Known for his witty rhymes and lavish hair, Speak! drops some words of wisdom on us as he’s recently ventured out of Los Angeles. Planting his roots down in Mexico for the foreseeable future, the L.A. emcee, by way of Moreno Valley, hops on the GChat with me to discuss the change in local, his plan to implant the Hip-hop culture south of the border and his upcoming musical efforts. I previously linked up with the talented rapper to venture through Los Angeles, where we captured a few photos throughout his home and neighborhood.
RICHARD: Dude, so first off you gotta explain what inspired your move to permanently stay out in Mexico.
SPEAK! "My Dad is from here, so It's always been a place I visited when I was younger. I came back in November to do press for the SexQuest album and decided to stay. It's a different tempo and way of living. I had to get out of L.A and step outside of the familiar. New perspective."
With all the negative stereotypes surrounding Mexico (i.e. Drug cartels, water problems, thieves), how'd you look past that and decide to stick with it? Have you run into any of these issues? "Mexico is a beautiful country with rich culture, history and heritage. I find a lot of Americans let fear and ignorance paralyze them and their outlook in regards to Mexico. Crime and violence plague every major city, but I haven't experienced any issues. Mexico City is a mega metropolitan with 20 million people. At times it feels a lot like LA & NY. I just try to stay low key and [try to] not draw any unwanted attention to myself. I stay clear of the trouble these days. The food, art, culture, and most important PEOPLE have me loving this city. It outweighs any negative stereotype that exist."
For sure, I'm one of those people that fell into that paralyzed bracket but I'm planning on making a trip out that way soon to open up my eyes. Can you give me an idea of what your daily routine is like? "I'm up fairly early. Around 7 or 8 usually. I smoke a little bit of weed and grab some coffee and get straight to work on music. I spend a lot of time wandering different colonias and taking in the city. There's a lot to digest. I'm always in state of awe and stimulus overload. Street performers and music are abundant here. It's all inspiring and ties back to the music. I think more than anything I'm trying to get an idea of what made my father who he is."
Speaking of music, what's the music scene like? Do you find yourself at hip hop shows like you would back here in LA? "Hip-hop is in high demand here but very few rap artist from the states come because of fear. It's funny how you hear rappers talk about being hood and trappin and this and that but none of em want any part of performing in Mexico where there is a huge hip-hop culture. It's sad really. But the music scene is KILLER in D.F.
There is a vibrant and groundbreaking scene of electronic musicians that are mixing dance, rap and electronic with more traditional cumbia and reggaeton rhythms, it's insane. Really innovative. Experimental and more guitar driven indie rock are big here. I'm also spending a lot of time taking in more traditional Mexican music. It's all inspiring."
Have you connected with any of the local musicians? Any collaborations in the works? "I've been working with a few. I've been working with a band out here called Valle Futuro. They are a dream pop band. I've brought them in as musicians for the album. We have some fly shit we put together. I've also connected with Lao from NAAFI which is a big electronic crew here."
Going to switch it up and take it back to a conversation we had during one of the last times we kicked it in LA. You told me how you felt Blu should've been to hip hop what Kendrick Lamar is to it today. Can we touch on this, because I agree and can't put my finger on to why it didn't happen. "Not to dive too much or speculate on anyone's career but around 2007-2008, Blu had the hype and was considered the heir to the west coast throne. He has classics under his belt but for some reason or another it just didn't pan out. Maybe it was Warner not knowing what to do with him, maybe he made too much of an experimental album with 'Noyork'… No telling."
It's one of hip-hop's true uncovered mysteries. I like to imagine a world where people rep N.W.C. (New World Color) gear instead of T.D.E. and Blu getting that verse on Kanye's "No More Parties in L.A." "Would be wild, huh?"
So with you being out of the country for as long as you have, do you still keep track of the trends and releases stateside? "Very much so. I'm jamming 'Slime Season 3' right now as we speak. I think that's one thing I can bring to the table is that I am so connected to what's happening culturally in both the US and Mexico. One of the projects I'm working on out here is throwing a monthly function where we play the all the dope new american rap music and bring over artist. Bridging the gap is important. I wanna be the guy to do it."
That sounds like it would be a pretty cool idea. What about the political race that's going on over here? Is the Trump criticism even harsher on the other side of the border? "They are laughing at us. Mexicans can not believe that there are people in the U.S. actually backing him. He is viewed as a Hitler-like character that is a threat to not only Americans but the rest of the world. They hate the guy."
I don't blame them. He's definitely a spectacle, and if he somehow manages to pull this off, I'll definitely take some serious thoughts into relocating to Mexico and starting over.
So you're half way through making the album, when should we expect it to be completed? "Not too sure. I don't want to rush it but I'm inspired and the ideas are flowing. Sometime early summer for sure. Don't want to sit on the songs too long because I become bored. As soon as the songs are complete and ready to go I'll be ready to pull the trigger."
Well we're going to keep an eye out for sure. Appreciate you taking the time to chat it up. Any last comments you want to share? "A vote for Trump is a vote for Fascism. Let's break down the cultural walls and love our neighbors around the world. We are all more similar than we are different."
Clearly a man for equality, Speak! has already set his hip-hop integration plan into action, having recently thrown his Down in the D.F. party. Continuing to shell out his creative music and merchandise, you can keep up with everything Speak! by following him on Twitter and Bandcamp.
Photography and Interview by Richard Brooks
Follow Richard on Instagram at @picturesinthemail