Metallungies Hollers @ Omar Cruz, Interview.

I recently got the chance to chop it up with west coast up-and-comer Omar Cruz. Signed to Interscope-Geffen, Omar’s been straight busting his ass to get LA’s Latinos some long overdue recognition.

On Latino rappers…

The one that I looked up to the most is already passed away, rest in peace, Christopher Rios aka Big Punisher. Was a huge influence on my career. He was one of those kinds of MCs that it didn’t matter that he was Latino, he was just sick with it. He was just a beast, a monster. There’s a lot of rappers that have come and gone, out of the ones that are out today, 95% of ‘em can’t even get get nowhere near that dude. He was representing Boricuas in New York and what he did for Boricuas in New York, I wanna do for Latinos in LA.

If he hadn’t come from the hood…

I would hope I would be [still be a rapper], because I don’t think that hip hop is just about the hood… Let’s say I came from a family with old money, if I would’ve rapped, I wouldn’t be rapping about the same things. But me being where I’m from, seeing the things that I’ve seen, it’s allowed me to almost be a speaker for those that have no voice, a lot of the Latinos in these inner city areas… I don’t think I would’ve listened to the type of music I listened to if I didn’t [grow up in the hood]. Boyz n the Hood, the movie was filmed literally – like, I rode my bike to the set when I was a little kid. That shit was down the street from me. And being the only Latino on my block, also, I had to deal with certain race issues as well. But, it made me who I am. It molded me into the person that I am and I think it made me a better MC, because I grew up listening to everything from Big Daddy Kane and Rakim to NWA and Dr. Dre and the whole gangsta rap movement pretty much started around the time I was coming up. I wouldn’t give that up for the world. To answer your question, I think I would, but my style would be totally different. I’d probably  be on some Kanye type shit. Who knows, who the fuck knows?

On the decline in gangsta rap…

I think gangsta rap is alive. I think the labels have changed. The question is, what do you consider gangsta rap? Because, it’s just a label. Young Jeezy is pretty hot, if you ask me that’s gangsta rap. Rick Ross is gangsta rap. T.I. is gangsta rap. Just because it’s not on the West coast, it’s on some other shit. But let’s face it: NWA talked about drugs, bitches, money, guns. What does Rick Ross talk about? What does T.I. talk about? Shawty Lo? It’s gangsta rap, man. I don’t even consider my shit gangsta rap, I like to call it reality rap, because that’s my reality. Just because you ain’t bangin’ or you ain’t claiming a hood or a clique or a set, doesn’t mean it’s not gangsta rap. Gangsta rap is all over the world, man.

Can gangsta rap survive without shock value?

I think that there’s little that people are shocked by these days. A lot of it has already been said. Eminem, about ten years ago, he came out, he was shocking people with the things he was saying about murdering his baby momma and putting her in his trunk and killing his mom’s right there. I think now, and I touch on a few of these issues which is almost kind of a political undertone, which is you’re challenging the system, you’re challenging corporate America, you’re challenging the way people view a certain group of people. I grew up in that type of environment that NWA described. That was my reality. But I also came from a Latino standpoint which a lot of people really haven’t, besides a few movies, saw deep in. I don’t know what can shock people now, because with all that’s gone on in the last ten years it’s kind of hard. And I think what’s really shocked people is the success of artists, like I mentioned before, like Kanye or a Lupe or these guys who are normal guys who are just speaking their minds about regular shit. I think that’s why they are successful because I think people are tired of hearing it. How many times can you shoot a dude? How many times can you say ‘fuck’ or ‘bitch’ or whatever.

