Date: June 6 th 2004
Place: Ninkasi Kao, Lyon, France

Hip-Hop Core: On Galapagos 4's website, I've read that you've lived in Senoma County in California for quite some time. You've also lived in Arizona and the Bay Area. How did you end up hooking with a Chicagoan hip-hop crew?

Mestizo: You know, I'm originally from the South Bay. I was born in San Jose, raised in the East Bay... I've been around a bunch of places there. I moved around a lot. I don't like to stay in one place too long. I like to travel. When I was younger, I lived in Wisconsin, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Chicago obviously. When I was in Phoenix, I heard Offwhyte's shit. I'm Filipino and Sicilian so I was looking for other Filipino emcees. I heard his music and I thought: "Damn, this kid's tight". That was when nobody was really known. So I was like, fuck, I'ma book him for a show. I call him up, he came out with Meaty Ogre and me and Meaty Ogre hit it off right away. They flew Qwel out and we hit it off. Then, I was going through some bad shit so I moved out to Vegas. I hated it there so Meaty was like, man, move out to Chicago . He got me an apartment with him and my brother Dahoud and my homie Robust. I didn't expect to do music with them but they just heard my shit and liked it and they said "let's do an album"... Now I'm back in California because I was missing California and my family. But Chicago 's like my second home.

HHC: What do you like so much about travelling?

M: Travelling is an experience, man. I feel like I grow a lot more when I'm travelling. Meeting new people, experiencing new ways of life. Even in America, if you go to another state, it's a whole different world and culture. I learn a lot, I grow as a person, within myself.

HHC: You share Filipino origins with Offwhyte. Do these mixed origins influence your outlook on life and/or your music?

M: I kinda had to dig up my own history. My Filipino history is kinda disappearing. My grandmother passed away and she was the main root. A lot of my family came over from the Filipins to America and they got treated like shit. They had to act like the Caucasian white men and live by those ways of life. They pushed their culture aside and took in the American. Me and my father are the last roots… But, mainly, the food is what I get out of it, you know. I didn't grow up with my Sicilian family. They all live in New York . But they're just really strong people, both sides. In my writing, I have to be strong.

HHC: Could you tell us a few words about your first steps on the hip-hop scene? I believe you've been doing shows and recording tracks for more than 6 years now.

M: Yeah, long time, man. I've been underground for a long time. I just never hopped in because I never felt there were the right people to work with. That's because I feel like my whole meeting with the Galapagos 4 crew is destiny. It was meant to be. But I've been rapping and freestyling with the homies from Oakland since middle school. We were like 12 years old and doing freestyle songs, not even writing until I was about 15 or 16. Then I started seriously getting into it. So I've been doing shows since school, always trying to perform. Hip-hop was like the thing I could relate to the most. It kept me out of a lot of troubles. I never had a lot of family around growing up. I was by myself most of the time. My mom was working all the time; my sister was 7 years older than me so she was off doing her thing; my pops wasn't really around… All I had was music so I just did music constantly… Smoked weed, lived life, you know what I'm saying… I got into jungle and drum & bass when I was 15 and that's when I really started performing, even at huge raves with 5 to 10 000 people. Just learning how to work a crowd with your energy and feeling, the tones of your voice, what you say, the speed of your words, how your words hit… That kinda led me up to here. I'm still growing as a performer and a writer but I'm maturing now. This first album is shit that I've gathered up since '96 up to now. Like 'Eyes See Through You', I wrote that in '97, I was 17 or something.

HHC: You're one of the most recent recruits of the Galapagos 4 crew. How did the ‘Baby Steps' 10” came to fruition?

M: I just kinda told'em: "That's what I want to do". Everything I do, I wanna do different. They hadn't put out a 10" yet so I said "let me put out a 10". 'Baby Steps', 'When The Camera's Off' and 'Brainphone' were the 3 songs I had really done at the time. I had recorded with DJ White Lightning and everybody liked that shit so we did it.

HHC: You've worked with a lot of different producers (Meaty Ogre, Jackson Jones, DJ White Lightning, Maker, etc) on your first album "Lifelikemovie". What led you to do that instead of working with only one or two producers?

