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Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Hip Hop


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"Kanyes MTV Homecoming"

Published: July 28, 2008

Lorenzo Zarate sits on a couch and plays an Xbox game while a cameraman films him. Mr. Zarate, an aspiring rapper, thinks he is being featured in an MTV news segment.

Then Kanye West comes to the door. Once the surprise subsides and the two men settle down in the living room, the talk turns to “before I went” and “when I got back.” Mr. Zarate, 24, is a veteran of the Iraq war who suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He is also a member of MTV’s core young demographic of teenagers and 20-somethings.

A recent MTV survey showed that nearly 70 percent of that demographic knew someone who had served in Iraq. “In some ways we think it’s the defining issue of this generation,” said Ian Rowe, vice president for public affairs and strategic partnerships at MTV.

With that in mind MTV is reinvigorating its get-out-the-vote campaign, “Choose or Lose,” even though it has scaled back its news and documentary programming in recent years. MTV plans to cover the 2008 election largely by spotlighting a few of the roughly 1.6 million Americans who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Zarate’s story will be featured in “Homecoming,” an hourlong special about veterans presented by “Choose or Lose” and Mr. West on Monday night at 10.

In “Homecoming” Mr. West and an MTV correspondent, Sway Calloway, show up at the homes of three veterans and surprise them with gifts. Mr. West participated despite saying in the fall, after being overlooked at the MTV Video Music Awards, that he would never again appear on the channel.

At Mr. Zarate’s house Mr. West plays an excerpt of his song “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” on a keyboard before revealing the gifts: rent payments for six months, a new microphone, a week’s worth of studio time and an internship at a local radio station. MTV describes “Homecoming” as a documentary, but it could pass for a celebrity-fueled reality show of the type that viewers are accustomed to seeing on MTV, like the soap opera “The Hills.”

MTV first contacted Mr. Zarate on April 20, the fifth anniversary of a fierce gunfight in Iraq that still haunts him, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Tex. Hearing from MTV on that day lifted his spirits.

Mr. Zarate said he wrote song lyrics almost every day while stationed in Tikrit, northwest of Baghdad, in 2003 and 2004. “My mom taught me to love,” one verse begins, “but I lost track of that somewhere in Iraq.”

In “Homecoming” Mr. Zarate, with glasses, a gold chain and tattoos on his forearms, describes the hardships of readjusting to life in Austin. “The Army could teach you to kill, kill, kill, but they can’t teach you to come back home and be a civilian,” he says.

Mr. Zarate pursued a college degree but found that he had to sit in the back of the class. That way, he could be fully aware of his surroundings. “I couldn’t have anyone behind me,” he said in the interview, “I was always alert,” adding that he hadn’t regained his sense of safety.

Patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder relive disturbing experiences and may display a wide range of symptoms, from nightmares and instability to feelings of estrangement from family and friends. In the documentary Mr. Zarate, whose doctor has recommended that he not work, and his pregnant wife are said to be a month away from losing their home.

MTV has covered similar issues before. “True Life,” the documentary series it began in 1998, has profiled military personnel shipping out, the spouses of soldiers deployed overseas and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2006 a half-hour program, “Iraq Uploaded,” showed videos shot by soldiers in the war zone. More recently MTV has broadcast two forums with veterans about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one with Senator Barack Obama and the other with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Rowe, who oversees “Choose or Lose” and other public-affairs programming, said more shows related to veterans were in development. One would pair Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, with a group of veterans, similar to the MTV forums last spring with the Democratic candidates.

“Their coverage has been as aggressive as anyone’s,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the nonpartisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Addressing the use of celebrities and gifts in “Homecoming,” Mr. Rieckhoff said, “When you’re trying to crack through Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie coverage, you have to be creative in the ways you interest young people.”

Dave Sirulnick, an executive vice president of MTV who oversees the news and documentaries division, said the channel had recruited musicians and celebrities for documentaries for years. The gift idea, though, is a new one. “We didn’t want this to be a cash kind of show,” Mr. Sirulnick said. “We wanted to make sure that the help we were giving was very specific to the needs of these veterans.”

