It's been a minute since mainstream hip-hop has been impacted by a Latino rapper, especially one with a movement so strong that it influences others. Cypress Hill, the Beatnuts, Chino XL and Big Punisher emerged onto the scene in the early 90s, and in New York, Big Pun and Fat Joe -- coming from Diggin' in the Crates -- set the stage and led the movement that is Terror Squad (DJ Khaled, Cool & Dre, Remy Ma, Cuban Link, Tony Sunshine and more). The past half-decade has seen Latino MCs hustle to make a national footprint (with rappers as P.A.P.I. (aka N.O.R.E.), Joell Ortiz), and there's one that is rising as the culture's next-generation star.
Watch Bodega Bamz performs "Don Francisco"
Bodega Bamz, born Nathaniel DeLa Rosa, comes from Spanish Harlem with an abundance of passion, and is ready to carry the torch alongside his crew, the Tanboys (Ohla, Willie Hex, DJ Lady Chellz).
"I had a meeting with a president of a label, and he told me there's no hot Latin rappers. The reason why there hasn't been so many Latinos since Pun's passing is because ni--as ain't hot," Bamz tells The Juice. "I'm not trying to fill Pun's shoes -- I just feel like I was put here to do something. This is surreal because I grew up on Pun and Fat Joe and I would never think [that] I'd be in the position to bring back a whole culture, because I never thought it would be gone in the first place. I never thought people would look at me as the one."
The 27-year-old started rapping at the age of 14, and was heavily influenced by his family (including his mother and younger brother, Ohla) and the arts. Bamz began writing poetry as a freshman in high school and took drama classes; he even auditioned for PBS' "Reading Rainbow," but unfortunately didn't get a call back.
"My first passion was drama," he says. "I always had dreams to be on Broadway. I still do. Music just came along because when I went to school it was popular. I found out I was good at it, so I kept on working at it and I got to this point.
Watch Bodega Bamz performs "Where Ya Horns At"
"The moment I realized people wasn't believing me was when I knew I wanted to rap," he continues. "I only had my brother Ohla and my moms. Or I should say people didn't care to believe in me. That added fuel to the fire. I never took it personal. It never got me mad but it made me feel like I [had] something to prove. I know I'm good and I know God gave me the talent to showcase to the world."
Since releasing his mixtape, "Strictly for My P.A.P.I.Z.," which features Ortiz and A$AP Ferg, the rapper's buzz has beeen growing. Although he's being courted by several major labels, Bamz is fine working independently until the price is right.
"I want to be rich," he professes. "I want to have a shit load of money. I want to be like Scrooge McDuck and dive in the motherfucker. But I know how it is to be broke. So if I can hold out on a deal that's not paying me the amount that I feel they should be paying me then I'm gonna hold out."
- The Juice