Reminisce 2: South Park Mexican

In 2002, my high school political science class took a trip to the court house in  Houston, Texas. That day, South Park Mexican was on trial for the aggravated sexual assault of a child.  The story went something like this; late at night he allegedly molested his daughter’s younger friend while they were all watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The entire court room was packed. There was no room to sit. People packed into the court room like it was a show. It was a sad and disturbing trial.

At the time,  I was only familiar with SPM’s radio hits such as High So HighWiggy Wiggy and Mary Go Round. Although I liked the songs my support never went any further. I think the common attitude towards SPM was that he was good, for a Mexican rapper. In Texas there was a stigma associated with Mexican rap. It seemed as though the south viewed Mexican rap the same way the north viewed southern rap, it just wasn’t taken seriously. And as a result SPM got little radio play.

As Thun recently pointed out, rappers should be assessed and judged as an emcee, period, not through the lenses of race and ethnicity. And while I agree with the idea behind that statement, it presumes that emcees may only be judged by one standard checklist.  Although SPM was making music for everyone, he made it difficult to be viewed as anything but Mexican rap. His race, ethnicity, and culture were a large part of his music and something my middle school Spanish classes didn’t equip me to understand.  Generally, as long as regional slang or references were put into context, their meanings could usually be identified. But when it came to SPM and the Dope House family, my fingers could only flip through my Spanish-English Dictionary so fast.

But aside from my once cultural-ist tendencies when it came to rap and the absence of radio exposure for SPM, another factor that weighed against SPM reaching my CD player was the fact that he was on trial for pedophilia.  Under the comments section, in Thun’s most recent post about Big Pun, Thun raised the issue of whether an artist’s “moral failings” should be considered when making a determination about their music.  Thun pointed out that “if we were to evaluate art based entirely on the moral failings of artists we’d be left with very little to appreciate.” But like Done stated, there are exceptions, and I didn’t want to support a rapper who was accused of touching little kids.

I decided to revisit SPM’s music. All I know[1], I wish I would have given SPM a fair chance earlier. His albums are thrilling, by any standard of review, objective or Latin.

Prior to SPM’s incarceration he released six albums. So far my favorites are Power Moves and Hustle Town, both released in 98’, and Last Chair Violinist, released in 2008. In 2001 SPM was held without bail. While in jail, SPM released 3 albums. The Last Chair Violinist was recorded from prison. Perhaps due to the dearth of inspiration in the penitentiary, his style never evolved. Instead it fossilized. His mid-90’s H-town style is the same today as it was in the 90’s. Frankly, that’s fine with me, because his pre-incarceration albums are sterling, so I find nothing wrong with his concrete consistency.

Sadly, in rap music, certain subject matter is so hackneyed, that high cappin’ about pressing issues such as gangs,[2] murder, sex, and drugs no longer captures the attention of listeners. But then there’s SPM whose material and execution is so unorthodox, that much of what he says could qualify for a trade secret. When I hear SPM’s songs, I am not sure whether to be impressed or horrified by the  social woes he wickedly adduces.  In the song Put Yo Fist Up: “fucking with an old school tramp/ 10 dollar rock for a 20 food stamp.” In the song, Where My Soldiers At? “Keep names, so while I’m smoking Greenbay/ you catchin lead cuz I had your ass prepaid.” In Y Must I: When the dust settles I’ll be on top/ fuck selling pebbles/ if you dodge the state prison it’s a great living/ choppin more birds than they do on thanksgiving.” In Ghetto Tales: I’m straight out the slums/ South Park, where you get your car washed for crumbs/ but these laws is on a cook out/ I used to get took out/ 3 dollar pieces for my look out/  licensed cookie baker, that’s my profession/  never have my dope in my home/ possession.” In Bloody War: “May you sleep in peace with the fish/you is a hoe and in the pen you’d be a bitch/ using red M&M’s for lipstick. In The last Chair Violinist: “this 8 by 10 is closing in/ in the hood I had it all, and a cold motherfucker with a basketball/  now I play with prisoners/ and don’t know nobody trip with us/ some in Garza, some in Dominguez/ if the cops ask, no speaky English.”