Another veteran featured in “Homecoming” — Tirann Laws, 25, from Oklahoma City — is also experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Laws says in the program that he estimates he has lost “close to half a dozen jobs” because of his condition.

The third veteran interviewed is Shameeka Gray, 24, from Charlotte, N.C. Ms. Gray is also looking for a job. One of the gifts she receives is a college tuition fund for her young son.

Mr. Sirulnick played down concerns that “Homecoming” overstates the challenges facing veterans. “These stories are emblematic of a lot of veterans, certainly not all veterans, but a lot,” he said. “Over the last three years we have found — this is not scientific — but we have found that well over 70 percent of the veterans we speak to have had some sort of” post-traumatic stress disorder.

A study released in April by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, found that nearly 20 percent of troops returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have symptoms of major depression or stress disorder.

MTV and the Dr. Donda West Foundation, named for Mr. West’s mother, who died in 2007, provided most of the money for the gifts, with additional support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Charles Schwab.

The war remains one of the most important issues in the coming election. And MTV, which inaugurated the “Choose or Lose” campaign for the 1992 election, has long emphasized the potential power of young voters. This year young people’s interest in the election has soared. Mr. Rowe said the MTV survey showed that 80 percent of respondents 18 to 29 are “closely following” the election, more than double the number four years ago.

Even so, news isn’t as prominent on MTV as it once was. The newsbreaks (“10 to the hour, every hour”) have mostly vanished. Much of MTV News now exists online, where reports usually draw significantly smaller audiences than MTV’s television shows. MTV News and Documentaries, a unit that produces long-form programs, is probably best known now for “The Paper” (about a high school newspaper) and “My Super Sweet 16” (about lavish birthday celebrations).

“Once we started to get runaway ratings hits like ‘Laguna Beach,’ it took an extraordinary amount of pleading and begging of our programming gurus to get them to really support our war and political coverage,” said a former MTV News and Documentaries producer who requested anonymity to avoid criticizing former colleagues publicly.

Mr. Sirulnick said the division’s budget “ebbs and flows” and emphasized that the formats of MTV’s news programming were constantly changing, adding, “We don’t stay in one place for very long.” He disputed the idea that it required particularly heavy lifting for news to earn a spot on the schedule. “Not if it’s the right show,” he said.

- NY Times

"Vet Talks About The Raid That Landed Him On The New York Times' Front Page"

During the early days of the war in Iraq, 24-year-old Lorenzo Zarate helped detain one of Saddam Hussein's former security guards and found millions of U.S. dollars in the home of the former dictator's daughter. But it was a more routine raid that landed the former Army infantryman on the cover of The New York Times.

"There had been a lot of roadside bombs going off around us lately, and an informant told us who the guy was and where he lived," he said.

(If Zarate's name looks familiar, it's because the vet had a chance to meet Kanye West during the MTV News special "Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming." Watch their surprise meeting here.)

So on the night of December 11, 2003, Zarate and some other members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division raided an unassuming house in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

"We busted down the door, and at first we didn't find anything," he said. "But then we got out the metal detectors and started searching the house and the yard. That's where we found it all. I'd say about 200 pounds of explosives."

That night, Zarate's unit seized a huge arsenal of weapons and arrested three men who were believed to be leaders of an insurgent cell, according to The Associated Press. It was his job to guard one of the men while the rest of the unit finished up the search.

"In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, 'This guy is responsible for killing friends of mine,' " he said. "My buddies are not here, and this guy is here. What should I do with that? I was ready to shoot him."

But he didn't.

"I had a lot of anger in my heart," Zarate said. "I could've gone to jail [if I shot him], but the way my mind was at that time, I could've been likely to shoot him, and that's what I wanted to do."

While Zarate was making that split-second life-or-death decision, an AP photographer named Efrem Lukatsky stepped out of the darkness and started taking his own shots.

"He's lucky," Zarate said of the insurgent. "Because I thought we were alone, and once I realized we were not alone no more, with all the cameras clicking around me, I knew I couldn't do it."

