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UP & COMING: GIGIO

NorCal emcee impresses with complex flow and intelligent lyrics.

One of the biggest complaints about today's rap scene is the lyricism -- or lack thereof. What was once the soundtrack for social revolution has now been reduced to ringtones, strip club anthems, and short-lived dance crazes. But it's not all bad; there are still some great artists who chose to question the system through their verses, despite what is considered "hot" in the streets. Gigio is one of those guys.

Hailing from Northern California, Gigio is just 20 years old, but displays the maturity of an experienced vet. His music bridges the gap between catchy and political, with dense, multi-layered wordplay that weaves in and out of expertly crafted beats from an array of talented local producers. His rhymes may address the shadiness of our government, the plight of minorities (he is Nicaraguan/Puerto Rican), or simply how fresh he is; but no matter what, they always sound good.

Gigio has released one full-length to date, the 25-track Something Wicked This Way Comes, (one of the strongest debuts we've heard all year), and continues to record with a crew of talented co-conspirators. Whether you're a fan of thought-provoking, message-laced hip-hop, or just looking for funky beats and extraordinarily tight raps, Gigio has exactly what you need. - mp3.com


If it isn’t politics alone that’s mobilizing the masses, it’s music and politics. From Public Enemy’s early days of urging us to “fight the power,” to Kanye West’s candid blurb about Bush not caring about black people, there is no doubt that politics has found its place among musicians.

Or, have musicians found their place in politics?

This was the topic Tuesday at a panel discussion, “Mic Check: Music in Politics,” hosted by the Annenberg Latino Student Association. The impressive lineup, including USC professor Josh Kun with guests General Jeff (who’s not new to P+P) and NME Senior Reporter Laura Ferreiro, discussed the change of political music over time, and how corporate influence, artists’ greed, and consumers have suppressed powerful messages in music.

KPFK radio host and entertainment journalist Maria Armoudian spoke about the change of political messages in music from the 60s to now.

“In the 60s and 70s people who ran the music business were music people…they cared about music,” she said. “That shifted when it started to become big business. Music became more like a can of beans to sell.”

Armoudian and the other panelists agreed that though music remains political, it has become “watered down” because of corporate-owned record labels, radio stations who rotate top 20 “nuts-and-bolts” songs, and consumers who feed into the frenzy.

Panelist and USC professor Jody Armour agreed, adding that corporate takeover of the music business is one of the reasons why hip hop music has not lived up to its political heyday of the early 90s. He attributed today’s bland political messages to the artists’ greed as well, saying, “It is because they’re concerned about sales, they’re staying away [from being political].” To Armour, today’s rappers think twice about being as edgy, while their mentality is “I’ma’ bust a cap, as long as it doesn’t affect my sales!”

Bay Area emcee Gigio, who performed later that night, argued that some of today’s rappers are just as political as their predecessors Public Enemy and KRS-One. He listed acts like Atmosphere, Hieroglyphics, MF Doom, and Brother Ali, all whom have large fan bases overseas. “You’ll find very important messages [in their songs],” he said. “They are very grassroots oriented.”

But for the consumers, what if this is the only music that is within reach? After all, it is mainstream. Ferreiro suggested that most of the music on the radio, the “sexy take-off-your-clothes” songs, are songs that do not have a message and can dull the senses of the listeners. “Commercial radio is still a major popularizer of music and if all they’re playing are these generic songs that aren’t political, how do we know to go out and buy the other things,” she said. “If all I’ve ever had was water to drink, how would I ever even know to order a margarita?”

Ferreiro did add, however, that the internet and digital music sharing is now playing a major role in spreading music of artists that do not get airplay, including those that contain “dangerous” political messages.

Other points mentioned were that other genres like alternative, indie rock, and folk have had shining political moments with artists like Rage Against the Machine and Steve Earle, but none so much as to spur on contemporary movements as strong as hip hop. But Kun adds that there are new genres that are gaining a voice, like latin punk and regional mexican music, both of which speak out on immigration issues.

In the end, all of the panelists agreed that hip hop continues to be the most powerful mover in political music today. To prove this point, a music video produced by Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am that supports Obama was shown, which was compared to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” The panelists noted slight differences, but concluded that there is the same purpose of rejecting the status quo and demanding change.

After the discussion, I had a chance to sit with General Jeff. He gave me the rundown on where he thinks hip hop is headed and how today’s emcees can maintain their political voice and integrity: - Pop + Politics


My boy/fellow writer Isaac recently gave me a CD of his cousin’s music to listen to. I've lost all hope in the hip-hop being looped over and over again on the radio, so I was more than happy to immerse myself in some good ol' homegrown (literally; he records in his bedroom) hip-hop.

His cousin, Virgilio Cordova aka Gigio, 21, is a half-Puerto Rican half-Nicaraguan MC from Fairfield, CA. He creates hip-hop that’s a nice balance of political and mainstream. He samples oldies and talks about issues relating to immigrants, so-called terrorists, and his resemblance to Che. In a town where hyphy hip-hop rules, or is fading (it’s a bit unclear right now), Gigio proves there’s still hope for hip-hop in the underground scene. - SF Remezcla/Daily Remix


Where are you from?
I was born in San Francisco, but raised in Fairfield, California - aka the Flats, aka the Field, in the 707 Solano County area, right next to Vallejo.

