Down aka Kilo
It's about a two-hour drive between Long Beach-Compton and Oxnard, Calif., but for rapper Down aka Kilo, the hub of West Coast hip-hop and his seaside agricultural hometown couldn't be closer.It's about a two-hour drive between Long Beach-Compton and Oxnard, Calif., but for rapper Down aka Kilo, the hub of West Coast hip-hop and his seaside agricultural hometown couldn't be closer.
Like many first-generation Mexican-American kids in Oxnard, his parents "came straight to the fields. They had to cross over the border, no papers, nothing. They came with zero, straight to the hood."
The rapper, born Juan Martinez, grew up relating to the gangster rap of NWA and its standout soloists Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube.
"Their lives were pretty much like ours, except they were black and we were brown," says the 22-year-old. "So I wanted to bring the brown flavor to the hip-hop scene."
Martinez did that, rapping for the first time in the garage studio of Edward "E-Dub" Rios, producer of the "Pocos Pero Locos" hip-hop radio show on L.A.'s KPWR Power 106.
Martinez went on to release an album, "California Cowboys," on his Kilo Gram imprint via Rios' Silent Giant Entertainment. He also put out a Spanish-language rap album, "Jefe," on Venemusic; the album contained guest appearances with regional Mexican stars Lupillo Rivera, Jenni Rivera and Los Razos.
But with the success of songs like Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean" and the Terror Squad's "Lean Back," Martinez thought it was time for a Latin rap anthem he and his friends could get down to in the clubs. Set to a jumpy synth beat, "Lean Like a Cholo" debuted at No. 29 on Billboard's Latin Rhythm airplay chart.
So how exactly does one lean like a cholo? "It's elbows up, side to side, elbows up, side to side," says Martinez. (A video with demonstrations by former Eazy-E manager Jerry Heller and Lupillo Rivera is available on YouTube). "It's a dance we've been doing since back in the zoot suit days. It's real old, and no one has ever done a song about it," says Martinez.
The rapper is expanding beyond the Southern California scene, having recently shared the bill in Chicago with reggaeton stars Tito El Bambino and Ivy Queen.
"Lean Like a Cholo" is one track on Martinez' upcoming album, "Definition of an Ese," set to come out May 22 on Kilo Gram/Silent Giant/Machete. The album includes collaborations (at "hood prices," explains Martinez) with Nate Dogg, Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg, the last of whom duets with Martinez on "The G Way." The new album also contains "Mami Te Quiero," a track with Long Beach native Jenni Rivera.
"Mostly the whole record is all clean, no cuss words, no gang violence," says Martinez. "It's a little bit clubby and more guided to the grown-up gangsters. It's all about the money, and forget all the other dumb sh*t."