Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
The Orange County Correctional Facility in Orlando, Fla., does not have visitation rooms. So when Jorge Pino, president/chairman of EMI Latin, went to see his artist, rapper Vico C, he had to go to another facility and "visit" through a video monitor.
And from another room in another building, with a phone to his ear and his eye on the camera, Vico C sang.
It was a song for his daughter, who that day -- Sept. 5 -- was turning 13 years old. Full of aching longing, it's probably the most poignant thing Vico C has ever sung, or written.
"Cinco de Septiembre," like most of Vico C's new release, "En Honor a la Verdad" (In Honor of the Truth), was conceived and penned from a prison cell, where he served six months for not fulfilling probation conditions for a previous arrest on drug possession.
"I wanted to leave something recorded in such a crucial moment," says Vico C, a diminutive man with a youthful face that belies his 32 years. "The emotions were very deep, and I knew that whatever came out would have feeling."
"En Honor a la Verdad" eschews subjects like sex, a perennial favorite among most Latin rappers, in favor of weightier topics that have earned Vico C the moniker "the philosopher of rap."
This time, he goes further by openly talking about his problems with drug addiction, rehab and prison and by collaborating with a host of producers and acts, including Tego Calderon, Tony Touch, D'Mingo and Eddie Dee.
Although he is one of the most recognized and respected Latin rap artists in the market, his mainstream sales do not match his prestige. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Vico C's best-selling album to date is 1998's "Aquel Que Habia Muerto," which scanned 84,000 copies. EMI claims 215,000 copies were sold in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. (Most of Vico C's sales are in Puerto Rico, where the majority of outlets are not monitored by Nielsen SoundScan.)
Now, fresh out of prison and rehab, the rapper has produced what may be his best material yet.
"Methadone is like anesthesia," says Vico C, who was taking methadone to break a heroin habit. "And in [prison], when I broke with methadone, cigarettes and everything else, that's when my motivation returned. I even wrote some songs when I was sick, but even when you're sick, suffering helps you write."
The album, the release date of which was pushed up from Nov. 18 to Nov. 4 because of fan reaction at radio, debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top Latin Pop Albums chart.
Radio programmers in Puerto Rico fueled the early success by playing not one but two singles: "El Bueno, El Malo y El Feo," featuring Tego Calderon, and "Para Mi Barrio," which is aimed at expanding Vico C's audience outside Puerto Rico and features Tony Touch and D'Mingo.
Excerpted from the Dec. 6, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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