While SPM demonstrates an O.G. type of erudition on the intricacies of dope game in South Park, Texas, he often takes on a playful puerile role in many of his songs.  In Swim: “my mom did her best, she would hug and kiss me/ even though we had more mice than Disney.” In Mexican Heaven: “I won a knife at the carnival they have off Jenson/ it’s just for good luck, not for a weapon/I wonder can I take it/ well that’s if I make it/ but I don’t want to walk around all butt naked/ will my hydraulics work up in the clouds/do people start complaining if the music is loud/ and these are the things that I ask the reverend/ excuse me sir, but can Mexicans go to Heaven?” In Gangsterous: I rock Phillies/ my lac pop wheelies/now I’m locked up with the dude that robbed Chili’s. In Hoggin’ and Doggin’: “never boring or simple, man I’m really exciting/I go to clubs and be fighting/ I be kicking and biting/ and I might poke your eye out, I don’t fight that[3]fair/ I fought a dude with some razors, started pulling his hair/ but my boys backed me up and leave nobody standing/ I’m like why yall jump in man I almost had him?/ and they was like Los he was beaten’ yo ass/ I was letting him get tired man you messed up my plans/ anyways I’ma write a song about it and tell all my fans that I beat him up all by myself.”

Damn, SPM paints a pretty detailed picture, like an oil painting that is so illustrative, it looks like a photograph from a distance. When I play SPM, its like eating tortilla chips and flaming hot salsa and the only way to stop the burn is to keep eating more. I do not have the slightest idea whether SPM actually committed the acts he was accused of, but when I listen to his words, I encounter the same haunting feeling I experience when I read about disturbing crimes in the news. But that’s what music is supposed to do. It is supposed to affect you.

[1] All I Know, by The Earnie Banks. I’ve been starting sentences off a lot with this line. Had to give props.

[2]Like all the Soo Woo stuff.

[3] Such an infantile placement of the word “that.”

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15 Responses to “Reminisce 2: South Park Mexican”

  1. Davey says:

    i like some of SPMs music, i remember i sent him an email back in like 2001, he was freaked out that i was from austraila & bought his Power Moves album. my fav album of his is Time Is Money. i’ve heard a lot of shit about the trial tho, they got him for that when it was really for all the drugs & shit, supposedly the girl changed her story many times, the mother put her up to it, all kinds of shit.

  2. Thun says:

    “As Thun recently pointed out, rappers should be assessed and judged as an emcee, period, not through the lenses of race and ethnicity. And while I agree with the idea behind that statement, it presumes that emcees may only be judged by one standard checklist.”

    Nah. I wasn’t trying to imply that we just ignore the influence of identity formation, self-perception, group membership, genre fragmentation, regional scenes, or what have you on our understanding of an artist.

    I was arguing against claiming that a particular emcee is good at emceeing according to an ethno-specific standard. That’s demeaning and frankly, stupid. For one thing, it is patently reductive. The fact that Big Pun identifies as a Puerto Rican and is perceived as such by the rest of society does not imbue him with boricua-specific essential attributes. Nor does it mean that all of the elements that comprise his rapping are somehow inflected by his puerto rican-ness. Add to this the fact that Puerto Ricans were involved in hip hop at its very inception and that Puerto Rican and African American cultural life in the northeastern mainland USA has been thoroughly intertwined since at least 1960, and the whole concept relaly just amounts to rubbish.

    Joell Ortiz spoke very passionately and eloquently about this exact subject in this recent interview. He came up with a brilliant analogy, saying something along the lines of “if I record a song and hire a guy from Africa to play the drums on it, are you going to hear it on the radio and think to yourself ‘wow, this song is pretty good, for a song with an African playing drums!'” Of course not, so why react similarly for rappers?

    However, and more on-topic, I do agree with your sense that we have to discuss such issues and perceptions in order to transcend them, because whether we or not we consciously espouse them, ideas of ethno-racial essentialism, like regional favoritism, shape our tastes, especially when we abstain from interrogating our own beliefs. On that point I agree with you 100%.

    • done says:

      Ha man your objective to a fault, citing Joell interviews.

      The role hispanic people played in rap throughout the years might make for a good book, or a series of posts at least, you should consider it I think. I kinda remember the Cant Stop, Wont Stop book had some really interesting stuff about how certain merengue groups were an influence on the block parties early on.

      • Thun says:

        Racquel Rivera’s New York Ricans From The Hip Hop Zone and Juan Flores’s From Bomba To Hip Hop provide an excellent overview. There’s still more work to be done, but that’s a pretty good start.

      • Thun says:

        I’m of Puerto Rican descent (didn’t want to spill those beans, so to speak, in my Big Pun write-up, though I’ve mentioned it here and there in my writing and it’s no huge secret or whatever) and here in the states, race/ethnicity is on your mind 24/7 for a variety of reasons too complex to discuss here. So whenever someone has something to say about Puerto Ricans and hip hop my reflex is to listen closely. Fortunately this time Joell had something of worth to say.

