featured interview

Scheme Chicago Chicano ‘Not from here, not from there’, Scheme, ‘the son of immigrants just following a dream’, touches the issue of being a Chicano perfectly on his latest EP ‘Manifesto’. Introspective and cocky at the same time, this Molemen crew member does his thing and puts himself in the spotlight, respectin the art, manifesting, over a suited soundset created by the Sound Merchants.

The album sounds very cohesive and well-thought over, with a variety in production, you obviously tried to avoid a ‘compilation’, ‘some songs here and there from the archives’… How long did it take to put this EP together?

Thanks homie, that's exactly what we were aiming for. Well the EP actually was finished up somewhat quickly. I would say we probably started talking about doing the project mid 2008 and by November it was completed. We just held on to it for awhile because we wanted to make sure all the pieces were put together well. We knew we wanted to shoot a video for the project and make sure we had it available in different outlets for people to get it. The actual music making process took us about 5 months maybe.

The video for the ‘Chicano’ single was dope. That’s your grandmother in the beginning, right?

Yeah that was my grandmother. Man, you don't even know how much that means to me. When we started figuring out the whole video and playing with the idea of shooting a video out there it was a no brainer that I wanted her in it somehow. But having her actually give me my bendicion on camera is crazy to me. I was worried she wouldn't want to do it, I told my cousin Jeffrey from CineDeLaredo, who shot the video: ‘This is a one shot deal, if we don't get a good shot, she probably won't do it again’. (laughs) My grandma is one of the greatest and strongest woman I have ever been blessed with to have in my life. The life she has led is incredible. I could only wish to be able to do half of what she has done. Having her being a part of it was great, now I have that moment captured on video, I could play it back for as long as I live.

Where was it shot?

The video was shot in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (Mexico) by Jeff Castillo and Abel Alvarado for Cine De Laredo. There were shots at my grandma's house, shots of the house where my parents first met and where they lived when they got married. It all had some personal value to me.

What does being a ‘Chicano’ mean to you? When you say ‘soy Chicano’ you actually say…

When I was a shorty I saw being a ‘Chicano’ as a bad thing. This was when I was like 5 or 6. That was the first time I was referred to by that word, and I didn't quite understand it. I felt like, ‘No, I'm Mexican, not a Chicano’. My parents and all three of my sisters were born in Mexico, so I am the first generation of my family that was born in the US. So I felt more connected with being Mexican. But as time went on, I learned to accept being Mexican, but being born in America. It's the best of both worlds. Being a Chicano is something I am very proud of. Spanish was my first language and I learned English by listening to my sisters when I was younger. My life has always been filled with both cultures, it took time, and sometimes it still doesn't make sense, but I do understand how lucky I am to have influences from both sides.

‘You say it in any interview: I’m so incredible’, so go ahead…

‘I'm so incredible’. (laughs) ‘Spotlight’ was that MC joint. That ‘no one can do it better than me’-song. I always felt that people enjoyed my music, but saw me more as an introspective writer. But at the same time, the reason I fell in love with hip-hop was for the lyrics, the delivery, the hard beats. The aura of being a dope MC is like none other. So I needed people to know that side of me in this project as well. I have a lot to say about my life and life in general, but don't think I can't rock a crowd or deliver when it comes to this MC shit. I love hip-hop because of that. No other genre in music really has that, and that's dope to me.

Exactly, like you say ‘I tried being humble, humble gets you nowhere’ and then you’re actually humble in a song like ‘Chicano’. But don’t you miss that balance in rap these days? Like you can brag but you also have to be open to your listener, as for there is mostly bragging nowadays?

Two of the main things I told myself when I started writing and recording music was; 1) that any project I ever put was going to have some sort of a message, and 2) that I would always be honest with myself and to the listeners. I've learned that it's a must that you balance the cockiness and the honesty. You have to be cocky, that is a huge part of being a rapper. But, here's what's important about that, it must come natural. You must be confident in what you do and how you do it. A lot of people out here make up a facade. They put up a front, but all that shit eventually crumbles. You have to know your strengths and use those to your advantage. They make them up, because they won't stand the test of time. As for the honesty, again, it must come natural. That aspect of music making helps you connect with the listener. It helps them in relating with you, and creates a bond between artist and fan. No one should be ashamed of putting their life out there if they've led a respectable and honourable life. No one's perfect, and we all go through a lot of real and difficult shit in life. Why sugarcoat it and sweep it under the rug? That makes no sense to me. So being able to balance both is a must.

Why did you decide to put the EP also out for free?

Well, actually the original idea for this project was for it to just be a quick free-download-EP-type-of-thing. As we got deeper into creating the music, and investing time and money into it, we realized that it was becoming something a little bigger than we originally expected. So when we finished it, we figured ‘let's give people the option’. Our main focus is to get the music to the people. Now these days, with so much music coming out, good and bad, it's hard for people to decide who they should invest their time and money into. Which is completely understandable. Not a lot of people want to drop money on someone they don't know or on something they haven't heard. So we figured we'd put it out for free as well to let people hear the product first. We are confident in the music we made and feel that if the people like it, they will support it. There are still a lot of real fans out there, who are more than willing to show you their support, but we as artists have the responsibility of putting out good music.

How was working with the Sound Merchants different from for eg. working with the Snowgoons? How did you get with both of these production groups?

Well with the Snowgoons, they hit us up after hearing the song ‘Problems’ from ‘The Biz Vol. 1’ mixtape. They asked us to be part of their project, which we quickly agreed on and they sent us over some beats. Decay, Astonish, and I chose the one we liked and just knocked out the joint. Shout out to the Snowgoons by the way, thanks a lot for looking out; With the Sound Merchants, it's different because we’ve been cool for a minute now. I've known them for some years now and it's more of a ‘on hands collaboration’. I'll go over to their house and listen to beats, or they'll come through to my spot and lay some beats down for me. We'll discuss ideas and topics for the music. It's just more of a natural process in creating the music, which is an element that is missing a lot in music today, and makes a huge difference I think. We mutually respect what we each do and that's how this whole project went down.

We suppose you know the ‘Manifesto’ by Talib Kweli?

Of course I know the ‘Manifesto’ by Kweli. That was my joint in high school.

Ten points about being an MC...what does being an MC mean to you?

For me, being an MC is something great. It's being a poet, being able to rock a crowd, having a voice, having a message, speaking your mind, leading by example, unadulterated, uncensored. It's being a survivor, being honest, being truthful, being confident, being a rebel. An MC is something to be proud to be, but you must come with it or step aside.

You were used to be called ‘Rhyme Scheme’ but you dropped the ‘Rhyme’, how come?

Mostly everyone I encountered just called me Scheme, so I stuck with it. Nothing much more to it than that.

How would you say you have evolved since your previous full album towards now?

A lot. I've worked on my craft and tried becoming a better writer. I also learned how to space out my flow more so the people can catch everything I say. I’ve always been a fan of the rapid flow, but not everyone can catch on to certain things. So I've learned to balance it out. Subject matter wise I've also become more open minded and learned to just worry about making good music. Leave all the sub-genres and categories people tend to put you in, in the back of your mind. You can't control everything, except the music you make. So that's where I'm at with that.

How did you get with the Molemen crew?

I met Visual some years back, who is Panik's brother, but at the time I didn't know that. Visual told Panik about me and I met up with him one day. At the time I was just looking to see if I could buy some beats from him for a project I was working on at the time. He asked me to rhyme, which I did, and then he gave me a CD with a lot of beats. He asked me to come back when I wrote a couple joints. I went back like a day or 2 later with a couple new songs. Panik, pretty much just told me if I was interested in being part of the Molemen, and of course I agreed. I remember writing my first couple of actual songs to their instrumental tapes when I was in high school, and now I was being asked to be down with them. That shit was dope to me.

Any more production from them in the near future?

Yeah man, you'll definitely hear some Scheme/Molemen stuff coming soon. We have a good amount of songs already done. Just give us some time we'll definitely deliver the album.

How much of 'Chicago' is in 'Chicano' in your case?

Chicago is a huge part of my music. I love my city. As corrupt and messed up as a lot of the shit here is, I love it. It's my home. Born and raised in the grimiest of neighbourhoods, but have been fortunate to see the good in it all. I love the music we make here. I love the artists that stick to their style and go against the grain and make something of themselves. The weather sucks sometimes, (laughs) winter be taking a toll on all of us. But the summer makes it well worth it. There is nothing like summer in Chicago. So yeah man Chicago will forever hold a place in my heart and in my music.

Have you read the novel 'The House On Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros?

Yeah, I read it when I was younger because one of my sisters was reading it and she passed it along to me. It's a real dope book. It's funny, the family in the book lived on the exact same streets me and my family lived on (Paulina and then on Keeler), but in earlier years.

Ruben Salazar mentioned 'A Chicano is a Mexican-American with a non-Anglo image of himself', agree?

Definitely. We can't relate to white America, because we truly do not see ourselves as part of that and they don't see us in that light either. Our skin colour, our style of talking, our culture as a whole’s different.

Who's the godfather of Chicano rap; Kid Frost or Mellow Man Ace?

That's a tough one, homie. Both definitely did their thing. I don't think I could choose one over the other.

What was the first rap album you bought?

Cypress Hill's first album in 1991. My sister convinced me to give her my 5 dollar allowance so we can buy the tape. I was 8 years old. That shit changed my life. (laughs) I never gave her the tape back, I would fall asleep listening to it everyday. I still have it somewhere in all my music stuff.

What was the last rap album you uploaded unto your iPod?

Eminem – ‘Relapse’, Cam'ron – ‘Crime Pays’ and Scarface – ‘The Fix’.

What’s next for Scheme?

Next up is a mixtape I am working on with PNS and it'll be brought to you by 2dopeboyz.com, which will be called ‘Same Rebel, New Cause’, that's going to come first. I also have this other album in the works with my homie Dario from Brazil. We got some joints done already, just need to finish putting the missing links together. And of course me and the Sound Merchants will begin working on the next project. And hopefully soon also start working with the Molemen on our project. Just trying to stay consistent and keep putting out this music.

Shout-outs?

To everyone and anyone who has taken their time to listen to my music, Thank you. To all the supporters and the people who hit me up: thank you! Shout out to 21 Grams and CB from the Sound Merchants, all my Molemen family, Visual, Vakill. To the homies Decay and Astonish. Wes Restless and Tone Pro for doing their thing on The Manifesto project. Thanks to all the blogs and sites showing love. We appreciate it. One

Thanks a lot!

 

POSTED 06|12|2009
conducted by cpf

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