Rap Heat Coming from a Latino: Music in L.A. with Sal Roses

“What you give is what you get,
But I only give respect,
Where I really think it’s due,
Tell me who the hell are you?

Sal Roses is a Salvadoran American writer born and raised in the City of Los Angeles, whose parents hail from the Pueblo of Santa Rosa de Lìma, La Union, El Salvador. As a member of the ‘first’ generation of his family in L.A., Roses’s world was one where a survival & entrepreneurial mentality at home often clashed with the systemic nature of American schools, work and life. Before finding himself as an artist, Roses would navigate through violence and abuse at home and his environment, financial instability, and the process of discovering his voice, eventually learning ‘to turn mud into gold.’ He now seeks to influence the world through music emblazoned with messages of confidence, self-reliance, and determination to turn one’s dreams into reality. 

1. Who are some of your earliest musical influences?

Parents are always first. They introduced me to Latin music, including cumbias, románticas, and all that good stuff. But it wasn’t until my cousins introduced me to hip hop that I saw the most for myself in the music. They introduced me to Chicano gangster rap, and that’s when I really started to visualize what these artists were going through. I could see it going on with my primos.

2. Tell me about Appetizers, Vol 1. What led you to this name for your EP?

It’s just a taste! And you can’t have the entree without a set of appetizers. It’s a build up to the full course of art we intend to supply. At 3 songs it felt like the perfect follow up to Killing Other People’s Beats The Mixtape (KOPB The Mixtape). Appetizers Vol. 1 also gives me creative freedom to drop a snack whenever I feel like the people are hungry for it. Just gotta stay hungry.

3. Tell me about the Spanish verse in Now; why did you choose to include Spanish in your opening song?

It was very important to include Spanish on this first project. Spanish and English have been equally important in shaping me to the point that it would have been wrong to leave out a verse in the latter. Plus, now more than ever, you can feel the strength of the language; it just carries a little more weight these days.

4. What do you make of Latinos in Hip Hop in 2019?

We’ve been consumers of Hip Hop from near the beginning but have gone mostly under-represented for a while. As a market, the Latino culture is being targeted more than ever before in the music, but it also calls for creatives like us to fill in the missing pieces. There are still so many stories to be told, so many thoughts to be brought up for discussion, deep rooted issues that need addressing. Our true contribution is still being formed and that’s the most exciting part about it.

5. And so, what if Adam ate the apple first?

This is my favorite line in the whole project! Imagine a world where, for all intents and purposes, Adam took that bite instead of Eve. Would men feel more inclined to push for gender equality? Would we want women to treat us differently? I say this as someone who considers themselves a feminist, pushing for true gender equality and not gender overcompensation. To me it’s thought-provoking, like a whole different world can be imagined just based on that thought.

Sal Roses; Summer 2019

6. Tell me about the drums in Richard’s Drums.

I was making this beat, and my drums were sucking bad. Every single sound before the drums excited me, but when I got to them, they kicked my ass. So I called Richard over, and in like 2 minutes he laid it down. We named the track after him in that moment.

7. Who else would you like to shout out now that your EP is out?

I’d like to shout out anybody and everybody whose been supporting our movement. So much work has been put in behind the scenes just to get to where we are right now. It’s still so small-scale that having true support from people who believe in what we’re doing has been instrumental in creating not just music, but a movement, a mobilization, a future. Thank you all.

To check out Sal’s Appetizers, Vol. 1, find his album on Spotify HERE.

J.T.

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Vote for North Virgil’s Very Own Arasele Torrez

Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary
Arasele Torrez, Lockwood Elementary; Summer 2018


In the throes of Los Angeles, where traffic jams crowd out hopes of a day when the world might move differently, it can be difficult to imagine things actually changing. Yet when one encounters stories of the shakers and movers right in our midst, it’s clear that even if it appears like we’re only slouching in limbo out here, things are actually moving around us each day. Arasele Torrez tells one such cuento.