That may seem harsh, but according to Zarate, the constant bloodshed around him and the loss of friends to roadside bombs and attacks turned him into a different person.

"I was a monster," he said.

The morning after the raid, he became a bit of a celebrity among his unit in Iraq. Word spread that he was the unnamed soldier whose photo ended up on the cover of the Times.

"When I first saw this paper, I didn't even know it was me," he said. "One of my friends ran up to me and said, 'You're in the paper.' So I checked it out, and I noticed this scope and these glasses my uncle bought me."

That's when he freaked out about his family back home. For months, Zarate had been assuring his family that he was out of harm's way. He had never told them about the house raids, roadside bombs or firefights. They were obviously worried, but Zarate assured them that just getting this one guy off the streets would make their jobs a lot safer.

Zarate is back home in Austin, Texas, now. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and can't work until his doctors are sure his treatment is working. Talking about the night that photograph was taken has helped him deal with what he witnessed, he said.

"This is something I'll be able to show my grandchildren and talk to them about," he said.

He'll have plenty of time to prepare for that day — his first child is due at the end of the year. But hopefully he'll have a chance to talk to his brother about it sooner than that: He ships off to Iraq in September.


"Touch the Sky!"

"I always knew I was going to get to tell my story," says local Army veteran Lorenzo Zarate, who raps under the alias Loudmouf. "I just didn't know how many people would hear it." The 24-year-old Reagan High School graduate served a year with Fort Hood's 4th Infantry Division in Iraq, beginning in April 2003, but has struggled to adjust back to civilian life and make ends meet, due to post-traumatic stress disorder. "You don't trust people the way you used to," Zarate says. "The world looks different through your eyes now." He was one of three people documented for MTV's Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming, which aired last week and culminated with a surprise visit from the show's namesake. "You can tell Kanye has so much on his mind," Zarate muses. "He knows what he's going for and the weight that's on him." Along with tickets to the Glow in the Dark Tour, both in Austin and Chicago, the rap mogul granted Zarate with six months' rent, a week's worth of studio time, a mentorship at Hot 93.3, and a $1,500 microphone, all of which helped Loudmouf cut "Back on My Grizzy," a syrupy single featuring West associate GLC. "I've got to strike now and get this out while this whole MTV thing is hot," says Zarate, who hits Spiro's on Sept. 5 with Z-Ro. Zarate isn't alone in his struggle. According to new statistics, the number of new PTSD diagnoses in U.S. military personnel increased by nearly 50% in 2007. - Austin Chronicle


Runnin My Mouf (2006) mixtape
Rags 2 Riches vol 2 (2007) mixtape
Seen Me on Mtv(2008) mixtape
Journey 2 Greatness (2010) album



Loudmouf aka Lorenzo Zarate was born in Springfield Tennessee. He moved at a young age and dosen't recall any of it. Loudmouf was raised by his single mother in San Antonio, Texas. By the time Loudmouf reached middle school he had been to 13 different elementary schools. Loudmouf recalls " They were hard times I was in a gang, ran away from home, getting tattoos, drinking doing drugs." Loudmouf struggled through many alternative schools, and going to court. Loudmouf eventually got kicked out of San Antonio School DIstrict for tagging. Loudmouf then moved to Austin Texas for his Freshman year where he found a military academy in Galveston. Loudmouf then entered the Army at 17 years old. Loudmouf's life was changed on September 11, 2001. When two years later on April 02, 2003 he was deployed to Iraq. Loudmouf lost friends and a piece of himself in the year he describes as the worst of his life. Loudmouf was involved in over 100 raids and aided in the capture of three key figures in the iraq war. Loudmouf is now home. He has struggled with P.T.S.D, life, and family.MTV and rap Mogul Kanye west noticed this. They created a show and featured Loudmouf on there. Loudmouf was featured on multiple shows for MTV and has a album listening party scheduled soon. He now vents his heart through his music leading a silent but upcoming veteran movement. His sucess is undeniable.