A little over a year ago, longtime South Florida hip-hop artist and somewhat more recent video director Garcia proposed a trip to Cuba with friend and collaborator DJ EFN to document the island's burgeoning hip-hop scene. For a pair of Cuban-Americans, the choice could not have been easy, given the trigger-sensitive issue of the island's politics and the opinions those home in South Florida have of those politics.
Undeterred by the potential backlash, the boys of Crazy Hood forged on, waging a successful Kickstarter campaign that resulted in the documentary Coming Home. It's been earning them accolades on the film festival circuit with more screenings on the way. We recently chatted with Garcia about the project and the general state of hip-hop in Cuba.
New Times: You've been a longtime player in South Florida's hip-hop scene. I'd even venture to say that you've been a positive force and role model to Hispanic-Americans who've grabbed a mic. On a personal level, what has been your goal with this documentary?
Garcia: My goal is to educate the young Cuban people of South Florida that have never been to the island. I'll probably get slaughtered for saying this, but we all get so caught up in our parents' politics that we have never seen or learned our roots. This trip was a lifelong dream for me and DJ EFN, and the journey of it didn't disappoint.
Cubans are a very vocal people and an influential force in local politics and mentalities. Did you encounter any resistance from the community when you embarked on this project?
Yeah, I guess. But we were expecting that. From our families, some friends, and some business relationships that we have. But the funny thing is, those people were so proud of us upon completion of the film. Now after seeing it, some are inspired to visit the island for themselves. My father just recently went for the first time since coming to United States 50-plus years ago.
When EFN came up with this idea years ago for us to go, we never thought that we could inspire people, and hopefully be a force in breaking down the mental prejudices that exist between our own people. It's a blessing.
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I remember going with my dad to a Gonzalo Rubalcaba concert many years ago, and a small contingent of protesters were outside. It impacted me in a sense because I was there for the music, not in support of a communist regime. Hip-hop can and should be a reactionary art form. Can you tell us, aside from what was filmed, what kind of mentality did you find on the island? Are Cuban MCs persecuted by the state under the auspices of "thought crime?"
Our goal with this film was never to get involved in the politics of Cuba. Just to explore our roots and the hip-hop scene of Cuba. With that said, some artists do touch on the subject in the film. But that is something better left for the movie to explain.
Would you say that Cuba is ripe for a revitalizing of hip-hop at large?
Oh, hell yeah, man! Hip-hop in Cuba is in its golden era. It's reminiscent of the '88 to '94 years. Such an amazing thing to see and a breath of fresh air.
I find that subject matter and personal experience is the greatest asset that hip-hop has. In a way, it is the most viable and poetic form of dissenting artistic expression, any personal anecdotes or experiences that you encountered there that have reshaped your outlook?
Interesting question... And the answer is yes. I realized how many things I took for granted while there. How being broke here is just a state of mind, and that we all have a chance to make it. It also reminded me why I even started rhyming. See, I came from the unadulterated era of hip-hop music. And watching it in that state again inspired me to just get back to the basics of making music. Here, it is so easy to get caught up in the so called "industry" that we lose that.
What has reception has the documentary received on the festival circuit?
Very good so far. We came into the festival circuit late, so we are waiting on the circuit to restart, but we received an official selection nod at "The Fist Up" festival in Oakland. And we also got a nod and won best documentary at "the People's Film Festival" in New York City. We have also had various sold out screenings in Miami, so the love is definitely there, and we are so grateful for that.
I like to think that documentarians are on the scene to capture something; however, I can't help but think that there is some small inkling within that wants to cross the line and assist. If it were in your power, what wrongs would you right and moreover, what are your hopes for Cuban hip-hop?
I really want to set up some kind of outreach or cultural exchange or charity to help the artists get better equipment. They have done so much with so little that the potential in my eyes is huge.
Crazy Hood has a pretty impressive roster of local artists under its belt, can we expect some form of production level work with some of Cuba's burgeoning MCs, or are there legal entanglements that prevent that?
Believe it or not, many of the artists in the film are actually in Miami as we speak. Danay Suárez is definitely here tearing up stages and recording her project. That woman is like our sister. We are so grateful to her for the love she showed us in Cuba. We would have been lost without her on the island. And she is so talented that it's mind blowing. We are in talks for me to direct an upcoming music video for her.
Danay Suárez - "FLY"
You went home and you came back, what is next?
More music and more film. Stay tuned to crazyhood.com for details because, trust me when I tell you, we have a lot of things in the works!
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