Things That Matter

Tupac Represented For Latinos With Lyrics Like ‘It Wouldn’t Be L.A. Without Mexicans,’ But Here’s Why We Really Loved Him

An entire generation of rappers have come and gone since Tupac Shakur’s 1996 fatal shooting occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the legacy of the slain icon has continued long after his death.

Among many things, history will remember Tupac as someone who almost single-handedly — because of a beef with Notorious B.I.G. — ignited a rap feud between two coasts during the height of the gangster rap era. He’ll also be remembered as one of the most successful rappers in history with a number of platinum albums and thousands of unreleased songs that continue to fill the radio airwaves across the United States.

But while his influence was universal, Latinos were especially drawn to Tupac’s music and made up one of his most loyal fan bases in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and Phoenix.

Credit: 2Pac/Instagram

Like many other Latinos who grew up in L.A. during the early 1990s, I, too, was completely consumed by Tupac’s music.

He was the first voice I listened to when I turned the radio on in the morning, and the last voice I heard at the end of a day when I fell asleep listening to his music on my Sony Walkman.

Tupac was a lot of things to different people: He was the best friend who had your back the time Jose and his boys tried to jump you behind McDonalds, the friend who urged you to ditch school every Friday, and, of course, the friend who always seemed to have wisdom far beyond their age.

But he was far from perfect.

Like any other popular figure, Tupac was a complex person with undeniable shortcomings.

He was just as likely to refer to women as  b***** as he was to refer to them as queens. He was an advocate for peace between communities of color while firing back at rivals with threats of physical violence.

As a result, his songs reflected the multiple layers of his personality.

“He was an advocate for peace between communities of color while firing back at rivals with threats of physical violence.”

Songs like “Keep Your Head Up” and “Changes” uplifted us whenever we had a problem at home or school. “Hail Mary” is what you listened to when you finally got the nerve to confront Jose and his crew after school for attempting to jump you behind McDonalds. And “Dear Mama” helped us celebrate the way our mothers always found ways to provide for us beyond their means.

But as I noticed then, and continue to see, I was never alone in my love for Tupac.

Tupac, however, made it very clear about who his message was directed to. His music continued the legacy of African-American artists whose music was tailored for African-Americans in inner city communities who were facing multiple forms of discrimination.

Credit: 2Pac/Instagram

Still, Latinos often worked and lived in similar neglectful conditions, which created shared frustrations.

We’ll never know the moment Tupac started to understand the importance of Latinos to U.S. society, but we can estimate that living in Los Angeles gave him an idea, particularly when he paid homage to Latinos in his hit song, “To Live and Die in L.A.,” claiming that it “wouldn’t be L.A. without Mexicans, black love, brown pride, in the sets again.”

For Los Angeles-based poet Angela Aguirre, 29, it was songs like “To Live and Die in L.A.” that helped her build connections with African Americans in her community and helped her understand that his message was also intended for Chicanas.   

“Seeing how hard he rode for the black community empowered me to ride equally as hard for mine,” she explained to me over email. “I had always been an outspoken Chicana, but Tupac’s music came out during my formative years and the politically conscious nature of that music influenced me to be more conscious of the same types of oppression that he spoke about.”

The 1990s, as Aguirre explains, were, in fact, a particularly challenging time for Latinos in California.

Credit: Tumblr

Border security was being tightened up, police were targeting Latinos in inner cities, and state bills like proposition 209 and 187 negatively impacted the economic and social conditions of Latinos throughout the state.

In addition, we were still living in an era where Latinos were often excluded from mainstream conversations of race.

As a result, Tupac’s lyrics often resonated with Latinos because he gave a growing, and often invisible part of the U.S. population, a vocabulary to express frustration, fears, and hopes for the future.

“Tupac was a lot of things,” Aguirre continued, “which is why I fucked with him so heavy. He was so multidimensional and complex as a person and an artist. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t problematic or even misogynistic at times, but because of his upbringing, Tupac was woke before ‘woke’ was even a thing and the most appealing thing about him was his sincerity.”

