Straight From the Calle

Akwid's brilliantly targeted hip-hop and banda fusion

Published on LatinoLA: May 20, 2003

Straight From the Calle

Francisco and Sergio Gomez left their native Mexico at the age of three and five, respectively, to relocate with their family to the South Los Angeles. This is where both brothers lived their formative and teenage years and gave their first steps towards the long and complex journey of the unavoidable bipolarity of Generation ?; the new generation of U.S. bilingual and bicultural Latinos, the new face and sound of America in the 21st Century.

While at home they grew up speaking Spanish, listening to regional Mexican music, and surrounded by the cultural roots of the land south of the border, the reality of their urban surroundings where they were growing up was characterized visibly by African-American influences that ranged from hip hop music and colloquial English to the urban fashion trends and the irresistible spell of street rap.

In the 80?s, the Gomez brothers discovered an anomaly in their development when they found themselves obsessed with the majestic mixing gods of dance, the DJs that played at traditional family gatherings on weekends and at the obligatory family weddings and Quincea?eras. Instead of playing with the other kids during family parties, Francisco and Sergio opted to act as DJ groupies instead, forever hopeful that one day they could convince them to let them spin a couple of records and beats.

Following an array of futile attempts and effortless pleas with DJs, Francisco and Sergio chose to settle for exploring the myriad possibilities on their own home stereo. Their first sound system was purchased after a request they made to several family members to substitute Christmas gifts with cash so that they could purchase the turntable and equipment necessary to fulfill their dream. This is how Akwid?s musical history and dream begins and how the infinite persistence and determination of two young men to play and create urban music came to fruition.

Adopting the name Juvenile Style, Sergio, taking the stage name AK , and DJ Wikid AKA Francisco, find their way into what would become a successful career in the DJ circuit of the fascinating underground club world of LatinoLA.

By the 90?s, Juvenile Style, always in search of self-growth and creative fulfillment, begin to create their own rhymes and to produce their own mixes and tunes, which they later begin to incorporate into their gigs. It was in the early 90?s that they take the leap to contact an independent record label to offer samples of their music and are signed to their first record deal. Juvenile Style makes its presence known in the local hip hop scene and establishes itself as a favored act, securing a loyal following after rapping in English and sweeping first place in several jam sessions and competitions sponsored by Power 106 FM.

The early stages of the group and their musical influences relied freely on traditional rap and hip hop idols like AMG, NWA, Snoop Dog, DJ Quick, HI-C and Second to None and their music reflected the reality of the period?s musical wave and their own personal experiences. Nonetheless, their Latin roots took over and their early childhood memories along with melodious ghosts of their parents? Mexican idols -- Lorenzo de Monteclaro, Los Tigres del Norte and Los Cadetes de Linares -- began to crawl back into their consciousness and by the end of the 90?s, the original sounds stubbornly made their way back to their hearts and souls.

In 2000, Francisco and Sergio sign their second independent record deal and leave behind the name they had embraced in their teenage years, Juvenile Style, for they had both outgrown it and their adolescent stage and had entered the freedom and wildness of the 20-something club. By this time, the group?s evolution both on a technical and musical level is notable and the sophistication of their sound simply undisputable. ?People knew Juvenile Style in the underground, but we didn?t relate to the name anymore and we thought?our music has changed, everything has changed, why not change our name too?? and this is how we decided to merge our nicknames to create AKWID,? stated Francisco.

Fusion has been without a doubt, the concept and the essence of AKWID?s new dawn. Following the release of their album AKWID 2002, the duo was already showing signs of impatience, desire and a burning restlessness to incorporate traditional Latin music of artists like Chalino S?nchez, Carlos & Jos? and other regional Mexican bands to their mixes and urban beats. The result: The successful and inevitable juxtaposition of two cultures, two worlds, two opposing lifestyles and two music genres that in the end have more elements in common than differences.

?People started to criticize us because we didn?t rap in Spanish and because we had a very African-American sound. But when you?re young and you?re growing up in an environment that is totally different than your culture, you find yourself being forced to adapt and assimilate, only to later evolve and reunite with your own roots and you stop caring about what others think or say about you,? said Sergio.

AKWID is the new voice of the 21st Century and without a doubt, the new sound of America. AKWID represents the passion and true feeling of a bilingual and bicultural generation and the bridge that will gap both dual realities that become one in the daily lives of all Latinos born or raised in the U.S. With the added responsibility that comes along with being an Avant-gardist, AKWID sets out to conquer uncharted territory and explore musical styles and concepts never before heard.

With Proyecto AKWID under Univision Records, which is comprised of 10 tracks, AKWID undertakes a monumental expedition to the unknown and takes center stage in the creation of what very well may be the biggest musical revolution in Latin music?s recent history. ?As we matured and improved our sound and our ability to create music, we began to fall under the spell of the richness of our culture, banda music, mariachi and Latin ballads, and we began to recognize the vast talent that already existed in those genres; this is how we developed the idea of fusing both styles,? stated Sergio.

Authentic and avant-garde by excellence, and relentless musicians by nature, AKWID presents the world with a unique and pioneering sound and an artistic proposition that is honest, uninhibited and open. No hay manera (There?s No Way), the first promotional cut, opens with wind instrumentation and the traditional sound of Mexican banda, only to be followed by the urban hip hop background beats accompanied by the classic chorus verse of Mexico?s ?one and only? Juan Gabriel performed by Mimoso, lead vocalist for Banda El Recodo.

But the album?s greatness comes not only from the brilliantly targeted fusion AKWID accomplishes between hip hop and regional Mexican music; it also boasts some of the hottest and most relevant banda artists in the Latin music scene today, among them banda diva Jenny Rivera in Taquito de ojo (Eye Candy); Tu mentira (Your Lie), which has the lead vocal participation of Cesar of world renowned band Germ?n Liz?rraga y Sus Estrellas de Sinaloa in the chorus verse of another Juan Gabriel classic, and Ad?n S?nchez in Apesar de todo (Despite Of It All).

The play on words, the double meanings and the Mexican slang are evidenced in tracks such as Es mi gusto (It?s My Pleasure) and Pobre compa (Poor Buddy), always accompanied by the unparalleled sound of banda music as the basic premise.

Self-taught, sublime and irreverent in their language, AKWID shows itself naturally and transparently before adversity, their critics and the future. ?Our concept is to freely integrate and fuse banda music with hip hop without losing the essence each one and without compromising either style, that?s the idea and the basic foundation of our sound,? concluded AKWID.

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