Garcia: From the Ground on Up

As Houston artists like Trae, Lil' Keke or Z-Ro finally saunter into the limelight they deserve, one can often wonder about other Southern cities. As the most decadent city of the South, Miami rappers have often adorned major label deals muchlike the diamonds on their neck. Even with Pitbull and DJ Khaled, on TVT and Koch respectively, many could contest that both artists had a push that defied the normal independent budget. Enter Garcia. A longtime affiliation of Miami mainstay DJ EFN, Garcia has all the hard-to-earn attributes that success requires. He's been featured in magazines, on MTV, and has none other than N.O.R.E. as executive producer of his Life Unscripted album. But will this self-proclaimed underground veteran, with an album full of high-profile features and Koch distribution, have what it takes to crack the market? As marketplace dollars speak, so does Garcia about his bi-polar tendencies, his history, and his struggles as a rare Miami independent artist. You’ve been in the game for a minute. Why are so many of us only hearing about you now? Garcia: First off, I’m an underground MC from Miami, got my start about 10 years ago, through DJ EFN and Crazy Hood Productions. We released my album Anti-social. That album was real underground soundin', not so commercial. It got a lot of critical acclaim, a lot of reviews, it got best album in Miami of 2004 by the Miami Times. They put me in Urb Magazine's "Best 100." Then, we did the hook up with Sway when we did the My Block Miami; they came and featured me. From that, we just kept making moves and [doing] mixtapes and keeping the buzz up. You know we got a couple of offers, but nothing was really panned up to what it was, but we was really lookin' forward to the whole radio deal to hold down the whole Crazy Hood Productions. We weren’t just lookin’ for somethin' that was gonna make me a ringtone rapper. “Underground” means something entirely different in a place like New York or Los Angeles. In the South, you’ve got underground rappers like Lil’ Keke or Pastor Troy. DJ EFN is somebody that I have been aware of for about 10 years, and certainly, he’s been instrumental in both underground artists in the South as well as the Madlibs and Thirstin Howls and those people too. When you say your music is “underground,” explain that to the people. Garcia: “Underground” is just a path that’s not commercially known. But what I was saying, in my regards, was more in the sense of like Madlib - the backpack Hip-Hoppers…when I hear underground like that, I think like El-P. “Underground” is just anybody tryin’ be like on the come up, they’re really trying to get their names out there. You’ve got to pay your dues in the underground, ‘cause if they don’t pay their dues then, you know, point blank, I don’t care what kind of deal you get, it’s just not gonna work out for you. You've got to maintain that street respect in order for them to support you.We’re real big on paying dues down here too. We’re not gonna go pay off a DJ to cosign us, we’re not gonna just sit there and just wait. We’re from the old school mentality of Hip-Hop when you had to do it the right way. Was your music and your art any at all influenced by Miami mainstream celebration last year? Garcia: Yeah, man. Of course, I mean, my music is really influenced by two different eras, man. I was raised listening to Hip-Hop. That’s how I came up, and my favorite groups was Public Enemy and N.W.A.…but at the same time, man, when you’re coming up in Miami, you have, Trick Daddy, and the 2 Live Crew also influencing you. So all those elements combined, and plus, I’m Latin. So being a Latino, you’re around Salsa and Reggaeton a lot and different things like that. If you hear my album, there’s just a whole variety of sound. It’s not just like 1% production value that rides off the whole album. And that’s the reason because I’m trying to incorporate all my influences together and just try to, you know, supply something new for Miami. A lot of Miami artists need that major push, whether it’s Cool & Dre at Jive, Rick Ross at Def Jam or Trick Daddy at Atlantic. Why aren’t there many successful artists on the indie level? Garcia: I’ll tell you the reason why, man. It’s ‘cause Miami really doesn’t support its own. The underground scene out here or the independent thing out here can’t thrive because nobody really supports, so you’re like crabs in a barrel. They just keep pulling everybody down. So, to have an independent scene, people have to be showing you support and the love. You know, the community really has to support what’s going on and that sometimes just doesn’t happen in Miami. In Miami, people are really out for themselves. So, they