“We’re proud to be Panamanian and we’re proud to represent that culture, but we’re also proud to represent our California culture, our Bay Area culture, and we’re proud to blend them in and create this new sound that is our sound- Los Rakas sound.”

Interview By: Cristofer Garcia
Courtesy Photo

Your website says you were born in the youth centers of Oakland. Can you tell me more about how your Panamanian descent and upbringing in Oakland and its youth centers influenced the style of Los Rakas?

Raka Dun- They just prepared us. They gave us the tools to get ready for the industry. They had the studio there and we were able to practice on our craft. They taught us about the business side of the industry, the merchandise, marketing, all of that.
Raka Rich- Just explore and just give us an idea. Not necessarily just teach us the ins and outs of the industry but give us an idea of what it would be like and you know, take it from there. Also like, the culture of Oakland and being in the studio with all kinds of different people and different backgrounds and different styles of music. It just really influenced us because we were in the heart of Oakland, we were in the middle of everything. Everything was going on during that time, the sideshows, the hyphy movement, all of that was going around during that era. So for us to be part of that style and movement, during that time was very significant, very important, for our style of music and what we created because ten years after that it became a trend. So it helped us to set the wave and to be trend setters in our own lane and to be confident about it and to feel like we’re the only ones doing this.

I understand you produced your own mixtape “Panabay Twist” back in 2006 with a youth center through BUMP (Bay Unity Music Project) Records. What was it like producing your own first mixtape and what is Panabay meant to represent?

Raka Rich – For us it was normal. It wasn’t like ‘oh we want to do this.’ It was normal to us because in the Bay Area, that’s what artists do- they just sell records independently. They create, they manufacture it, and they sell and they put it out. It wasn’t hard to come up with the idea. But the Panabay Twist, it was what was going to separate us from everybody else because it was both cultures. It was Panama and the Bay Area influenced in our music and we wanted everyone to know that. We’re proud to be Panamanian and we’re proud to represent that culture, but we’re also proud to represent our California culture, our Bay Area culture. And we’re proud to blend them in and create this new sound that is our sound- Los Rakas sound.

Now, what is the recording process like for Los Rakas? Do you guys still involve yourselves in the producing aspect or focus on the lyrical parts mostly?

Raka Rich- We focus on everything when it comes to creating the music. Really, when we get in the studio we just like a beat, we pick it out. And once we pick out the beat we start developing it and seeing where we want to go with it. For the most part it just comes organically. We think right then and there how we want to create a video, what ideas would be good for a video, and really it’s just a flow. We’ve been doing it for about ten years now and we’re giving you our experiences, our lives, because a lot of our music, all the music that we write, we write it ourselves. Even though one song might sound so different from the other, it still the same people that is writing the lyrics still the same people that is singing it live. A lot of people tend to go off, “if you a rapper then you should be rapper, if you a singer then you should be a singer, if you do this you should be that.” Our style is different, we bring it all. There’ no limit to what we’re doing, we’ve never thought about it to any limits like ‘oh I’m just going to stick to reggae or stick to that,’ we do everything. And it’s not because we want to be different, none of that. It’s just who we are as people. We grew up listening to all different styles of music it’s just hard not to do it. It just flows, I don’t know how to explain it, a lot of people look at it as taboo but for us it’s normal.

How does writing English and Spanish lyrics influence the creative process of Los Rakas?

Raka Dun- It really is organic, it’s what the beat tells you. Sometimes the beat is going to tell you to do everything in Spanish and just add 10 percent in English on there or vice versa you know, or 80 percent English and 20 percent Spanish. It just comes organically.
What was it like recording on Blondie’s Ghost of Download album?
Raka Dun- It was an honor. I would always hear that song (One Way or Another). What she did for the culture, for the punk rock culture, and the music culture period, you know she was a pioneer and I think we’re pioneers in what we are doing so it was an honor that they would put us on the 40-year anniversary album. At first we didn’t believe it. We were like, ‘you talking about the same Blondie, right? The original Blondie?’
Raka Rich- You think about it, Blondie was the first one to cross rock and hip hop together. If it wasn’t for blondie, there would be no rap music on MTV. She built her own bridge, she built the bridge and she opened the lane for other people. It just bows our mind because exactly like he (Raka Dun) said, for her to do that and hit us up it just shows us that we’re going the right directions and we’re doing the right thing, she sees us.

What was it like filming in Cuba for “Besame” and how do you think people liked your music which mixes many elements and genres?

Raka Rick- The people in Cuba loved it, they received it so well. They let us shoot this video in their country the day Fidel died. It was a big deal for us to be in Cuba during this time so it was like, the people accepted it, the vibe was right, the video was great. We just wanted to connect with the Cuban people really, when we shot the video. The director is from Cuba. We wanted to get the whole Cuban vibe, we had never been to Cuba. Cuba is another mecca of a lot for great music, a lot of great musicians. So when we went out there it was like going to the mecca. It was like wow, we’re here and the people are feeling our vibe, like ok another reason to keep going.
Raka Dun- We got this new single called YLS. Tell people to check out the video, it’s going crazy in America right now.

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