Age: 28

Where are your parents from? Do you know how they met and/or when they were married? My parents are from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They met when my dad was visiting their town of Rio Verde in 1989. My parents never got married. However, they have been separated for over eight years now.

When did you all arrive to the Virgil Village community? We arrived to the neighborhood in July 1999 when I was nine years old. So we’ve lived in the community here for almost 20 years now.

Were you the first in your family to go to college? And how many people from your graduating class do you know who went to college? I was the first in my family to go to college. I graduated from Marshall High School in 2008 and went on to UC Davis, where I graduated in 2012. I was also the first in my family to get my master’s degree (Cal State Northridge, 2015). I don’t know how many people from my graduating class also went on to college. However, I’m sure there are statistics available somewhere.

What made you decide to return to Virgil Village? And how did you start to become an advocate for people here? Ever since I was very young, I always loved being of service to my family and neighbors, and volunteering at school. I went to Davis with the idea of returning to East Hollywood and giving back to make a difference. Los Angeles is my city and I can’t picture myself leaving again. I learned so much in college. In particular, I loved my Chicano Studies social policy class, in which I was able to focus my research on East Hollywood, its economy, educational makeup, labor and health statistics. When I learned that our statistics showed a low-income and vulnerable community here, it increased my desire to get involved.

Arasele Torrez, 'Virgil Village'
Arasele Torrez, ‘Virgil Village’; Summer 2018

When did you first get involved with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council? I had learned about the council when I researched the different groups making up East Hollywood, and decided to run for a seat on the board not long after college in September 2012 to become the Virgil Village North Representative. But my race was contested with two other candidates. Although I beat the gas station owner, I lost to the incumbent by about 16 votes. However, because I truly cared about my community, unlike other candidates who lose, I chose to stick around. I was then appointed as the Student Representative because I was taking courses at LACC for my paralegal program. Since then, I’ve been a part of the neighborhood council for over six years.

Where do you see yourself and this work going within the next three to five years? I’m not sure where I’ll be in three to five years. Hopefully, I’ll still be living in Virgil Village and making an impact if my landlord doesn’t sell us out like other owners have done to several families in the neighborhood. I hope to stay involved locally, and making a difference for the community, for the low-income and underrepresented, in whatever job I have.

Lockwood and Madison, 'Virgil Village'; Spring 2018
Lockwood and Madison, ‘Virgil Village’; Spring 2018

Would you have any advice for other people looking to become more involved in their neighborhood? If so, what would you say is a good way to start? I would say, if you live within LA City Council districts, first look and see what neighborhood council you belong to. You can start by attending their monthly governing board meetings. Just by attending a meeting and voicing some of your concerns, it’s a start to becoming involved in your community.

Also, see if you’re interested in joining one of the committees of the Neighborhood Council as a community member, or stakeholder. At the same time, find out what local non-profits are in the area. And especially if you’re a first generation college student, get involved with the local public schools. Talk to students, our youth and the parents. If you’re in Virgil Village and need any other suggestions, or help getting started, you can also contact me via email at: araseletorrez@gmail.com.

Arasele Torrez, 28, has served as President of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council since February 2017 and is now running to represent stakeholders as the EHNC’s Virgil Village Representative. To see her Candidate’s Statement, please follow THIS LINK. On the search tab, select “East Hollywood NC.”

GO Arasele!

J.T.

Los Angeles is In Fashion: Meet Mauricio Zelada

Mauricio Zelada, 31; Winter, 2018
Mauricio Zelada, 31; Winter, 2018

In today’s big-city culture, one thing I’ve often noticed is that people generally imitate each other. That is, they shop at the same places, wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, and even listen to the same music. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, it’s also true that with so much imitating it can be difficult to find something more original or organic. This is precisely what makes Buy Back the Block, a design label by L.A. born and bred Mauricio Zelada so refreshing. With bold designs reminiscent of L.A.’s old street culture, Buy Back the Block both reminds city-goers such as myself about the importance of valuing the places we come from, and how no matter what day it is, we still carry a piece of those places with us, taking strength from the memories they encompass. Below, Mauricio tells us a bit of the story behind the BBTB!