What is your ethnic background?
My ethnic background and culture is primarily Latino, but I have history all over the world. My dad and his family grew up in Puerto Rico, with roots stretching to Venezuela, Italy, and Spain. My mother and her family are from Nicaragua, with roots stretching from Panama, Persia, and Africa. My experience growing up has been surrounded by the Latino culture. Spanish speaking relatives, rice, beans, and tortillas, merengue music, Puerto Rican machismo, and Nicaraguan sarcasm. My dad came to the US to start a new life as a young man. He was with the U.S Air Force for a few years, and left in search of something else. He lived a pretty fast, crazy life and eventually ended up in San Francisco, CA. In the 80’s there was a war in Nicaragua, so my grandparents sent my mom to live in SF with some close relatives. You can guess how the rest of the story goes… Puerto Rican man meets Nicaraguan girl. Puerto Rican man marries Nicaraguan girl. Puerto Rican man and Nicaraguan girl give birth to a bad ass.

What artists/music have influenced you?
I’ve been influenced by so many and I continue to be influenced by old and new music to this day. My first real experience with music was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, I loved that shit as a kid. I didn’t officially get into hip hop until the 6th grade listening to Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Big Pun, Jay-Z, & Eminem. And then a little later, it was Mos Def and Talib Kweli. And as I grew older, I started diggin’ deep into the underground and old school roots of hip hop, everybody from KRS-One to Ice Cube to Public Enemy, from Atmosphere to Brother Ali to MF Doom to Opio, and I’m constantly inspired. I have way too many favorites, and the one thing I love about hip hop is that it breaks barriers as far as sounds and tempos and subject matter goes. There’s no preset rules for the way it should sound, with Afrika Bambaataa taking music from German records, and Madlib taking music from Indian records, i’ve learned to appreciate all genres of music.

When did you decide to pursue a career in music?
I guess it would have been in the 9th grade when the hustle started to become real to me. There was a lot of rappers at my high school, and I had always rapped on the low. I wrote songs and recorded them secretly, but I didn’t really show them to anybody. Then when high school rolled around I seen some dudes battlin’ each other, and I thought in my head, ”Those dudes are wack, I can rap better than them”, so I just jumped in and did my thang. There were hella rappers at school, but none of them were recordin’ their own shit. I decided to make a CD, burn hella copies and sell ‘em, it’s been routine since.

How did Hip Hop influence your career?
Well, my path was always going to be art from the start, that was a sure thing in my head. When I was five years old I was drawing dope ass cartoons of Bugs Bunny and shit. By the time I was nine I was making my own comic books. Eventually, I got into acting when I was 12 and have a background in theatre. I used to do community plays and did a few in high school. I was really good, I played Tevye in “Fiddler On The Roof”, Tom Joadin in “The Grapes of Wrath”, Grandpa Martin Vanderhofin in “You Can’t Take It With You”, and I played the white dude in “Raisin In The Sun”. I actually wanted to be an actor but had a lot of bad experiences with the directors, I didn’t feel free to express myself because you have to follow the script. I wanted to write my own scripts and the entire time on the side, I was always writing raps. Once I realized how free I was to express myself with hip hop, there was no other option for me.

What is your current album “Church Musick” about?
When I think of the meaning and purpose of church, it’s very similar to the purpose of a nightclub. People work hard all week, right? Life takes them through crazy obstacles and what not, and at the end of the week, they feel so much weight on their shoulders that they need to get lifted. So they go to the nightclub to work it out, just like they go to church to work it out. When I wanna work out my problems and feel lifted, I do it through music, ”Church Musick” is a reflection of that. - Papalodown.com


Discography

Something Wicked This Way Comes (2007)
Church Musick (2008)
Go(guer)rilla EP (2009)
Church Musick: THE RMX (2009)

Culture Shock... coming soon..
The Lovebug... coming soon..

www.gigio.bandcamp.com
www.drendoh.bandcamp.com

Photos

Bio

Gigio Cordova is a 21-year-old emcee from Northern California by way of Fairfield, California. He is one of Hip-Hop's best-kept secrets, but hopefully with your help, he won't be for much longer. Gigio takes his craft seriously with a natural yearning for growth as an artist. He strives to understand his role as an emcee, the voice of Hip-Hop culture, and the emcee's power to promote change in the world.

Gigio and producer, Dren Doh (Together they are Associated Fresh), have taken their music as far north as B.C., Canada and back down to Los Angeles. The fan reaction has confirmed that their brand of music can be embraced by a plentiful variety of listeners. Most notably in October 2008, Gigio participated in MIC CHECK: Politics in Music, a panel discussion at the University of Southern California, alongside respected journalists and activists. Professor at USC and music scholar, Josh Kun, was optimistic and downright impressed to say that Associated Fresh truly is a breath of fresh air to the Hip-Hop genre.

Gigio has been working on music since he was 9 years old and has worked on numerous projects and collaborations with local artists. While too many rappers today beat the same routine into the ground, Gigio constantly progresses, coming up with new ideas and subject matter. Right when you think you can pin the young emcee into a category (BACKPACK / POLITICAL / ALTERNATIVE), he shoves something new and funky in your face. His most recent project, Go(guer)rilla EP (2009), is a glimpse of the what two music visionaries can achieve when working together for the greater good of Hip-Hop. Gigio and Dren Doh have previously released "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (2007) and "Church Musick" (2008). Currently, they are working on releasing their most ambitious project to date, "Culture Shock", a double-disc album that, God willing, will catapult Associated Fresh into Hip-Hop lore. The first disc is Gigio's original work as it was meant to be heard and the second disc is the complete album remixed by producer Dren Doh.

Gigio and Dren Doh are artists to keep on your radar for the Hip-Hop revolution. Stay tuned.