Esta página no está disponible en español.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
New Attitude From The Philosopher Of Rap
By DAVID CAZARES LATIN/WORLD BEAT
December 19, 2003
Sometimes an artist has to make it in life before he can feel truly successful in the music business.
Vico C. has learned that the hard way.
Though acclaimed as "the Philosopher of Rap" who has helped introduce millions of Latin American fans to hip-hop, the performer has long been plagued by his own excesses.
Born Luis Armando Lozada Cruz in the Bronx, he moved to Puerto Rico at age 5 and by 13 began singing merengue-rap. At 15, Vico C. made a cassette of his raps and by his late teens was a big hit on the island.
At first, Vico C.'s light rap relied heavily on merengue. But his 1994 single El Filosofo (The Philospher) pointed him toward street tales and raps about violence, prostitution and drugs. It went over big in Puerto Rico's gritty housing projects and beyond.
Along the way, the rapper stumbled into the world of drugs -- first with prescription medication and later with cocaine and heroin. He began including his addiction struggles in his raps. He moved to Orlando to distance himself from those influences, but his problems went with him. In 2002, he was jailed for six months for violating the terms an earlier probation.
From the jail cell has emerged Vico C.'s latest release, En Honor A La Verdad on EMI Latin, a smart album of edgy and introspective numbers set to urban and Latin beats that could return him to star status.
To hear the 32-year-old rapper tell it, his incarceration was just what he needed to straighten out his life and regain his creative touch. He claims to have kicked heroin and the methadone that served as a bridge to sobriety in jail. He continues composing songs that tell tales from the streets -- but not necessarily his stories.
"My ideas come sometimes from heaven, from my experiences, from the news, from the neighbors' television and from my kids," Vico C. said. "What I haven't lived, I haven't lived. But I know about it. They're stories that have happened to me or to other people. We have seen all of this, and we have heard all of these sounds. All these images still come to me, but not as much as before. Thank God."
For some, the new CD might not have the same resonance as his critically acclaimed 1998 release, Aquel Que Habia Muerto (The One Who Had Died), or last year's Emboscada (Ambush), which won a Latin Grammy.
But Vico C. isn't looking back. Instead, he's intent on updating the themes of his CDs and improving their rhythms and harmonies.
To that end he has included El Bueno, El Malo y El Feo, a tune on which he collaborates with Tego Calderon and Eddie Dee. These two performers have attracted widespread notice for their work with reggaeton, a new genre that's sweeping Puerto Rico.
Vico C. also has not strayed from storytelling, particularly on Yerba Mala, a number about the vicious circle of the drug trade. On another song, Mi Forma De Tiraera, the rapper decries the uselessness of the war of words that many rappers engage in -- taunting that has sometimes ended in death.
As he struggles against his demons, Vico C. has made his family, and salvation, his new priorities. But even though he talks about his struggles on his records, he insists he is just trying to make good music.
"I'm not telling people what not to do because that would sound dictatorial," Vico C. said. "I just plant the message. I relate what has happened to me, but I let the people decide. And I don't accuse, or preach against it. I simply talk about the problem. Then I give the option."
If you haven't completed your holiday shopping, there's still time to add music to your list. Topping my recommendations this year are two stellar releases that defy convention, one by musicians who sing in Portuguese and the other by a group that sings in Spanish.
With all due respect to the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the first is unquestionably the best album of the year: Tribalistas, the phenomenal recording by Brazilian artists Marisa Monte, Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown.
The three performers are among Brazil's biggest stars. Monte, a singer with an angelic voice, has won fame by blending modern styles with traditional Brazilian music. Antunes is a rock singer, poet and performing artist who is an accomplished composer. Brown is quite simply one of the world's master percussionists.
Tribalistas brings to mind the groundbreaking music of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. A generation ago they launched the topicalia movement that fused electronic rock with popular Brazilian genres. With their airy, melodic and poetic recording, Monte, Antunes and Brown sing songs about love and the joy of everyday life, backed largely by nylon and steel-stringed guitars and percussion.
As they sing in the title track, the performers aim to produce music that rejects the established order in favor of the tribe, where "they don't get into doctrine, into gossiping or arguments."
In doing so, the three performers give us a recording that contains much of the best of Brazilian music, without leaning on any particular branch.
My next pick is President Alien, the release by the multiethnic ensemble Yerba Buena on Razor & Tie music.
Led by Venezuelan producer Andres Levin, Yerba Buena mixes Cuban rumba with son, funk, hip-hop, boogaloo, cumbia and soca. It features inventive raps and outstanding vocals by Afro-Cuban signer Xiomara Laugart. It is serious party music and a great choice for an end-of-the-year groove.
week in Showtime. Please send information to World Beat, Sun-Sentinel, 1390 Brickell Ave., Suite 105, Miami, FL 33131. E-mail email@example.com or call 305-810-5002.
life experience: Puerto Rican rapper Vico C. writes his songs based on the tribulations of his life. Staff photo/Angel Valentin