Interview - Los Rakas

Photos by JP Abello

The Panamanian by way of Oakland duo, Los Rakas, were probably the coolest dudes at LAMC. Or at least it seemed that way because everybody, and I mean everybody, wanted to talk to them. When I finally got my chance, I was a little intimidated, to be honest. In my glasses, kid backpack, and floral print sneakers, I was obviously nowhere near cool enough to be talking to them. If someone showed you a picture of us, you would be convinced that there was some Photoshop involved. But I was quickly put at ease by how chill the guys were and how genuinely grateful they were to be involved in the conference.

Blanca: I know your turf is Oakland and the Bay Area, so how does it feel to play in New York? Is there a different energy?

DunDun: Both Oakland and New York crowds are hard to please. At first they usually be, like, “Let’s see what they got.” And by the second song they get into it. This time around, there was no hesitation; they went wild from the beginning.

Rico: They already knew what they came to see.

DunDun: There were actually people waiting in line to see us, saying they’ve been waiting for us to come to the east coast.

Blanca: That must be a great feeling, knowing that people have been waiting for you. What must also be a great feeling is winning the LAMC Discovery Award. Congratulations!

DunDun: Thank you. It is a great feeling.

Rico: It feels like a million dollars, and I don’t even know what that feels like yet!

Blanca: How did you first get started making music?

Rico: When we started, it was more of an experiment. Now we have more direction.

DunDun: For me, I started rapping and six months later I had my CD. It was serious, you know. I knew it was going to be a career for me since the beginning.

Rico: I didn’t take it as seriously, but I knew it was something I wanted to do. I love music. The first time I heard my voice on a beat, I was like, “Ugh! I can do it better.” So it was more like a challenge then. But being with DunDun, it made me get a little bit more serious with my music because he was already serious. Before that, I was thinking maybe someone was going to discover me, so I didn’t put no hustle into it. He was the hustler. He was dropping CDs and really pushing it out there.

Blanca: Your sound is something that I don’t hear too much of, and I wish I could hear more of it. But it’s a very American style of hip hop done in Spanish and Spanglish.

Rico: We got that formula to make Spanglish music sound good. There’s artists, I’m not going to say names, that I feel like don’t got that. They got the Latin, but when they want to cross over and put some English in it, it doesn’t sound right. It sounds corny. We have the right ingredients for it because we’ve been around so many cats that do it in English. It’s like cooking; you can’t do too much to it because if you add too much salt, it’s going to mess it up.

Blanca: So, what’s the approach that you take that makes that injection of Spanglish work?

DunDun: We make music in a lot of different ways, but sometimes the songs just come to me a capella, and we add the beat later.

Rico: I’m hard on myself because I don’t want it to sound like any old record. I try to make it melodic for people to grasp on and really feel it, like in their soul.

Blanca: What are you working on right now?

DunDun: We’re working on the video for “Abrazame,” which will be coming out real soon.

Rico: It’s gonna be a little controversial.

Blanca: Awesome. We’re big fans of that song over at Club Fonograma.

DunDun: Cool, cool. That’s what’s up.

Blanca: Do you have any new music in the works?

DunDun: We’re experimenting with more styles of music, not just hip hop, but dancehall and reggae, cumbia and electro.

Blanca: Sounds exciting. Do you still feel most comfortable with hip hop, though?

DunDun: I’m most comfortable in hip hop because it’s straight to the point. You’re expressing yourself. You don’t really have to do too much, just put on the beat and express yourself.

Rico: That’s really what it’s all about.

Blanca: Now that you’ve played this conference, is there anywhere that you’re really looking forward to playing?

Rico: I want to go to Brazil because Brazilians are happy people. They get down and want to dance. I want to just hop off stage and dive into thousands of people. And girls. Hopefully, some girls catch me.

That night at Bowery Ballroom, Rico did hop off the stage to dance with the crowd. Unfortunately, there was not a bevy of beautiful Brazilians to cushion his fall. All in due time, Rico. All in due time.