August of 2004, LatinRapper.com ran a music feature on Coachella, California artist Malverde. The son of migrant field workers, it was obvious from first listen that Jesus was destined for big things in the Latin Hip Hop industry, which only then was beginning to catch its stride with serious attention from labels and radio.
Four years later, Jesus Malverde is standing tall with the support of urban Latin music's most powerful label, and a hot new album under his belt. He represents one of a handful of West Coast Mexicanos that bucks the trend of making music only to cater to a particular region. With blazing production from bi-coastal producer Brett B as well as guest spots from Tony Touch to B-Real of Cypress Hill, he offers something for Hip Hop heads from any time zone. He speaks with us about his new album "La Leyenda Continua" in this exclusive interview.
LatinRapper.com: What can you tell us about the new album?
It's called La Leyenda Continua, the legend continues. We definitely made that album so that it lives up to that name. Because the name Malverde is based on the legend of this cat named Jesus Malverde, who was said to roam the state of Sinaloa. Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, at the turn of the last century. He is said to have been a Robin Hood figure, the name Malverde literally translates to Bad Green. They said he got this nickname because when he saw the hardship and oppression of his people, he took it upon himself on some Robin hood stuff to go out there and make a change by any means necessary. They said he would hide in the greenery, pop out and stick fools up. Hence, they said watch out with the bad green. Obviously that's where I get my namesake. My name is Jesus, in this hip hop game cat's be taking on the name of either historic or infamous figures. To me, Malverde holds such a deep cultural and historic significance in Mexico, I really wanted to pay homage to that name. It truly represents my movement, music of the people, musica del pueblo, as we like to call it. That's the umbrella everything falls under musically.
I stay with the same team, my producer Brett B who I've been working with more than 10 years. Someone legendary in his own right, directly and indirectly in the biggest hip hop acts that happen to be Latino. He played a big part in developing Cypress Hill, this is the man that B-Real himself credits with teaching him to write in format. Write anthems, he wrote "Hand on the Pump" for Cypress. He also helped develop Sondoobie of Funkdoobiest. These two groups alone had the biggest impact on me as artists, and gave me inspiration and motivation to go down this road. That I've worked with him since a long time and he helped develop me, keeps me I guess in that same family of legendary hip hop figures that happen to be Latino. What he did musically is also legendary. In Mi Palabra we went digging on the Latin side with a lot of Latin samples. With this album we did the same thing, taking big Latin songs and flipping them. Everyone from Buena Vista Social Club, to Smiles Rivera, Los Solitarios, all these legendary songs, and filtered them. Musically continue that legacy.
Even the album cover, shot by Daniel Hastings, half Panamanian half Mexican. This man is a legendary Hip Hop photographer and filmmaker. This guy did the first Wu Tang album, Raekwon Only Built for Cuban Linx, Nas I Am, Gangstarr Mass Appeal. He's done over 100 album covers. He did Big Pun, Capital Punishment, bro. He's out of New York, we met about two years ago. After a show, he said you know what, I haven't felt about someone in Hip Hop, especially Latino, since back in the day. You remind me of that early 90's, mid 90's true Hip Hop. He said I can't wait to work with you. Here we are two years later, he did my album cover, he shot two videos for us, he's our creative director for this project. Even the engineer who twisted the knobs and levels for us, legendary, Richard Huredia, a Latino here in L.A. who quiet as kept been part of the most classic hip hop albums of all time. He engineered Chronic 2001, he's one of Dre's engineers, mixed stuff for Kanye, Cypress, a legendary Latino in Hip Hop. I'm blessed that everyone that put their hands on this project has been of legendary status. B-Real, Tony Touch and Sondoobie are featured on this project. That's the stamp, the cherry on top that these dudes that inspired me and the reason I'm here inspired me and blessed me on this project. What does La Leyenda Continua mean? I just broke it down, it's multi-faceted. Also just on a symbolic level, each one of us, our generation holds that possibility. Has that duty to continue the legend of our grandfathers, our forefathers, our people.
You mentioned a few of the guest artists, who are the main ones?
