Exclusive: MLKMN Premieres 'Bounce' Lyric Video, Talks Working With Diplo
Producer and rapper MLKMN (born Oscar Botello) is making waves with a sound inspired by his bi-cultural upbringing. Born in Mexico and raised in Laredo, Texas, those influences are apparent in "Bounce," the latest track from his major label U.S. debut, Milkstape (out Nov. 17).
A recent signee with Universal Music Latin Entertainment, he began making beats for a range of artists from Colombian rocker Juanes to Mexico’s pop group sensation RBD before turning the microphone on himself. We caught up with MLKMN from the road in L.A. and talked about his unusual moniker, working with Diplo, and producing material in Spanish and English. Plus, check out an exclusive premiere of the "Bounce" lyric video below.
What inspired "Bounce"?
It’s pretty much that Texas vibe that I grew up with. I was born in Monterrey, Mexico, but I grew up in Texas. I guess I just wanted to have a record that represents the border, where it's like the mix of hip-hop, cumbia, tejano, and that south hip-hop sound all mixed together. To me that record is like what it sounds like going through the radio stations in South Texas. I love the song. It’s the only track that someone else produced on the album. When I heard the beat it was so natural -- the same day I hit the studio and recorded the song.
Growing up on the border and traveling to and from Mexico must have exposed you to a lot of music. What did you listen to as a kid?
It's crazy, my dad was all into rock and hip-hop and my mom was into tejano and norteño music, so I got to live both sides of the culture. My super Mexican culture and more of the American music side. I remember my dad giving me Bad from Michael Jackson and "I'm Bad" from LL Cool J for my birthday. At the same time my mom is listening to Selena and she gave me an Emilio Navaira cassette. I also grew up listening to a lot of southern hip-hop. I think it really opened up my mind when it comes to writing or producing. Even my subject matter is affected.
How did you get the name MLKMN?
I was like 13 or 14 and my friends gave me the name milkman -- it became my nickname even with my family. As a kid I was super lactose intolerant. I would always drink it as an excuse to not have to go to school. I just became tolerant to it the more I would drink it. To this day they don’t call me by my name -- they all call me Milk.
You started as a producer and transitioned to an MC. How did that come about?
It was easy; it was in me. There was a moment when no one was paying for beats. If no one was paying then I was just going to start rapping over a beat. It was like 2006 or 2007 when I started doing my own music. I felt like I deserved it. After working with other people I just needed to go in the studio and do me.
You’ve produced records in English and Spanish. Do you approach each differently?
I think it’s a totally different vibe. When working with Spanish music, it’s a little bit harder. When we’re working on a Spanish album, you really think about who is going to listen to it. At the end of the day, it's for me, for my crew and my team. I guess it is a little different when we’re doing an English record -- I really get to say what I live, 100 percent. In Spanish, sometimes I’m more careful about the words I use. It’s not the same to say “bitch” in Spanish -- it sounds weird and can come off much more offensive. We do kind of think about the people that we’re making the music for.
I hear that you're working with Diplo?
Every time I bump into him, we always talk about doing some songs. When we get to do it, it's going to be like an EP, some party music. We always talk about it. He’s been to my house and we’ve messed around with a few tracks. Diplo is nonstop traveling, and I’ve been traveling a lot, but it's definitely going to happen.
By the looks of your Instagram, you’ve been traveling all over the place. What have you been up to?
I live in Miami, but I haven’t been home in like three months. I guess my home right now is my suitcase. Meeting new people has been dope. I’ve been going to Mexico a lot, also New York, Miami, L.A. and Texas. I’m just enjoying it. I feel blessed that I’m able to go back home and put it all into music. I take all of that and put it into something you can hear or see. I’m even about to go to Mexico and act in a movie. I’ve always wanted to act. When people start noticing you and wanting to work with you, it's pretty cool. I like going back to Miami and just chilling though. It's so chill and I really like calling it home.
What are your thoughts on the current hip-hop scene in Mexico?
It's growing like crazy! Two or three years ago I started seeing people demanding it. I had a show last weekend and I saw the music scene change. The electronic music scene is very big in Mexico right now -- we had a show with some DJs and for the first time the majority of the crowd was there to hear some hip-hop. Even the DJs felt the pressure and saw the change that was happening. I remember going out with my friends in the past and not getting in because of the way we were dressed. But this time around, most of the crowd was dressed like that. There were hundreds of people outside waiting to get in. They were demanding hip-hop. It was like I had my moment and I just lived it. It felt so good noticing that shift.
What should we expect from Milkstape?
I’m giving it my all. It’s like a Thursday through Sunday record. You know, when you start turning up for the weekend, then on Sunday you’re cuddling with your chick or whoever. Then you’re back at the office on Monday. A lot of booty talk and different music vibes. I really love to talk about women, it's my favorite inspiration -- a lot of break ups and ass talk. The Milkstape is all that I’ve taken with me, all in one album.