M: This album is about my life. All these guys are my brothers. They're involved in everything I do and are a part of my family. So it made sense that I put them all on it because they're a part of my life. Kip Killigain and me have been doing music since I was like 17. He's one of the illest junglists in the whole fuckin' world and he produces hip-hop too. Om is one of my brothers; he's like the OG record collector. Meaty Ogre learned a lot about collecting records off Om and he's just raw as fuck so I put him down. Mike Gao is one of our newest producers. He's the future. I like to bring the young cats in along with us. We met him in LA by chance of dealing with these punk-ass promoters that were fucking us over. They were trying to bring him into their scene but he was too raw so we brought him to Galapagos 4.

HHC: On the album, there are several instrumental interludes. What gave you the will to do that?

M: I think it makes it more of an adventure, a story, than just rap after rap after rap… It gives it a break and makes it more of a collage of music. I wanted to make it so you can listen to it all the way through. So it builds, climaxes and drops down and leaves where you need to be. I had a pretty clear idea of the structure of the album right from the start. From watching my homies, Rough Sound Crew, mix jungle. The way they mix tells a story. It's a climax of emotions. You start out eerie, it comes up, starts getting a little hyper and then drop that shit on you and then it goes down again and it leaves you in a nice place… It messes with your emotions.

HHC: Do you plan to work on a jungle project in the future?

M: Oh, yeah! That's my second love. I've done a gang of live jungle mixes. I don't like drum & bass. I like the shit that's really intricate, where the drums change up every bar. It's really intelligent shit. LTJ Bookem is a tight ass dude. Give me a Kip Killigain and I will definitely work on some shit…

HHC: How did you approach this first album considering that you probably wanted to put a lot of things into it?

M: I just wanted to share some things. A lot of the songs are my experiences or are from a perspective of other people's experiences. For instance, 'Baby Steps' is about the Columbine events. The first verse is like the tough guy in school that's always trying to be cool, beating up on kids that are just on their own, the nerds. The second verse is the thinker, the so-called nerd that is a hermit, and his reaction to getting fucked with constantly. He holds it in and then explodes and shoot you. It's cause and effect. 'Glass Box' is about me working at a movie theatre in one of the richest neighbourhoods in Chicago, like those pictures on the album. Just getting treated like a dog. The album is about everyday life in America . It also tells a lot about myself. I think the best music to me is honest. I think that people can learn off of me sharing myself. It's supposedly not cool to be a nice guy nowadays… So I wanted to show that men also have emotions and are not just about guns, fighting, sports and shit. I just wanted to be honest.

HHC: Why don't you work with Californian artists considering the fact that you lived there for a long time?

M: I want to but it's just that a lot of cats in California are really busy. Awol One is one of my homies. I definitely want to work with the Shapeshifters. But apart from them and my crew, I'm not really into a lot of hip-hop that's out now. It has no feeling and no meaning. That's why I work with my crew because they're the ones I love the most and I know their word is true. I can't work with somebody I don't know. Music is mad personal to me.

HHC: You have complicated rhyme schemes and a very fluid flow. How much of an influence have the Project Blowed emcees and all the west coast underground hip-hop scene had on you ?

M: I used to listen to a lot of Freestyle Fellowship when it came out but I don't think it had that much of an influence on me. I always wanted to be different. If anybody, the Shapeshifters gave me more inspiration, but I won't say they were an influence. I feel like the gangsta rap had more of an effect on me than the underground. E-40 was definitely a tongue-twisting-ass dude, Too Short, Dre Dog, all that Bay Area shit had more of an influence on me than anything else. As for writing, wisdom and philosophy had more of an influence on me than music, you know.

HHC: How would you define the album?

M: That's hard… I would definite it as honest, imperfect but perfect… The most human thing that I could put out. Also, it's like a show… There's a lot of political issues that I'm trying to deal with. It's in code word of course because that's the way we write and that's where we get artistic with it. You have to actually listen to it, break it down… I'm trying to paint a picture with it. The best definition is just "Lifelikemovie", man. It's exactly what I mean because life is like a movie to me.

HHC: But behind the title and artwork of the album “LifeLikeMovie”, there's also the fact that you've working in a movie theatre?

M: Yeah, I just kinda played along with it. The regular routine that human beings go through is: wake up, go to work, go home, eat, kick it with their wife watching TV, sleep and do the same shit again… It's a repetitive cycle.

HHC: You must be a movie fan then?