On his album…

The reason why I have a huge fanbase out here, not only in LA but in the southwest and even in New York and Miami where I get a lot of love is they haven’t heard my side of the story, the Latino struggle on wax. Not only on wax, but coming from LA it’s a whole different world. The Chronic, and The Chronic 2001, those two records you would say represent LA, right? There was not one mention of a Latino in there. There was not one mention of our involvement, our contributions to whatever, whether it be drugs or the streets. And I talked to Dre about that on occasion. When I talked to Dre once, I told him that he’s gotta have a Mexican on Detox and it might as well be me. When those come out, those records represent Los Angeles to the whole world and I feel like we haven’t been represented. I think that’s why my album, Sign of the Cruz, is really gonna turn heads, because for the first time, you’re really gonna see that struggle come to life. Do you know how many first born sons of immigrants listen to hip hop and are in the United States of America and love hip hop, love rap music, but they don’t have someone like them to represent them? They’ll go buy a Jeezy record or a Rick Ross record or a 2Pac record or what have you, and that’s great, but now they have an opportunity to hear a piece of them in hip hop. And that’s what Sign of the Cruz is.

On the black, Latino tensions in LA…

If you take the books away, you throw crack and crystal meth and PCP guns in that neighborhood, who is gonna get along in that environment? The truth of the matter is that we do get along, but there are isolated incidents that the media likes to glorify… I don’t believe it, don’t believe it. I was in a video shoot with the The Game yesterday and there’s was a bunch of Latino gang members and a bunch of black gang members and we all got along and had a great fuckin’ time, no fuckin’ problem. Me and the Game have talked about that, we have worked on a few records together just to show that there’s positivity in the hood… If I have a problem with somebody, black, white, asian, I don’t give a fuck, I’m gonna handle it. And if it happens to be a black dude, that’s tension? Nah, that’s just personal, but they like to blow these isolated incidents out of proportion. They like to see us at each other’s throats. That’s the perfect situation for the government, that’s how you control us. Imagine us united, shit, that would be the biggest problem for them.

On Latinos in LA…

I have my own story to tell. I’m trying to make sure that we get represented properly…2Pac said it wouldn’t be LA without Mexicans. He was right. I guarantee if 2Pac were alive, we’d be working together, because he knew how important that section of his fanbase was to him. We’ve been here the whole time, now it’s just time for us to rise up.

On the majors…

The advantages are obvious, you’re part of a big machine that gets you heard faster, but if you don’t bust your ass and do everything on your end, then you might as well stay home. I go hard. We have a special kind of deal with Interscope, we have a 50/50 joint venture through Interscope/Geffen…basically what that means is we have creative control, but we do our part and our part means hitting the spots up that they want. They have their normal way of doing things and we have our way. We go to the swap meets, we go to the hoods, we go to the markets, wherever our people our at. For a Latino MC, I have to go the extra mile to make sure I get heard and people know I exist, because if they don’t know I exist, it’s not gonna matter. Where a lot of people fail is they rely on the label to do everything and they expect everything to be handed to them and that’s where they fuckin’ fall.

Pressure from the label?

Not really, it’s always pretty much been what we bring to the table. I don’t really deal with too many people on the creative side. It’s pretty much just my immediate circle and they talk to the VP of Geffen. We don’t deal with A&Rs, we do our thing and we bring it to the table. That’s part of our deal, that’s why we have 50/50, because that allows us to keep all the creative control. They get it. I can’t speak for anyone else on that label, but for some people it works better to be on an independent, especially if you had ten years building your profile. Then it makes sense to go independent. But for me, I’m in a great position.

Too many crappy rappers selling well?

Well, I guess if you consider Lil Wayne a crappy rapper. Not bad for one week. Whether you like Lil Wayne or not, he’s shook the music industry and I think that’s a very positive sign for things to come.  There’s a new way to reach a market…I think that Lil Wayne has given so much to his fans in the last two or three years that they felt responsible to go support him. He’s been saturating the market for the past two or three years. I personally look at it like, as an artist you gotta look at that and you gotta evolve…Whether you’re a backpack-underground, or a hipster rapper, or fuckin’ gangster rapper, or fuckin’ ringtone rapper, I don’t give a fuck. There’s still something out there…My niche is pretty much my story hasn’t been told yet. That’s what I’m banking on…I don’t want to compare myself to Eminem, but with Eminem, his story wasn’t told and people were interested in that story and it worked for him. It helped that Dr. Dre backed him up too.

On the election…

I’m not voting for an old man, I’ll tell you that much.

Last thing he bought…

Some magnum condoms.

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