The original urban rapper Tego Calderón is back with a brand new album, Original Gallo del País – O.G. El Mixtape (for those who still don’t know what O.G. stands for, shame shame). In fact, a couple days ago, Tego was nominated for Best Urban Album for this year’s Latin Grammys. Anyone who knows anything about Tego knows that he’s down, real, and basically, the Shit – no gimmicks. Dubbed as the king of reggaetón, Tego continues to hold that monumental title as he carries on to impress the minds of the next generation with his dope, socially conscious lyrical rhymes with an über-cool attitude. This Boricua is a leader in the genre and scene that imitators scramble to follow.
With urging questions to get to know the master of socially conscious lyrics just a little bit better, we hit up Tego Calderón recently for a brief phoner. Get to know him a little better too. In this following exclusive interview, Tego talks drumming, Too Short, frituras (fried foods), and favorite hangout spots.
Tego Calderón: How you doin’ Isabela? Everything all right?
All good. From where are you calling me?
TC: From Puerto Rico, in my studio.
Have you had time for breakfast?
TC: YES! Plenty. Lots of Corn Flakes (“kornflei”) in pajamas.
Ah, so tasty, sounds good. Well, let’s talk a little about the title of your new record, The Original Gallo del País. Where did the nickname “Gallo” come from? I’m from Mexico and sometimes the idioms are very different.
TC: I understand. It’s not a saying. That is, “El Gallo” refers to one who is from the village (or town).
I see. I wanted to also talk to you about your latest single “El Sitio” for which you have just released a video. I read that the song is about the importance of a specific place for you; (the spot) a creative space. What are the factors that inspire you about this place?
TC: I go to it, this place, in the same way that I got to it. It occurred to me to inhabit the space I had there, and no one was paying any attention to it at the time. Well, it became a life plan, do you understand? We make music while we respect the art and we’ve made art before locking ourselves in a studio. It’s like I decided I like “El Sitio” and that’s how we’ve done it, and it has been something like a comfortable seat.
WHEN I HEAR SOMETHING I LIKE, I LISTEN TO IT FOR A LONG TIME.
I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO TOO SHORT FOR A WHILE NOW.
Yes, the video is very nice. I’d like to visit. You’ve stated before that you play drums, and that you played heavy metal back in the day. Do you continue to play in your spare time?
TC: Yes, I’m always in the studio. We’re always playing. I often play drums, percussion. It has been a pleasure to work on this new project, and I have another side project as well. Being a musician is always decent.
What are the five songs you are listening to at this moment?
TC: Look, if you knew what I was listening to – for me one song is enough and I stick with that. I’m listening to someone called Too Short, who’s from Oakland. When I hear something I like, I listen to it for a long time, and I’ve been listening to him for a while now.
I wanted to also ask about the recent plan to legalize marijuana in Uruguay. What are your thoughts about that?
TC: Well, I think – what can I tell you? I don’t think that my comments – well, are good for them.
Fair enough. Out of all the concerts you’ve had, which one has been the most outrageous in your memory? What’s been the craziest thing that has happened during a concert?
TC: Well, I wouldn’t know what to say about outrageous things, but I can tell you about moving things. My career took me to Africa and I was able to see the world from that perspective. I owe that to the music and it’s something I’ll always carry.
If you could travel through time to rap or play music, what era would you travel to and why?
TC: I like the era in which I get to live in. I wouldn’t go to any other because there are very good people in all eras, and the further back you go, the harder it will be. So I’ll stay in this era. This is the one I got.
What message would you like the kids of today to take from The Original Gallo del País – O.G. El Mixtape?
TC: Honestly, one can’t always learn the values we are taught. It depends on the situation one is in. There are some things that are essential in my opinion for your/their stay here – breathing for example. I would like to show them to people because I know what they are: to respect women. It seems like a simple thing, but it’s something that perhaps is abandoned later. Everyone thinks differently, and it matters. Before, I almost didn’t hear it [certain values]. Take it easy, be tolerant, never give up, and don’t gamble with life.
If you were hosting one visitor in Puerto Rico who’s never been, to which of your favorite places would you take them?
TC: I’d tell them to go to Yunque, Aguadilla, Vieques, Culebra, and Jayuya.
At this moment, what is your next creative step?
TC: To make music, which is what I like, and it’s what I’m supposed to do. And being happy doing it, which makes all the difference – enjoying it. That’s how you feel the music.
Ok, last question: what is your favorite fried food [fritura]?
TC: Pionono: banana and ground beef.
latest mixtape, all below: