This past Monday was International Women's Day, and this week commemorates women and the issues that impact their lives. So it was probably important to get a woman in The Hot Seat. The first lady of Latino hip-hop, Carolyn Rodriguez, seemed like the perfect fit. Last time we saw Carolyn was at a concert in San Antonio, but she was standing next to Latino hip-hop legend Juan Gotti and we're pretty sure he could dismember us with his bare hands, so we didn't flirt with her or anything. But she gave us some pointers on how to do it well. Take notes, gentlemen. Rocks Off: We heard one of your songs playing as we were driving through San Antonio the other day. We were like, "Wow, we know her." Think about it. You've gone from drug dealer to inspirational musician who is heard by thousands on the radio. That's a played-out story for men in hip-hop, but not for women in the business. How does that make you feel? Carolyn Rodriguez: Well, first, drug dealing was just side money. I always worked a steady job ever since I was legally able to work at age 15. The fact that I'm good with numbers and responsible with inventory would be my main reason for taking on that type of hustle. I didn't even know who I was at that time. I was lost and had no idea God had planned a music career for me. I know I got tired of being referred to as "the girl with the good weed," when I first started doing music professionally, so this is a great feeling to break-free from being that type of connect. It feels good to have the cops and border patrols search my car and look dumbfounded and confused when I say "those are my CDs." The downside is I get searched now more than I did when I was dealing. Nobody in normal society believes I am who I am and do what I do, not even my own father. RO: You're like one of the most well-adjusted, confident, laid-back people we know. When we talk to you, it's like we've known you for years. Why is that? CR: That's simply a real-recognize-real situation and Rocks Off is real with it. Talking about music is like breathing. It's 24/7, 365. It's easy for people who are passionate about music to click and get along. After all, doesn't music bring people together no matter how dire the straits? RO: So we have to ask. Since we started writing on you, more than a couple of young men have wanted us to hook them up with you. What does a guy have to do to get your attention and keep it? What kind of guy do you like? CR: Well, the guy has to do something. Doing nothing really turns me off. I want a man who is focused, gets to the money, and doesn't neglect the honey. He must be smart enough to carry on a conversation about global warming one minute, yet be able to switch to talking about the punk-ass snitch who caught Ray-Ray a dope case the next. I want a hood-corporate cultured muthafucka. RO: Damn, you're hot. Well, we're too short to flirt with you, but one of the Rocks Off team members, who we'll leave nameless in case he has a girl, wouldn't mind hollering at you. Give us a pick up line that'll put a smile on your face. Give our boy a head start. CR: Quote a line from one of my songs and that strokes my ego enough to put a smile on my face. And who can resist "Are you tired? Because you've been running through my mind all day." RO: You have a Screwed and Chopped version of your latest album, Medicine Girl. Aren't you afraid that your beautiful voice is going to sound like a man or are you that down with the trademark Houston sound? CR: No, Lil Randy Screwed and Chopped it. He did a great job of not making it sound too slow. Besides, any Screw music fan is used to syrup'd down lyrics anyway. It helps them figure out the lyrics they couldn't catch on the regular version. Well, maybe that's just me.
RO: How long did it take before this male dominated hip-hop game took you seriously? What challenges did you face as a woman? CR: In my opinion this game still hasn't taken me seriously enough, since I'm still not signed, but it wasn't until a few months after my second album dropped, Medicine Girl, that I started having less problems with retail, DJs, radio, club promoters, managers, etc. I really had to prove myself worthy of being on the shelf with all those guys. Texas has so many big names rapping, too, so it's definitely a hard market to break down walls in. The fans helped though. They started demanding my album after I let them know stores were bullshitting on selling my product. Some stores would actually hide my CDs, lie to customers and say they didn't have it ... that kind of thing. When I walk into new stores, I still have to fight to get my CD in there and convince them I do sell. My relentless, loyal fans are the reason my album sold. That's why I'm eternally indebted to them. RO: Are you pro-life or pro-choice? CR: Wow, the never-ending battle. I'm a woman and I believe only women can fairly take a stance on this issue. A man will never become pregnant and never be a woman. That's like asking women to help decide whether men's vasectomies should be illegal or not. I've been pregnant before. I had an abortion when I was 21. Either way, the outcome will not be good. I'm probably only Pro-Choice because of that. If I'd never had an abortion, I have no idea how I would feel right now. However, I can say that it was for the best. I found out that dude had seven other kids by three different baby mamas. Disgusting. RO: Does the fact that you're half-white help you or hurt you? Or is it a nonfactor? CR: Both, really. Any mixed child will never be "blank" enough for either side. But I get really white when I know I need to be, such as with cops, security, etc. A downside to being half-white is every time I'm in the hood they assume I must be there for crack or coke, so I always get approached by somebody thinking I'm an easy sale. At that point I become all black. RO: How many street fights have you been in your lifetime? What's your record? CR: Actually I've lost more than I won. I was always fighting girls way bigger than me, and one time I was playing Freddy Krueger with this dude at recess and he karate chopped me to the ground and I sprained my wrist. Huge setback for second-grade women, let me tell ya. That's when I vowed to be the first woman to do something, anything, as long as I was the first girl to do it. Hopefully the big bitches that beat my ass over a game of Red Rover gone awry won't come back for seconds. RO: We have a real bad Latina teenage birth rate. You have influence on them. Do you think you will ever make a song called "Put on a Fucking Condom?" CR: A song couldn't even begin to say it all, more like a whole mixtape series, starting with Shit Happens, Even to You, Vol.1 and have the chicks from Teen Mom host it. Seriously, though, my best advice is to educate yourself. Take a class in human sexuality, or look up any questions you have about your body and see what experts have to say. I know it seems far-fetched, but knowing more will give you new insight when making decisions that involve a lifetime change. I know I don't know shit, so there's way more to learn out there. Get it! RO: We have to say that if you're a beacon of light for young Latinas in this region, things have a chance at getting better. You should work with Planned Parenthood of Southeast Texas. They need champions like you. And they rock. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.