Well those are the three prominent ones. B-Real, Tony Touch, Sondoobie. Then I got a batch of up and comers, one of our artists, my right hand man Juan Barajas. He's featured on a song, my boy Aro Sanchez, he's Dominican out of East New York, Brooklyn, Cypress Hills projects. That's another homie that got fire. We met like two, three years ago out in New York, Brooklyn, before the deal when I was out there just trying to build bridges. New ground, new territory, we connected right off the tip. We realized whether you're Dominican, Mexican, East Coast, West Coast, the projects or the barrio, it's the same struggle, the same cause. We did a song called Ay Que Estamos, We're Here, we did half of the video in New York, half of it in L.A., showing the difference and similarities of our people and our culture. Juan Barajas out of East L.A., trying to build him up. My labelmate Rigo Luna, he's doing the Spanish R&B thing, he has to bless me on a joint called Si Tu Supierias, If You Only Knew, that pays homage to the women you can take home to mama, beautiful song. We also got Tiffany Wilson, who blessed us on She Was My, that Jezebel joint. She's worked with Kanye, blessed me on this joint. Good mix of established legendary features and a new batch of up and comers.
You mentioned Brett Bouldin who produced for Cypress Hill, Funkdoobiest and 7A3. How did you come to the decision to stick with one producer for the whole album?
It's really been just growth on both our ends. A lot of times what can possibly happen when you take a project to so many people, you create different sounds. Which is cool, but with Mi Palabra we started something, the sound was consistent, kind of seamless. On this project as we recorded more songs and pushed ourselves creatively, musically, lyrically, it just felt right. We'd be digging through the crates, I'd bring him a sample, and be like check this, he'd flip it. It was just that working creative relationship. At this point, that's who I been working with more than 10, 15 years, he's been like a brother, blood to me. Who you gonna break bread with (laughs). It was more than that, it was like we set out to do something. This project, its us right now. You see the growth, the evolution from Mi Palabra which is an album we did in 2004, I stayed relevant with a project I did four years ago. That's the power we think this project's gonna have. Here it is 2008, my major label debut, new material. It's me now, Brett now on the production tip, you can see how far we've come and how far we've taken it.
Are you on tour or doing TV spots to promote?
Album just dropped, it was a little early for our taste. We just had a big release party with MTV3, we've been doing a lot of promotion, CNN en Espanol, Mun2, going to be in New York for 10 days. We're definitely off to the races at this point.
Machete Music is a high-powered label normally known for it's reggaeton acts, your deal surprised some people, how did it come about?
What we saw was not what was happening at the time, I signed two years go. Reggaeton did open up the doors, Machete is built on reggaeton, but what we saw and what Gus [Lopez] saw is that Hip Hop is the root of the movement. After reggaeton opened the doors, we saw what's happening now. In anything you need that commercial success to bust the doors open. It brought greater awareness to the urban Latin movement. As far as where we're at now, it's reverting back to an Urban Latin music. I think people got stuck longer than they should on reggaeton, saturated the market. As long as we got in there, on standby, waiting for the most opportune moment, that's why it has taken two years to drop a project. When reggaeton came in, everyone went on it, stuck on it, you had radio stations saying I was too hip hop, bro. Even on this project, we aren't anticipating any radio support just because a lot of radio stations are still in limbo in terms of what the formats are, allowing hip hop like mine into the format. We're not too concerned with that, always let the streets dictate. We kept pushing it back, label kept pushing it back, when you look at the reality of it, so much money has been put into reggaeton that hasn't been recouped, and it isn't going to be recouped at this point. It got to the point where everyone wanted Don Omar, Wisin, talented individuals I have the utmost respect for. Everyone expected them to sell millions and millions of records. They sold millions - collectively. As far as the last projects, Machete really thought Wisin and Yandel would sell 2 mill, Don Omar would sell 2-3 mill, and we'd all be sitting pretty right now. Everybody thought Yankee was gonna come out and do some crazy s**t at Interscope, that didn't happen. I'm kind of upset that us as a people in the market didn't come out and buy 10 Yankee CDs each. If Interscope gave him 12 mill, and he sold a mill or two mill the first week, Jimmy would be writing more checks to more of us. So that's something where I think we faltered at as a culture and a movement. Even if it's reggaeton and people are tired of it, people want to move on, we still gotta support our own. With the whole reggaeton thing, it's not going anywhere, I think it's did its thing, the core artists are always be there. But it is reverting to an overall urban Latin genre and market. That's where I come in, and the rest of the cats that are doing big things in Hip Hop on the Latin side.
You have a Poli-Sci degree, right?
Does having a Political Science background fit into your music at all?
