Rico and Dun of Los Rakas are 23 and 24. For the last four years they’ve matured together, emulating and playing with sounds from their native Panama, dancehall radio and the fallen Bay Area hyphy movement to make their best go at borderless and almost genreless jams. We talked to the boys about working and touring hard, why their aunt doesn’t totally love their music and what kind of Cali weed is best for songwriting and push ups.
How’d the show go last night? It went late but you look decently fresh this morning—
Rico: The last time we played in New York was almost a year ago when we were here for L.A.M.C. the Latin Alternative conference. There was a lot of love at that show but this was one different, went off out the fluke. We put it together real fast because Mala Rodriguez’ visa didn’t come through and we had to switch the date. We thought maybe people wouldn’t show up since she wasn’t coming but they turned out, it was packed, people were singing the songs.
Dun: Last year we were her for seven days and played six out of the seven. On the day off we woke up very early and did the “Kalle” video. I always wanted to do a video in New York and it just happened.
L.A.M.C. was a big moment, you won the Discovery Award. What’s happened since then?
Dun: We got a lot done, the team’s getting bigger so we’re moving faster.
Rico: We’ve just kept trying to capitalize on every moment. We just finished a tour that was big for us because we’re Latin artists and we were performing in Spanish. We were doing shows with The Grouch, Brother Ali and Eligh. They rap in English and their crowd is mostly white. But the audiences accepted us just fine.
Dun: It was a big tour, like a month.
Rico: We rented our own van cause we smoke, and The Grouch, Brother Ali and Eligh them dudes you know, they’re older so they’re a bit more disciplined.
Dun: Been there, done that.
Rico: But we’re new to it so—
Dun: We were behind them just following them. We played in Arizona and we got caught with weed, too. We got arrested but everything’s cool now. I don’t have to go back to court and all that. We’re taking it step by step—
Rico: Trying to make that fan base so our music can live forever.
What show went best?
Dun: Portland! It had a lot of energy, it was crazy. It was split, lots of young kids over here and then older guys over there.
Rico: The whole thing was jumping. Every show we did was fun but they really wanted to party.
Because no one there has a job! You guys met close to there, in San Francisco.
Dun: No Oakland, we’re from Oakland. We met in East Oakland.
How old were you?
Rico: We were like 16, 17?
Dun: I went to Oakland High and Rico went to school in another city.
Rico: We’re cousins, we met at our aunties house.
Dun: After I came from Panama, everybody came to the house.
How old were you when you moved?
Dun: I was 14.
Rico: I was 12.
When was the last time you went back for a visit?
Rico: I was there like over two years ago. It’s been a while.
Dun: I haven’t been able to go back yet.
That’s too bad because you’re huge there.
Rico: Yeah! I would go back to Panama, back and forth promoting our music. In Panama we listen to everything. We listen to Haitian music, salsa, merengue, bachata, reggae. What we do is more hip hop— it’s reggae as well, but a lot of people wouldn’t accept it because hip hop isn’t big in Panama yet.
Dun: Our auntie is back to Panama now, she doesn’t really talk about our music.
Rico: But hip-hop got kinda big when 50 Cent came out. Then last year, I was listening to internet radio and Panamania DJ’s were playing New Boys. I heard someone rapping Spanish over a jerk beat and I’m like what the fuck is this? Jerking comes from turfing in Oakland, from the whole Hyphy movement. That’s part of our culture, where we come from, so I was like, “we gotta do something to give these dudes” down there. “Soy Raka”—that’s how that was born. We released it, we did the video, everything was done real quick. After that, everybody in Panama was just feeling us, you know But you know we have been the face of hip-hop in Panama; we’re opening the doors. Now there are a lot more artists that are doing hip-hop.
DunDun: They’re always be like “man when I saw you, you inspired me” Some don’t say it like that—
Rico: Because of the male ego.
Dun: But you know, we can hear it.