M: Yeah. I don't like TV but I love movies. I think movies are important in life. It's artistic and they definitely reflect a lot of life.

HHC: I've read that “Amelie” is one of your favourite movies. What do you like so much about it?

M: I fell in love with her, man. She went through a lot of bullshit as a kid but the little things just made her happy. She's just a happy-ass woman and she's a reflection to me of what a woman should be: independent, happy, strong but still searching for peace. And, as a human being, people can follow her lead. Amelie is dope, man.

HHC: How do you feel about coming to Paris and Europe then?

M: I dig it. People here are really cool. I needed a break from America because everybody there is just really stone-faced and out of touch with living life. People just live for money out there. People out here, it seems like they live to live life. The food's better. The conversation's better with people. The women are just beautiful. I dig it a lot. I'm still getting used to it because I'm still stuck in my ways and America 's different. But I love it. I know why Buck 65 lives out here. Europe is definitely a cool spot.

HHC: You've done countless shows in your career. How do you feel about touring?

M: Touring is dope. I'd love to tour all the time. It keeps me busy. But I also need a break from it too. It's hard to do this rap shit all the time such as interviews, waking up early at a spot and going to the next spot, being with 12 dudes that are all doing different things… But I love touring and seeing new places. It's like a dream. I never thought I'd be out of my room.

HHC: What are your current projects?

M: I got a lot. Dwight Lightning gave me a bunch of beats and I'm working on a project with him right now. It's gonna be on the experimental tip, really different. I think we wanna make it like a soundtrack to a DVD that we're going to do, a silent movie. Everything will be in place with the sequences of the scenes. I'm also working on projects with Mike Gao, Om, Kip Killigain. Me and Maker are probably going to do some shit. Dallas Jackson just moved out to Oakland also so me and him are going to start working on some shit too.

HHC: You're very critical about America on your album. How do you feel about the state of the United States ?

M: I think the state of America is in definite urgency. We're digging ourselves into a hole. Our president, which I don't support his fucking views at all, is leading us to Armageddon. He started this war and he's just got everybody on his side because he's using religion like "God tells us to do this" and all he's showing is like Americans doing good in Iraq while we all fucking know he's not doing good. There are innocent people dying out there and our soldiers are even committing suicide. They know what they're doing isn't right. As an effect of that, we're gaining enemies in other countries by the minute. Obviously, we disrespected France in the meetings that we had. So France and Spain don't have our back and whoever doesn't have our back we go after! This shit is about money and power, that's all this fuckin' war is about. Bin Ladens and Bush have been in business since the 1970's. War is good money… I got a little off the subject… The kids in America are clueless. A lot of people are starting to wake up but they're manipulating kids minds with shit like mainstream music to make kids think more about clothes and how to be in style, go to clubs and parties instead of thinking about what the fuck is actually going on in the world right now. The shit's falling apart, man. So that's why I talk about that and Qwel talks about that, Rift Napalm, Robust, Offwhyte… Because the future is in our hands and we're the real leaders of this fucking country.

HHC: On the album, you say: "I will never be a victim of brain manipulation". Is that something that you want to do: to help people see through the lies?

M: As many people as I can get to wake up, man. People already have it in their heads, it's in their subconscience. It just got to be brought out. It's like taking acid for the first time. You see things from a whole different view. That's all I'm trying to do: to speed the process, because I truly believe that, not only human beings are running out of time, but that earth is also running out of time. I think mother earth is running out of patience. Got to cleanse ourselves soon. I believe 2012 is definitely the year. It's scientifically proven and also in Mayan calendars…. 2012, there's gonna be a change. We're coming to an end and the end of the cycle starts a new beginning. So as many people as we can get to help start a new beginning is gonna be amazing. Hopefully, we can turn this shit around. I don't want to have to live all for money, have to kill myself for 8 hours a day just to get money and live life. Do meaningless shit that I don't want to do. I want to help people live happy and do the things they want to do. I believe that the world would be a much better place if people were happier doing what they love.

HHC: Any last word?

M: I just want to let France know that there are good Americans out there. Anyway, I don't consider myself an American because our land is stolen. We're just a melting pot, people brought there. There are good people living in America, trying to see through what Bush is doing. We got love for the whole fucking planet, man. Humans are humans. As many people as we can get with us, not even just Galapagos, is a good idea and a good thing.

Interview by Cobalt
June 2004

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