Ricardo Tejeda combines political and romanic lyrics over atypical beats for his rap project GAPS. As part of the Fort Lauderdale collective Black Locust Society, GAPS has gained a loyal following as he expands as an artist. BLS kicks off its Florida tour next week at Green Room. He'll tour the state with fellow musicians Bleubird, Protoman, Astrea Corp, and Jabrjaw and Dee Dubbs. He's also readying himself to release an new EP.
Recently, Tejeda sat down with New Times to talk about his contributions to the rap community and how he strives for significance on the microphone. In our conversation, the MC reflects upon the importance of what to communicate with his craft.
New Times: Your songs are incredibly passionate and rather political. What songs do you believe show this political slant most? Also, where does your passion come from, and what do are your political beliefs?
Ricardo Tejeda: A lot of the political themes come from the way that I was raised, and really, I think they're more of a social commentary. My pops was extremely active in protests against the Guatemalan government and its allowance of corrupt organizations within the country. So much so, that he left because he feared that he'd become a political prisoner and actually didn't return until June of this year. It was over 40 years.
Along with that, almost hereditary nature, I've experienced what it's like to come from a lower-middle class, multiracial family, and integrate with people from all walks of life. It's weird, because again, my pops is extremely intelligent. He received his PhD from the University of Moscow, dude knows eight languages, but none of that meant jack when he came to the states. My mom was a special needs teacher before she had me. We lived within our means. My mom worked hard, pops worked hard, and we got by.
I just speak on everything. The political and the social issues. There's one song that really speaks more on the social commentary that I did back in '09 on my I'm Not Dead Yet album called "Black & White." Pretty straightforward. I did it after hearing someone call a person a nigger and was just so frustrated that I went home and wrote that song in something like an hour. I caught some shit for it, but it was worth it. I've heard that word so many times in life, but it still gets me.
Things like that man just irk me. If it's not your social standing, it's your race, religion, or cultural background, and if it's not those things, it's your sexual orientation. I have hope though because it's obvious that people are becoming more enlightened, and I think that speaks volumes. We're starting to realize that instead of letting the shit hit the fan, we need to point the fan at the shit and blow it the fuck away, and we need that mindset to get to where we desperately need to be.
What sets GAPS apart from the traditional rap scene? What is your "scene?"
Man, I'm not really sure what sets me apart. I just rap. Aren't we all the same? (Laughs.) Naw man, I can tell you, a lot of people are not as openly honest as I am. I can think of a few rappers down here, but I know there aren't many. I don't know if any rapper uses the word love as much as I do or downs themselves as much as I do.
Between that and my ever growing "odd" selection of beats that I rock over, I'm not sure that there's a cat down here that has my style. It's just really open, and I do draw from other rappers that influence me, but I definitely put my own spin on it. I can't really put a demographic on my style. Mainly because of the variety of shit that I do. There's the political and social shit where I'll talk about destroying rich, corrupt, government bureaucrats, and demolishing racist and prejudice views. There's the extremely personal shit where I'll reveal a host of things I'd otherwise never talk about. And there's the love songs where I might cry and whine over a beat.
We've sat down a few times and you've used the expression "I wear my heart on my sleeve." What is GAPS' heart and what is your sleeve?
I guess my heart is my life and my sleeve are the various methods of external expressions I use. I've seen a lot man. I grew up in a grimey neighborhood. Heard my mom be called a nigger when I was five years old. Heard that word a lot. I've gotten shit from people about my race my entire life.
I've seen so many crackheads and prostitutes I could probably start a halfway house and be rich. There have been so many rumors about me throughout my years. I've been through some deaths. Highs, lows, highs, lows. I take all of those experiences and translate them through my music, writing, and my design work. Sometimes, it's anger, and sometimes it's love, but it's all very much from my heart.
Where do you plan on performing next?
My next show is at Radio-Active on the 11th. Hopefully, I don't sustain any injuries.
What are some of your aspirations for the BLS tour?
Ideally, I'd like to get the fuck out of Florida. I see some of my friends doing their thing out of state, and even out of the country, and it motivates me to do even more. I'm never satisfied, but I'll play anywhere. I'll play birthday parties in Montana if it meant one person liking my music. For now, I'm happy with this BLS tour in Florida we have coming at the end of the month.
As a rapper, you communicate what you feel and what you think through your lyrics and what you put into the microphone. Microphone aside, what else do you want to communicate to your audience? Why?
I just want people to get to know me, rather through music or through my graphic design work. We all have that "I don't give a fuck" attitude, but at the end of the day, we all care, and I'm no different. I not only represent myself, but I represent my upbringing, my parents, and my friends, and I do not want to misrepresent them.
GAPS with PFM and Iron Ora at 7 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Radio-Active Records, 845 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Black Locust Society World Tour Kick Off Party on Aug. 22 at Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale.