In a World of Copycats, Bodega Bamz Stands His Ground

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

This is not Bodega Bamz’s first time at the rodeo. The Spanish Harlem-bred MC and his brother OHLA have been making Latino trap before bloggers wished it into existence, generating buzz and dropping countless records without the help of a label. Now, with the genre taking on a life of its own – boasting musicians who hail from everywhere from Atlanta to Spain to the Caribbean – Bamz and the rest of his Tanboys crew are embracing the renewed widespread opportunities for Latinos in hip-hop while also reminding everyone who’s been holding it down for the better part of a decade.

Following the release of his debut album Sidewalk Exec and the Tanboys compilation Menace TAN Society, Bamz dropped his sophomore set All Eyez Off Me yesterday. He’s adamant about refreshing his style by being experimental and repping Latinos in hip-hop as a whole. We chatted with Bamz and OHLA about their process, working with Kanye West disciple Hudson Mohawke, Bamz’s thoughts on the New York sound, and his Latino peers.

You’ve released two collaborations with Hudson Mohawke this year – “Ghost” and “The Final Finale.” Talk about how you linked up.
BODEGA BAMZ: Hudson Mohawke was a fan of what I was doing and I’ve always been a fan of Hudson Mohawke; I think he’s amazing as a producer. We recorded like seven records. I remember when he was on tour he brought me out for a show he had at Webster Hall [in New York]. He just reached out and wanted to work with me, a nigga from uptown, a Latino. He fucked with the music.

Menace TAN Society definitely has a vintage 90s New York hip-hop flavor to it. Was it important to you to help try to reintroduce that sound to the landscape, particularly showcasing Latino MCs?
OHLA: I wanted to make a project where it doesn’t sound like we send records through email. I wanted the records to sound like we were all actually together. So I would listen to other compilations like the Dipset album and the G-Unit album and I put that in perspective. Like, I want a Latino to sound like this and everybody featured on it, they’re all Latino and Latina.

“This generation, we’re more daring; we’re more bold; we’re braver.”

Bamz and Bonnie B did “Brake It Down,” which had a real “Get Money” vibe to it. Fat Joe and Remy Ma recently did something similar with “All the Way Up,” which has proven to be a hit. Do you think New York-style hip-hop is undergoing a renaissance?
BODEGA BAMZ: It’s hard to say it’s coming back, [because] I think that there’s no such thing as a New York sound anymore. That time has passed [even though] I think that it was a legendary time and it was a lot of legends that came out of it.

This generation, we’re more daring; we’re more bold; we’re braver. Even by the way we dress and the way our videos look. I feel like a lot of creators in this generation, they’re always trying to push the envelope. I’m influenced by anything that’s hot; I don’t give a fuck where is it from. I don’t care if it’s from Atlanta, I don’t care if it’s from Los Angeles; if it’s hot, it influences me.

Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla
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Latino trap is having quite a moment, with acts like Fuego, Kap G, and PXXR GVNG getting attention on a wide scale, dropping Atlanta-style music with a Spanish-speaking face. What are your thoughts on it?
BODEGA BAMZ: Well, I’m the creator of that movement. Because if you look in 2011, 2012, me and OHLA, we made that phrase up, “Latin trap.” There’s visuals that say that. And I didn’t realize how big was gonna get. You see, a lot people are using that term, but a lot of people don’t know where the source came from. When I first came to the scene in 2011, that was my shit. I did interviews with Billboard, Noisey, Vice, and that’s what they were saying: “Bodega Bamz introduces Latin trap.” I know for a fact, and like I said, you can look it up, before me no one was saying Latin trap.

I don’t care if nobody knows that they got it from me. I’m always trying to create algo nuevo. What’s next, man? We have to wait and see. I have to come up with something, ‘cause you know what? The next wave I create I have to put publishing on it ‘cause I have to get paid, man.

You can try Trapchata.
OHLA: Trapchata! Holy shit, that’s hot.

BODEGA BAMZ: Trapchata, wow!

OHLA: Trapcorridos and shit.

What about collaborations with any of the new kids, like Messiah, Fuego, or Lito Kirino?
BODEGA BAMZ: I met Messiah a long time ago when he first started coming out like in 2012, about the time where I was the Latin trap guy in New York. I’m happy he’s doing his thing. I mean, God bless.

I got records with Kap G. Kap G’s a little bro. I always try to connect with Latinos. I don’t care if you’re from the island or you’re from here. It’s good to see more of us.

That was my whole thing, just to inspire people and to see more Latinos and Latinas, that is the whole basis of Tanboys, just to create inspiration for our people.

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What’s next for the Tanboys & Tangirls? Who’s working on an album?
BODEGA BAMZ: We are preparing them; we are making sure that their music is right. And they’re all going to have their own shine. They’re all going to make their mark. We’re like the new familia. We really run this like a real big record label.

“I don’t care if nobody knows that they got it from me. I’m always trying to create algo nuevo.”

You’re still independent, right? No need for label?
BODEGA BAMZ: As of now we are independent. Labels gotta understand my journey to where I’m at right now. My conversations with labels are different than for someone’s who’s coming up. They know that Bodega Bamz tours [and that] Bodega Bamz merchandise sells crazy. We built this by ourselves. So I would love eventually be part of a big record label and like I said, my mind is on the world. I can’t get to the whole world independent, it’s impossible. [A major label] is gonna come too, eventually. It has to be done right.

Anything else to add?
BODEGA BAMZ: All Eyez Off Me, man. One of the dopest, amazing projects not only from a Latino MC but from a MC in general, like people gotta respect it. Respect the talent, respect the creativity, and the persistence that we always put in. Our videos are always A1. We don’t compete with nobody; I compete with myself and make sure my shit is the best that I can do.