fly.") Then there's the fact that his grill sports more ice than Antarctica.

And now he's releasing CDs as a cover for his tamale cartel. Duro en la Pintura ("Hard in the Paint") came first, followed quickly by El Mero Chingon, which will soon be followed by Volume 3: The Tamale Kingpin. These devastatingly accurate satires of the underground rap scene could only come from Houston.

On Duro, Lil' Keke's "South Side" is transformed into Chingo Bling's "North Tamaulipas," which the Tamale Kingpin sends out to his homies "outside, outside" (the U.S.A.) and "the vatos on Wayside." On the chopped and screwed "Sabado Night Throwed Freestyle," he boasts that when he sips his lean he "don't mix it with Topo Chico no mo'." (Now he mixes the purple stuff -- which he calls "Lou Diamond syrup" -- with tequila.) On "U Might Hate Me, But Your Babymama Loves Me," he tells us that he "never tells lies about the price o' the ice."

El Mero finds Chingo rapping "Dame un Bald Fade" and doing a little more of that estilo gratis (Chingo-Spanish for "freestyle") rapping. In a hilarious skit, he tells somebody pretending to be Def Jam CEO Lyor Cohen where to get off in no uncertain terms. Cohen promised him millions of dollars, a new boat and that he would get Chingo's Rancho Sancho on Cribs. "We'll blow you up, kid!" Cohen gushed.

"Do you like your kids?" Chingo asked. Cohen said yes, and that he didn't know where he was going with that question.

"Then how would you like it if all you could feed your kids on Thanksgiving is a bunch of fucking promises in a bowl? Are you gonna put promises under the Christmas tree, puto?"

As Latin rap legend Kid Frost says in another Chingo skit -- this shit's creepy, the shit is mysterious. Houston, meet your Weird Alberto Yankovic.

But sadly, all is not well in Chingo's mundo. Just when everything has started to break big for him, triumph has turned to tragedy. A major co-star of these discs is Cleto, Chingo's beloved fighting cock. Cleto -- who sports an ice beak -- has been at Chingo's side ever since he slanged his first batch of tamales, a brave companion of the road, a close confidant, and a tax shelter. "Everything I own is in my rooster's name," he raps, and on "Esperate" he reveals that he even feeds his enemies to Cleto back at the ranch.

But bring up Cleto these days and Chingo can only shake his head.

"A couple of weeks ago I caught Cleto with my girlfriend," he notes grimly. He took off his sunglasses and I could see he was crying. "He was also wearing my best jewelry." Now the two hate each other as much as Jay-Z and Nas.

Clearly, Chingo isn't too disturbed by the cheating. There's always another "curly pansota" (fat girl with curly hair -- his favorite type of female) waiting in line. The jewelry's another matter.

While the Cleto feud simmers in the background, Chingo is busying himself touring with Baby Beesh on the Money and Masa Tour and making videos including the hood-tested and baller-approved Mañosas ("Nasty Girls") series, one of which was filmed at spring break.

Speaking of spring break, Chingo says he usually spends his at Padre Island, where his tamale business goes great guns. He also has a few words of advice for his homies across the Rio Grande.

"It's easy to cross the border at spring break," he says. "Just get some Abercrombie & Fitch pants and some college T-shirt and mix in with the crowds."

Maybe that shirt could be advertising Chingo's own college -- Big Chile University -- which offers degrees in mackology, pimpology and narchaeology.

"I'm a firm believer in education," he notes. "Stay in school, kids."

Then he trots out his favorite words of wisdom. "The recipe for a million dollars starts with one pound of masa, so grab an Igloo and get on your grind. Rap isn't for everybody, so put the mike down and come be one of my tamale wrappers."

Watch out. Like he says, he's taking this shit all the way to El Show de Johnny Canales.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax