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.

10 Things We Learned from an Incredible Time at Our Back to School Party this August 25th, 2018

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More pictures soon. For now, Adonis (left to yours truly) and Anderson (right) at our BACK to School PARTY at El Gran Burrito this past Saturday, August 25th in Los Angeles, CA.

After 36 days of non-stop planning for our first ever BACK to School PARTY at El Gran Burrito, I needed at least a couple of days to rest and relax, to enjoy a bit of silence, and to reflect on just what it is that actually happened this special Summer of 2018. A few things in particular stand out now, listed below for all our folks to see.

1. When you have a dream, it’s important to claim it, value it, and also to be able to defend it when necessary. The fact of the matter is, while I spent the last month in particular running around from one area to the next to keep our “Back to School” Party ‘on track’, I had visualized the event as early as June 26, 2018, when I sent the following note to the team of volunteers who helped us put together our Open Mic Saturday event at the Cahuenga Public Library in April:

As school is out in the neighborhood and the summer has just kicked off, I know there are droves of parents around the library looking for a place where ‘the fam’ can cool off. Thus, I’m interested in putting together a second gathering for the community, probably some time in August. However, first I’m going to do some more walking and ‘surveying’ through the neighborhood to be certain on just what would work best at the moment. At a glance my guess is that any event to do with skating, sports, painting, or other outdoor activities would be key for garnering some interest from our young people, and as with the Open Mic, we’d make it economic and volunteer driven.

Getting this ‘on file’ was a matter of stating my intention with the event for myself personally, as well as for the larger body of my community to consider. From there, the idea could germinate for all of us, and this was a key factor in what would eventually become a push to move “Back to School” forward.

2. Not everyone will understand your vision, and not only is that okay, it’s great. Not long after sending the aforementioned note to the team of volunteers that helped with Open Mic Saturday, I was first met with silence when I sought feedback for its contents, and then, upon persisting about a response, was told that the idea seemed to be too ‘rough’ or ‘unready’ in its form to see through. Then, to make matters more challenging, on trying to vouch further for the essence of the event I was given an official “no” from the administration at Cahuenga, whose approval was necessary for the event to take place there. I found this to be devastating for the gathering’s odds of moving forward, but would not stay down before too long.

3. You have to defend your dreams, sometimes even from your own doubt. In the days after I was met with the official ‘no thanks’ for the event, I found myself reeling. Even if some greater part of me knew that the gathering still had to happen, to think that there was suddenly no location for it defied the logic of the whole thing. I fell into a kind of deep slumber then, mired by feelings of rejection and self-doubt. And yet, I knew I’d have to pick myself up from that point. So I got my mind off the event for a day or so, took some leave from the neighborhood towards other vecindades where I could speak with a different band of folks about what happened, and determined to get back to the drawing board only after this much needed ‘get-away’. Finally, a few days later on Sunday morning I found myself galvanized enough again to get back out to the ole neighborhood to inquire about ‘this event’ again in a few different directionsThen, from out of nowhere, we actually found a location.

4. When you finally get the ‘yes,’ tell the world what you need next. On landing the support of El Gran, I scrambled to  find out what further support I could muster since time was running out for an ample planning period. So I sent out a survey to the community on the afternoon of June 29th, waited to see what responses I could gather, and upon hearing back just enough of what I needed from folks, registered that it was time to span my wings for lift-off. By the morning of June 30th, there were officially 27 days left before August 25th, or the date for which I’d originally proposed the event. That was three days less than there were with Open Mic Saturday, but this time, I knew a few things I didn’t know in the buildup for Open Mic Saturday. That is, just where to go, and where not to go.

5. Any team anywhere is affected by a vision, or lack thereof from its leadership. 27 days to plan the event was cutting it close, but I knew enough from what I’d seen in my ‘visions’ leading up to the ‘green light’ for “Back to School” to reach out to a handful of people. So I searched through my lists, texted and called the contacts I could interest in ‘just a conversation’, and from there, discovered the subsequent pieces to the puzzle through various questions from these contacts in our ‘convos’, as well as through their suggestions and other feedback. Then, once we were able to consolidate our shared visions, it became clear that we had to inform the whole hemisphere what kind of support we’d need. But first, I needed to consolidate one more time.

6. The best investment any ‘leader’ can make with their team is the one of ‘leading’ by example. Even if the contacts who became the allies who would go on to become the partners in the making of the event could agree in sentiment with the vision for the special day in our community, in addition to drawing out or brainstorming the vision together, it was also necessary for us to ‘get out there’ together for the event as time permitted. This meant visiting the site of El Gran together, speaking with Don Pedro and Doña Guadalupe together, meeting with other potential attendants and collaborators of the event together, and more, in order for us to share in the experience of discovering more pieces together. At day’s end, these shared experiences would prove integral in bolstering our abilities to support one another once it became necessary for us to find our respective roles to drive our shared vision through. And so, all of it was like practice for our biggest day of them all as a team.