Age: 31

Where in Los Angeles do you hail from? I grew up around various neighborhoods: 15th & Normandie, 20th & Hoover, 3rd & Westmoreland, and Rampart & 3rd. All those places got a place in my heart. Normandie Park in particular is a place filled with memories for me.

Tell us about your brand. Explain it to someone who’s never heard of it before. Buy Back The Block is a young men’s street wear brand. The mission of the brand is to empower young men by inspiring confidence. With the messages I choose to print on blank canvases, I want to plant seeds in the minds of these young men and help their confidence grow. Buy Back The Block is a limited edition, high quality clothing brand that is energetically infused with confidence with the hope that whoever wears it may feel powerful and confident. I believe confidence and self-esteem are must-haves for the future of our youth. When our confidence is high as a collective, then we can start to build a world where we own our blocks.

Is fashion something that’s always been a part of you, or is it something more recent in your life? Fashion has always been a part of me. I’ve always prided myself on being able to pull off fits or looks that not many could rock. As far as fashion design, I remember one of the first moments I wanted to try my hand at it was when I saw a pair of Mankind jeans giving a woman with a flat butt a big butt (laughs). I thought, “how they do that?!” From there, my desire to create clothing that looked and felt good was born.

How do you manage deadlines with Buy Back the Block? And what does a successful project for the brand mean to you? Meeting deadlines can be challenging. I do all the production (designing, drafting, pattern-making, cutting, sewing, graphic designs), marketing, branding, business plans, and I fund everything from my own pocket. Sometimes setbacks get in the way but I have limitless faith in what I’m creating so I’m never short on faith. Every now and again I also get impatient, but only because my excitement to get the product out is off the chain. A successful project to me is when everything is geometrically aligned. When the project flows, lines up beautifully, and it Photographs amazing then I know the project is complete.

What should folks look forward to next with Buy Back the Block? I’m in the final stages of production for my first capsule collection! I named it Baboso, which means dummy in Spanish. I dedicated it to all the people that I’ve angered or hurt because of my stubborn ways sometimes (laughs). Once I drop this first collection, I’ll begin the creative process for the 2nd collection.

To learn more about Buy Back the Block, follow the up and coming brand on Instagram.

J.T.

Motivating Vibes: Music in L.A. with Jon Quest

“My roots are stronger than they’ve ever been,

I think it’s time I branched out.”

In the earliest days of JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller, featuring friends throughout Los Angeles making a splash out there was a major part of the site’s ‘upbringing.’ The blog has since honed in its focus on city life, but every once in a while, there’s a cuento out there that calls for a pause from the usual rotation of things around here.

JON QUEST tells one such Cuento. As an L.A. bred artist with a passion for music as a motivating force, there’s a distinct quality about what he does with his music that anyone who can place just a few things into perspective will appreciate: Los Angeles is one of the entertainment capitals of the world, music is a major part of that ‘capital’, and Jon plays an active part in these worlds by creating his own, original content, posting it up for free online for virtually anyone who wants to hear something other than the mainstream. This is no easy task, but considering that his music is also in the mix with industry giants, not to mention artists from across the country and all over the world, I had to stop, reflect, and ask Jon a few questions for The L.A. Storyteller:

1. What is one of your earliest musical memories?

Basically anytime I was helping around the house with cleaning, handiwork, yard work or cooking, music was there. My parents both had very extensive music collections on cassettes, including CDs and Vinyl, and so I grew up listening to Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Parliament Funkadelic, the Isleys, Earth Wind and Fire, and other stuff like what I remember from riding in the car with my folks.

2. What is it about Los Angeles that makes it a special place to be for music?

As a teenager, I remember when I first started noticing that a lot of things I saw on TV were filmed or based right in the city, and feeling a kind of pride in that. My parents would also tell me about where certain events took place and other memories of the city and I loved soaking up the history too.

Now, I see Los Angeles as just a hub, filled with all kinds of chill people who work on our own time; the weather is always great and that helps with productivity and the mood.