Most definitely, Most definitely. I think that it really helps me convey messages in a way which people can embrace and take in. But they're not too abrasive, harsh, in your face. I try to make my music of substance, but easily digestible. I thin the best way to do that is storytelling, the science of messaging, which is what political science is. The science of politics, propaganda, embedding people messages that you want to convey. I believe education and that cultural enrichment that I went through because of it. Sometimes that can be self-taught, if you're self read or motivated to pursue knowledge, it comes across especially if you're writing lyrics. I feel very blessed that I have that background in having that degree and education, because it takes me conceptualize at a higher level, takes my lyrics to a deeper, more profound place in terms of the kind of messages I can embed in my lyrics. With political science you learn that change and revolution starts in the mind. When you can wake one person up out of the day to day monotony that their stuck in, wake up to the fact that they can be impactful in dictating what happens around them. With me, whether it be songs of struggle, plight, street adventures, of love, anything I speak on, I try to speak on with integrity and intellect and in a way that people walk away like they've experienced that now, and with experience comes knowledge and wisdom.
Mi Palabra had some really radio friendly tracks, how does the new album differ from it?
I think it's an evolution. In Mi Palabra I had Oye Mami, on this album I did a song motivated by it, I call it like my Oye Mami pt 2, called Oye. Same premise, a woman you're trying to get at, but being clever, be intelligent with your lyrics where you can leave so much to the imagination that can still be sexy. You can still make a joint about a woman you're trying to get at, and not having crossed lines in terms of taste or having to be some raunchy type song (laughs). In this album I followed that same format, trying to touch on all subjects. The first song is called Y Ahora Que, Now What? I've been through the highs and the lows, I've lost I've won, and I'm still here. I got a song called Dime which people are probably gonna think is about a woman. I kind of modeled it after that Bob Marley song (sings) "I don't want to wait in vain for your love". People think he wrote that about a woman, he was actually writing that song as a metaphor with his situation with America. The American market wasn't really embracing him. He wrote that beautiful song, but if you look at it on a higher meaning. I went to Jamaica and learned the true meaning of that, it blew me away. Dime can be about a woman, but it's also on a bigger picture, a relationship you can have with America that it can have with its citizens. It can have a double triple meaning.
In terms of content, I really did push myself to write outside the box and convey different emotions. Whether it be Dime, or the joint I did with B-Real about the perils and consequences of street life. Pachanga with Tony Touch and Sondoobie, Pachanga basically means party, in the spirit and essence of Hip Hop, having a good time. I have a song called Madresita for my mother, I've always wanted to do a song for my mother. A lot of people do songs on the bubbly side, and that's all love, but my mom had such a harsh life. Her mother died when she was three, she worked in the fields picking grapes 'til the time she was 14, I wanted it to be dramatic and show the impact and hardship of her life. I tried to be as honest as possible, as real as possible, to give as much of myself as possible, so when people here the songs they feel the emotion and relate.
You were raised by your mother and grandfather?
My pops, they separated when I was three years old. My mother later remarried, but it truly was my mother being my mother and father. And my grandfather, from my early age until he passed, rest in peace, in '97. He was truly that father figure, I think that's why everything he instilled in me in an early age took root and sprouted later in life. When you appreciate all those things, dichos, the stories, how he wanted me to be that Mexicano, hombre, but in a modern context. That's how I see myself, Malverde, the man my grandfather wanted me to be. The Malverde of old, but in this new urban landscape. For the record, I have reconnected with my father, and it's a beautiful thing. I reconnected with him probably around 2000, 2001 when I graduated from college. I always knew I had a father, but not until these past few years when I really reached out and said, "You made me" (laughs). Things happen between women and men, sometimes children unfortunately are caught in the middle, but you can't take it personal. As a man now, I understand that. Suffice to say, I love my pops, and he's actually from Texas. He lives in Austin now, he's part of my life now, it's all love.
Are you involved with the Latino community?
We've always done a lot of community-based work with at risk youth, immigration. This year I'm part of a group called VotoLatino.org, I'm part of their artist coalition. It was founded by Maria Teresa Peterson, co-founded by Rosario Dawson the actress. Other artist coalition members include Wilmer Vilderrama, Pitbull, Tego Calderon, Frankie Needles, prominent Latinos in entertainment, this year as Latinos we can, and must, let our voices been heard. I'm committed to that cause and purpose, VotoLatino.org is where you can register to vote, become involved. Let's make this year the year that Latinos truly impact the election on a national level.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Support, this is a project that I put my heart and soul into. In order for me to continue doing what I do in terms of bringing music that means something, musica del pueblo, I need that support. In this day and age, when sales and the music industry is faltering, we need to show that we support our own. I have to urge everyone that wants true Hip Hop to prosper, to go out and cop it, spread the word. Then we can't complain when we don't like what we hear, get behind something that means something. La Leyenda Continua.
Malverde on the web: http://www.malverde.com
Malverde on Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/malverde
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