7. Raising money for a cause is no light stroll through the park, but when you believe in the mission, it’s your mission. In weighing out the different needs for “Back to School,” I realized that it would be something of an exacting request for the base of supporters out there to consider, though not an altogether unreasonable one. But further complicating this request was the fact that there were only fifteen or so days to rally the financial support; there was no guarantee that the team and I could pull it off, yet the unwavering belief in our goals for the event was clear to people “up and down” throughout our networks, and slowly but surely then, like the sunlight in each day, we reached the evenings with just a little more of what we needed than the night prior.

8. Reminders are everything. People need to be reminded of the things they need to do. And we’re people too. We need reminders too. In the rush for the event to make its way through were numerous moments in which even if I thought the goals for “Back to School” were clear and stated for all to see, it was still necessary for me to “go back to the basics,” or touch base with the very reason I asked the team to embark on the effort with me, and to be reminded of that. This wasn’t always easy, but it was 100% worth it each time I could manage to truly listen to the parties outside of myself and respond accordingly to their needs or inquiries. It’s what made me an effective leader as opposed to just a leader in name.

9. Volunteers are life. It’s simple. Following every item the team and I could cross off our lists, and after reaching out to every perceivable ‘end’ in our midst for the event to shine under the sunlight, there were still no guarantees. Where would the people come from? And at what time? Then, how on earth would we get everything we needed to be done in time?

But in our greatest hour of need, our volunteers for “Back to School” arrived like a legion of envoys for the mission. They literally lifted our dreams from the page onto the gates of El Gran, upon the walls of the site, into the hands of the people of the pueblo, and more. They believed too. And thus these volunteers literally completed the team and I on Saturday, August 25th.

Finally, when setup was wrapped up and everyone was in position, as the music fluttered into the airwaves while the clock ticked away, from out of nowhere, como palomitas llegaron…a rescartanos. Otra vez mas. Nuestro Pueblo. Los Angeles.

10. Thank. Everyone. Thank those who said yes, thank those who said no, thank those who never responded, and more than anything, thank everyone who came through. Do. Not. Forget.

Thank. Everyone.

Thank you Los Angeles. Thank you team. Thank you supporters from afar. And thank your people, too. Thank the daylight. Thank the planet earth. Thank the Milky Way galaxy. And thank even the Black Holes for not swallowing these living quarters into their midst yet, too.

And one more note; a bonus note: Our pueblos DO need these days in our community, and so our pueblos WILL have them. As such, this is only the beginning. The future is no longer waiting. We have arrived.

J.T.

Seeking Volunteers for Our Back to School Party this August 25th

We salute our volunteer DJ for our “Back to School” PARTY, as well as every donor to our fundraiser. We also place the call out for additional volunteers to help with the big day’s setup.

J.T.

Madison Park is Finally Arriving to Our Neighborhood

It was a pleasure attending the induction ceremony at the site of the future Madison Avenue park in the community. And while I would have been happy to just hide behind the camera, when the people ask you for some poems that you’ve got up your sleeve, you don’t simply say no.

It was anything for the kids and their families as we visualized and drafted plans with neighbors for the future site of our very own plot of green between North Madison Avenue and Santa Monica boulevard.

The event was truly one of my proudest days with Los Angeles, which is a proud sanctuary city, and I can hardly wait to share more from the new site.

J.T.

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The Cage show with my old pal Mark was a blast! Not only because of dedicated performances from the headliners, but because of fiercely loyal crowds! Seriously, it was almost a little scary seeing how well people knew the lyrics to jam after jam, but then again, what could I expect from the legions of an underground icon?! After the curtains closed, both Mark and I got a chance to chat it up with Cage himself, and honestly, he’s such a cool guy! Especially after I asked him how liked L.A. coming out from the East coast and he said: “I love it here man; so much so that I tell all my friends out there it’s horrible just so I could have more of the place to myself!” And ah, that was just music to my ears! GO CAGE! </:D

Tia Chucha’s: The Friday Night Might

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While on any given night Los Angeles is home to nearly 4 million stories, it takes just one of those stories to humble one’s sense of place in the community. Last night at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore was one such occasion for me; surrounded by poets, storytellers, musicians, and other activists from around the city for Open Mic night, I could only manage to get a few shots of the show before I just sat down and listened to the performers for the evening.

Continue reading “Tia Chucha’s: The Friday Night Might”