Episode 8 – Music with Sal Roses

In our eighth episode for J.T. The L.A. Storyteller Podcast, we chat with none other than SAL ROSES, an original rap musician from the East Hollywood area in Los Angeles. We reflect on the year, including our first meeting at the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, our performances at the 2nd Annual Open Mic Night at Cahuenga Library, BTS 2, and new music by Roses through the end of 2019. To listen to Sal’s latest project, find Appetizers on SPOTIFY.

J.T.

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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.

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.

Meet David Holguin: Our Guitarist for Next Saturday’s Concerts at Cahuenga!

Originally born in Medellin, Colombia, David arrived with his mother to East Los Angeles in the early 1990s at the tender age of two years old. Now at 27, David has at least ten years of experience “strumming away emotions” on his guitar. Just last summer, David lent his time and talents to the annual Memphis in May International Festival. In 2017, he was featured in EstrellaTV’s Tengo Talento Mucho Talento alongside fan-favorite Don Cheto.

If you’re in Los Angeles, I’m happy to invite you to a FREE performance by David Holguin at Cahuenga Library next Saturday, September 22nd, at 12:30 PM in the library’s alcove area.

And if you’re not in Los Angeles: I’m happy to share David’s music through IG Stories, which I’ll be live-streaming from.

Yours in Community,

J.T.