We recently got an email from a female reader who wanted to know why the Hispanic gangster culture hasn’t produced the same kind of gangster rap as the BLACK gangs like the BLOODS and CRIPS. I answered her by saying, in a very nice way of course, that she was clearly out of the loop on this topic. The fact is, there’s a huge body of Hispanic gangster rap music. And it’s been around for a long time.
In case other readers were wondering the same thing, I can direct you over to SURENORAP.COM. I’m not sure who runs the site or whether they’re just distributors or producer/distributors but they have a long, long list of CDs available, all of them falling under the heading of gangster rap, specifically SURENO rap. We’re assuming that they don’t include rappers from the NORTHSIDE on their roster.
While a lot of SURENO RAP I’ve listened to over the years is pedestrian, predictable and barely worth listening to, there are a few artists who stand out by virtue of their creative lyrics and sound. If you want to get your feet wet in this genre, the artist who is probably most worthy of attention is KNIGHTOWL. What began for In The Hat as pure research into SURENO gangster rap evolved, thanks to KNIGHTOWL into a grudging admiration. The guy is talented and knows how to craft words and create sounds worth listening to -- even if you don’t like what he’s saying. Listening to KNIGHTOWL is an education in the gang life and a legit music experience.
Granted the guy is raw and in your face. Some tracks from his KNIGHTMARES CD should give you an idea of what he raps about. Here’s a sample of tracks: THIS BE SOME GANGSTA SHIT, I WANNA FUCK ME SOME HOES, IN LOVE WITH A GANGSTA and WE DO THIS FOR THE STREET. From the SHOT CALLER CD we have FOOLS YELL FOR MERCY, STILL BANGIN, BALDHEADED FELONS and I MURDER MUTHA FUCKAS. These tracks are not for the squeamish but it’s interesting music and in my unprofessional, non-music-critic opinion, this is as good if not better than most of the BLACK gangsta rap.
Another CD worth considering is a compilation called ENTER THE DARKROOM that blurbs itself as the tightest tracks from 1989 to 1995. There’s some solid tracks in there and some not so, but it gives the interested listener a sampling of styles. Other CDs that might be worth your while are LIL CUETE’s THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY OUT and ESTILO SURENO’S BLUE RAGGIN’ SURENOS.
What’s odd about SURENO RAP is the almost complete lack of airplay. At least compared to BLACK gangster rap. I’ve looked for SURENO RAP all over the dial in the LA radio market and I’ve never come across anything like these CDs. If anybody out there knows any different, I’d like to know about it.
As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a SURENO rap star that has broken out of the underground the way SNOOP and other black acts have. Even the so-called ALTERNATIVE papers like the LA WEEKLY has never done anything resembling a fair job of covering SURENO RAP. This probably has a lot to do with the lack of airplay and the fact that MTV has completely ignored this genre. Or it might have to do with a lack of guts. We’re fairly sure that even underground radio or the politically correct college radio stations may not want to deal with the fallout if they play tracks like I JUST WANNA FUCK ALYSSA MILANO (DUKE, THE BARRIO LOVE album) and TASTE FOR MURDER (DEE-ROLL, from the P.F.L. album). Is the "alternative" media being timid, or even spineless by ignoring this music? You be the judge.
Also, Sureno Rap has yet to produce the equivalent (at least in sales and market penetration) as DEATH ROW.
Frankly, the lack of airplay and exposure on media like MTV is baffling and I suspect it has to do with some subtle form of racism. I may be wrong and I’m willing to eat my words but somebody will have to show me why BLACK GANGSTA RAP has found wide acceptance (they teach TUPAC lyrics in college courses these day) and SURENO RAP is relegated to the underground.
As always, your comments and observations on this are welcome.