My mind is open to the hip hop evolution of beats & lyrics – in their dance, rhythm, arrangement and style.
I can jam Desiigner’s indecipherable “Panda” on repeat for hours on a Saturday night but still recite the genius lyrics to MF DOOM’s “Deep Fried Frenz,” so long as it clasps with my mood and environment. But I chose a great day to pop in local rapper Zyme One’s latest album Memories of Melancholy Cholas on a Sunday sunset drive home from far West El Paso.
Sundays are for oldies in my household, a tradition passed down to even my niece, who knows better than to request any station other than Mike Guerrero on 92.3 The FOX on Sabbath car rides.
It was a sin to my 7th day culture to slip in a hip hop CD, until suddenly the most graceful drum sampling of my favorite War song overpowered the road noise on my 70mph drive down I-10. (I’ll spot a 40 oz. for anyone who guesses the sample in the first 30 seconds!)
Production aside, the vocals in the introductory “Melancholy” track pierces through the industry standard cadence and dialect, integrating a poetic Pachuco delivery; that “El Paso accent” we had never noticed in ourselves until an out-of-towner pointed it out.
Lyrically, the song is the first chapter of Zyme’s (Jaime Rivera) novelas in the barrio. Track no. 2, “Land of the Cholas” reinforced the album’s development and ownership of a new genre in its own right.
The combination of 60s classics, 90s hip hop sampling, Segundo Barrio tongue, and paced, back-alley parables would have any listener doing a drowsy cholo lean.
Growing up among gang-saturated neighborhoods in the projects of Segundo Barrio and Northeast El Paso, Zyme explained that the premise of his “Memories” storytelling is based a lot on real life.
“I remember admiring the cholas,” he said. “I thought they were beautiful the way they dressed, combed their hair, and the way they carried themselves, you might say it almost like they were in uniform, not to mention that a lot of them put in a lot of work to defend their barrio the same as their male counterparts, and even more.”
Zyme culturally enriches a typical romance gone wrong growing up with the strong El Paso flavor he calls “raza” and a lifestyle that a majority could only scantily experience through movies, television and stereotypes. Rhyming words like ‘Guera’ with ‘lokera,’ unveiling anecdotes from tattoos and sprinkling in Spanish ballads throughout the whole album makes a native proud and an outsider respectful of the social lineage.
“Commissary,” a track featuring Ocho Sanchez, reveals the trials and tribulations of a prisoner loving his chola, and was picked up by a Los Angeles radio DJ at KDAY 93.5. It’s a perfect balance of cheerful bouncy acoustic guitar riffs with the realness of flaky pen pals, Sunday visitation, worries of sanchos and rejected collect calls.
But the sun still shines behind bars, so long as you’re gettin’ your commissary.
Though not every track is coupled with my favorite 60s classics (brace yourself for some dollops of Dusty Springfield and Debbie Taylor,) even the experimental beats uncover a writer’s talents founded partially on the beautiful, dark-lipped Mexican-American she-gangsters many of us honor as Cholas.
Zyme One will be shooting a video for “Commissary” on Friday, July 1 during a live performance at the downtown San Carlos Building, and invites the public to participate in their best chola threads and hairstyles. For details, visit: La Parada