    • Droopy says:

      Gotcha and I agree claiming an emcee is good according to an ethno-specfic standard is stupid. But I am also wary of those straight objective standards everyone champions, for example “oh, Big Pun was above average on word play, above average on story telling abilities, above average ______… therefore he must be a good emcee.” These checklists/equations, although logical are also stupid and annoying and relied on too much. It creates classifications that allow weaker emcees to get lumped in with legends. I know in aesthetics conversation, using words like “sucks” and “good” are not preferred. But when artists like Slim Thugg and L.E.$ are technically the same on a checklist test, in reality one sucks and one is good. The big one going on right now is Big K.R.I.T is the new Pimp C. Yea I guess their scores come out the same, but they are totally different. I am really not sure how to proceed from here. What do you think?

      • Thun says:

        Yeah I agree with you that these classifications are useless when they are applied without a sense of perspective or proportion, and especially when there is no consideration for qualities that are difficult to capture in words, those seemingly intangible traits that make a great rapper more memorable or charismatic or more resonant than the next who has only stenciled an inferior version of his style.

        Just like essentializing ethno-racial concepts, however, I think it is useful to address those standards in order to refute ttheir usefulness as arbiters of greatness. So when someone claims that “Big Pun is above average in wordplay” my response is usually to challenge both the assessment AND the assumed, implied importance of the assessment.

        In short, I think it is useful to take note of certain traits when describing an emcee, but if you attempt to generalize the positive traits as being universal hallmarks of a great emcee, without considering how said emcee fares in comparison to peers or predecessors, as well as the fact that certain difficult to describe/intangible features are also at play, your advocacy can be easily deflated.

        Also, more simply, people are way too quick to assume that everything they like is a standard-bearer of sorts. Which is funny because they’d get a lot more enjoyment and edification out of listening to their favorites if they were honest enough to admit that most artists they love are outclassed in so many way by some artists somewhere out there, and most of the artists they claim to hate or refuse to acknowledge possess a set of traits that makes them highly appealing to someone somewhere out there. This would allow people to 1) continually reassess their tastes, which is healthy and invigorating 2) Learn to appreciate rappers in spite of their faults rather than unwittingly praise their flaws or deficiencies and 3) Discover new artists to appreciate and even learn to love.

        Big K.R.I.T. is not the new Pimp C. That is patently ridiculous on so many levels, and that kind of fanboy hyperbolic nonsense is only going to be damaging to his rep in the long run.

  3. done says:

    Yeah SPMs another one I just cant listen to anymore since I found out about the child abuse. Its such a shame because as you said, hes obviously talented but I really cant listen to his music comfortably with the knowledge that kinda person made it. Luckily id only heard a handful of his songs on screw tapes anyways so I dont really know what im missin.

    Michael Jacksons a weird one though because its impossible to tell what is true or not, plus if you throw enough money and influence around you can be tephlon man but I beleive in innocent ’til so his music still gets burn. Its beyond obvious Kellz is guilty though, there was a fuckin tape!

    Good post though, I read it all but I still couldnt bring myself to click on the youtubes. im stubborn like that

    • Droopy says:

      Man, you are missing out! Listen to one I wont tell anybody. Technically, Put Yo Fist Up is a Lil Flip song SPM is featured on, so you could listen to that one and get away with it under your self imposed rule which I totally respect.

    • verge says:

      in general, you really gotta try to separate the artist from the art and you will usually enjoy much more good music, unless you’re one of those people where “image” affects you’re taste in music which it should not as it should have nothing to do with the end result music product. And I’m not saying you’re this or that, i just am not a good articulator nor a scholar, just an aging rap fanatic, lol.
      I mean, for example.. Danny bRown’s image, hairstyles, tight pants, just gay looking persona is the image of someone i would never ever give a listen to. Yet, I’m a fan of some of his music regardless.

      So, in this case, I would do what Droopy said and not miss out on something you would like just because of who made it.

  4. cenzi says:

    Although my favorite SPM track BY FAR is the Latin Throne. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVclkeIGrsI
    I love the fact that he has so many hiphop covers.

    Like EPMD’s You’re a Customer. His is called Loyal Customer and the only Youtube link is screwed and chopped. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ-rDtatbvw

    He did Pac’s Me and My Girlfriend called “Mi Ruka”, well the chorus at least and he doesnt even rap on it, it was just on his album. Not worth a youtube link.

    His reworking of LL’s Going Back to Cali, renames “Valley” is just hilarious. It’s got over ten Mc’s on that shit (I think some were from the crew “The Most Hated” – Look them up!). – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXoZkBZ0byA

    Eazy E’s Boyz in the hood becoms “Boyz on the Cut” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP8vefrZW3s

  5. Jay Armijo says:

    Thanks for this post; I hope you don’t mind, I linked to it. A lot of us would love to read more about what you saw in the courtroom.

  6. FREE SPM!
    My man is innocent!
    Everybody know that both those girls are total sluts who seduced my man. SPM was just keepin’ it real!
    Let a playa play! Stop hatin’.
    Y’all just jealous about all that good pussy my man SPM be gettin’!

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