just do everything in their power to promote themselves, but they don’t want to work with other artists, they don’t want to collaborate, they don’t want to give nobody props, you know what I’m sayin'? And that’s what happens. ln Atlanta or Houston...or even L.A. or New York, cats out there really support their artists. Now, moving into the music, I was struck by a lyric that you had on “Tell ‘Em Who You Are.” You said, "The road I’m on only leads to my grave.” Now that, to me, is parallel with people saying, "everything that’s born must die." Tell me what that lyric means to you...Garcia: What I meant by that line was if I don’t really start switchin' up what I’m doin', I’m just not gonna make it, man. Like, my mentality, the way I was livin', bad habits, people I was around, my environment that I was surrounding myself with - mad negativity. And I knew that if I didn’t make a change for the better, I wasn’t gonna be around on earth too much longer, man. So I really had to put myself together and put myself in a better mindstate and really focus on all the important things in life and not get caught up in so much petty bulls**t that you can get caught up real easy in a big city like this. N.O.R.E. is an executive producer. What kind of position is it when your executive producer is trying to come back out just as you are coming out?Garcia: N.O.R.E. comin' back out is not like Da Brat makin’ a comeback. [Laughs] N.O.R.E. hasn’t been exactly gone either. What you don’t realize with him coming back is that he’s coming back into his old N.O.R.E. mentality, where he’s gonna be doing strictly Hip-Hop. He’s bringin' it back for the streets and he basically ran his course on the whole Reggaeton thing. And, you know, he really wants to come back with the lyrics and the whole CNN old school N.O.R.E. rap thing. In the same token, for him comin’ out, it actually almost benefits me, because right now he’s about to drop Global Warming, and if that goes real successful, which, most people expect that it would, with fact that his name is on my project, people [will] start Google-ing, downloading or reading about N.O.R.E., they understand, like, "Okay, he’s executive producer along with EFN on my album," and then it attracts more heads over to How important is it for you, as an artist in Miami to have a good relationship with somebody like DJ Khaled, who on a global and national scale, seems to be controlling, really, who’s coming out of that city right now? Garcia: Our relationship with DJ Khaled is extremely important. Even if he’s not playin' your record at the time, you just want to maintain that cosign because no matter what, if he knows you’re real and he knows you’re doin’ it, then he’s gonna bring you up in an interview if he gets asked about you or things in that nature. Khaled has supported me in the past. He was really who got my name known in Miami. After my first album, I released a single with The Diaz Brothers, and he shot me out like 600 spins within a month on that record. So, he really got behind my record so, hopefully I can get something goin’ with him again. I listen to records on your album like “Porn Star” and at two different points in your record, I notice that you make reference to sleeping with women while you’re taking money out of their purse. But at the same time, I notice that you have a track like “Young Girl Lost.” Right now, in the wake of all the Imus stuff and everything, people are talking a lot about the way that Hip-Hop treats its women and, certainly, like so many artists like Ludacris, like T.I., like Eminem, like whoever, you kind of give us both sides of that. Do you feel pressure to be either one of those ways or is that just really the way Garcia is, where you may feel this way one minute and this way the next?Garcia: No, that’s just how I am, man, I’m kind of bi-polar in a sense. “Young Girl Lost” is actually like a true story inspired by a story of a porno star on Howard Stern and she was talkin' about how she got in the business and I thought it would be a really dope track. And then “Porn Star,” in the same token…as a man, I was tryin’ to figure out a way to write a song about sleepin' with a girl. But it’s just that it goes so many ways that I didn’t want to do it the same ways over and over and over and over. But, you know what? Every man that I know has at least in one point in their life, tried to get a girl to get on camera with him and get real freaky, and I’m not sayin’ that I’m not guilty of it myself. You just try to represent from all sides of it. I don’t even think I even called a girl a ho on the track, ever, you know what I’m sayin’? It's just about me runnin’ game to try to get what I want out of her.