What made Tupac’s appeal even more far-reaching, I believe, was that his message also impacted Latinos outside of major California cities like, Mikael Rojas, who grew up in state of Washington, and Alejandro Sanchez-Lopez, 28, who grew up in Ensenada, Mexico.  

“Tupac was one of the most important people in my life,” explained, Rojas, a native of Yakima, Washington. “He said it was OK to be a minority and it connected with me even though I lived in rural Washington.”

“….Tupac’s lyrics often resonated with Latinos because he gave a growing, and often invisible part of the U.S. population, a vocabulary to express frustration, fears, and hopes for the future.”

Sanchez-Lopez, who grew up in Mexico, had a similar connection to Tupac.

“I didn’t even know what he was saying the first time I heard his music,” he explained, “but I knew how his voice made me feel.”

That Tupac was able to connect with fans and listeners outside of Los Angeles and other major West Coast cities should come to no surprise given the way his music was able to transcend race, sex, gender, and class. 

For people like Anaheim, California, native, Jesus Cortez, 37, however, Tupac’s song, “Life Goes On,” represented a form of therapy that helped him cope with the death of two of his friends which he lost to street violence.

“That song helped me get me through and helped me maintain my level of sanity,” he explained to me from his home in Anaheim. “I had just lost two good friends of mine to the streets and he said that life goes on even if you lose your homies.”

“My mind was all over the place and I was able to focus and he got me through.”

For Cortez, who like Tupac, was also raised by a single mother, life often presented challenges for him and his family, Tupac’s song, “Dear Mama,” helped him understand that being a single mother and raising a male teenager was no easy task.

Credit: Instagram/@independent_quotes5 and @2pac

“I was growing up with me and my mom and “Dear Mama” hit home because nobody had talked about their mom like that before in a song. We all loved our moms even though they were sometimes flawed. And a lot of us were growing up in broken homes and he made it OK to say ‘I love my mama.’”

“Dear Mama” indeed brought families closer together and allowed men to express their feelings towards their mothers in a vulnerable way, but Tupac’s legacy also inspired a generation of his fans who named their children in honor of his legacy.

Peruvian-American, Ana del Rocio, 31, grew up in California during the height of Tupac’s career and named her son, Tupac Amaru, in honor of the the rapper’s career and his namesake: Incan general Tupac Amaru II, who led revolts against the Spanish.

“What he stood for — revolution, poetic lyricism, and building up mothers and women of color — inspired me so much that I named my first child Tupac Amaru,” she described from her home in Portland, Oregon where she works as a policy director. “I chose the name to honor both the artist and the indigenous Peruvian warrior-chiefs, my ancestors, that Tupac Shakur was named after.”

“I see so many powerful warrior legacies living and breathing in my son every day, and it gives me so much hope for our resistance as a people.”

Credit: http://celebsofcolor.tumblr.com/post/162942657842/kendrick-lamar-for-interview-magazine and http://caballooscuro.tumblr.com/post/74791927343

Del Rocio reminds us that while Tupac may have directly impacted her life in the 1990s, the legacy of his impact continues in the next generation of Latinos like her son, who will continue to carry his name and his message.

In the same vein, Tupac also inspired an entire generation of west coast rappers like, Compton native, Kendrick Lamar, whose autobiographical albums, “Good Kid M.A.A.D City,” and, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” have individual songs, which continue Tupac’s message about black-brown unity.

Latinos, today, are often drawn to Kendrick’s music for many of the same reasons: sincere, heady, and jarring depictions of the human experience. But, more importantly, Kendrick understands, like Tupac did over twenty-years ago, that Latinos are an important part of U.S. society that continue to grow in size and influence as each day passes. 

READ: Cardi B Reminds Us That Latinos Have A Complicated Relationship To The N-Word

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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