But at first I actually resented L.A. for being such a hub, leading to all kinds of people moving out here and raising the prices of everything around me and my folks. It actually got to the point to where I couldn’t find a job out here after high school, leading me to move away for about six years until I got major homesickness. I used that feeling to get myself back here and now I’m loving L.A. and my work in it again.

3. When and how did you begin rapping?

I was actually working on becoming a musician before I began rapping. Somewhere in middle school I really fell into alternative music and when I got to high school that evolved into a love for punk rock, which led to me being a part of a few different bands in my teens. Eventually I had been in a punk band called “Nobody Good” for about three years when I ran into some old childhood friends of mine. Catching up with them I learned that they had started experimenting with music too, though with rap and hip hop; I started hanging with them, listening to B.I.G. and Nas, and sooner than later started trying to rhyme like them. All of it led me to evolve into the artist I am today.

4. How do you construct a rhyme?

My rhymes have become very personal. I used to sit down and actually structure verses out, and sometimes I still do, but nowadays I feel like I have so much to say and when it starts to come out I do my best to give it room to freely flesh out. The feeling I get from an instrumental is crucial to me; the vibe of the beat really helps me find myself and the direction of what I have to say. I also write rhymes without beats and even freestyle with friends once in a while. I just try to stay busy and on top of everything so that when inspiration strikes, it finds me working and ready to listen and communicate what the muse is telling me.

5. What does rapping ‘do’ for you; as in, how does it affect your emotions?

With some of my best verses, I feel like it wasn’t something I did alone, but like they came from some unknown place for me to be like a vessel or tool of the universe for translation. I’ve learned a lot about myself with music and the people in it, and now I just want to make music that supports others with the same. Music is a tool for getting to know yourself, and I believe that getting to know yourself is the number one way to finding happiness. You have to know yourself and love yourself before you ever have a chance at getting to know someone else or loving them, and to me that’s what my music is about, or what it does for me.

6. How long did “The Girl Tape” take you to complete?

About a solid year. Around this time last summer, my (roommate/Producer) Ashley (Brown), started making these instrumentals using some sampling techniques he was exploring at the time. One day he came into my room and said he wanted to drop a project called ‘In My Feelings,’ and if I wanted to be on a few songs. We worked in that direction for a solid two months or more, but then Drake dropped ‘Scorpion’ with the song, “In My Feelings”, which went viral with the dance and everything and which also killed our vibe for that title; we had to pivot then and essentially kind of simplify everything.

We picked the strongest songs that sounded well together and focused on them. We talked them out, I wrote a few versions of a couple songs on the list and tossed them out, and once we finally began to “hear” the tape and realized the meat of it was about relationships, we came up with the name ‘ t h e g i r l t a p e ‘. The rest was fairly simple: I reached out to a few graphic designers for visuals and sought out someone to mix and master the songs. That’s where Sal Diandria gets into the mix. I was sold that he was the guy to help complete ‘ t h e g i r l t a p e ‘. I re-recorded all my verses at his in-home studio. The rest is history. We released it this past September on Bandcamp.

7. What can listeners expect next from Jon Q now that The Girl Tape is out?

I’ve always been a fan of dropping songs on SoundCloud, so we have a few we’re planning on releasing there. Our next project, entitled ‘ W H I T E B R O N C O, ‘ is what we’re trying to release on all streaming platforms sometime early next year. But I’m always down to talk and feature with someone else on the grind as well. The hustle continues.

8. What words of wisdom would you share with a young aspiring artist today?

If you’re young and reading this for some reason, I just want to tell you to be yourself. Get to know yourself. Learn about your bad habits and learn from your mistakes. Stay humble, don’t worry about what others have and what you don’t. Just do the right thing and try to keep that Positive Mental Attitude because that shit is crucial. Find what you love and chase it with a passion. Let whatever you love consume you, drown yourself in it, and find yourself.

To listen to Jon Quest’s latest release, The Girl Tape, find it for FREE on Bandcamp HERE.

J.T.