IhateyouALX Mixes Latino Identity with Jazz-Infused Hip-Hop

 

The feeling is not mutual for IhateyouALX. (Photo by thankyougabe)

Alex, a tall young man sporting no tattoos (although through my projecting, I thought I saw some), a Diana Ross shirt and curls that partially cover his tanned face, looks dazed as he rushes to the door of Verve Coffee in Downtown Los Angeles.

As IhateyouALX, the 23-year-old Mexican-Apache from Palmdale has collaborated with fellow rappers Lil Ugly Jit, Airplane James, Problem and Nick Reed. Though he was influenced by Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad and J. Cole, IhateyouALX has a sound all his own on his EP Corazon, which came out on Aug. 26.

Corazon is an astounding record for its simplicity. Using nothing but free plug-ins, his DJ friend’s Splice account and studying YouTube channels on how to EQ properly, IhateyouALX was able to create a soundscape that rivals most studio albums. Corazon is a DIY hip-hop album about youth, relationships and Chicano life.

The stage name  was inspired by an ex-girlfriend who would say “I hate you Alex” to tease him. Rapping is in his blood; his father is a DJ, computer geek and former rapper himself. Alex mentions his mother rarely. His relationship with her is a bit strained, caused by his parent’s divorce. While he won’t delve into much detail about the maternal beef, he lights up when talking about his love for his father, grandparents and Latino heritage.

“Writing is therapeutic for me,” Alex says over his juice. “So when I took it seriously and I mentioned it to my dad, my dad is the one who was like, ‘Hey, like you’re not just gonna rap, you’re gonna also produce, learn how to mic and engineer, learn how to use your stuff.’”

“Abuela’s Interlude” from Corazon is inspired by Alex’s grandmother, who would constantly call to remind him to drop off clothes to wash. This song is reminiscent of “Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter,” where a phone message of K.dot’s father yelling about Domino’s Pizza plays in the outro. Originally, Abuela’s Interlude” had the name of Alex’s grandmother in the title, but he changed it because he felt more listeners would relate his abuela to their own.

Alex concedes that while creating Corazon , he worried about a society that seems turn off to artists who show anything that’s very cultural. “I mean … a lot of people would say To Pimp a Butterfly, oh that’s pro-black,” he says of Lamar’s 2015 album. “It’s like that’s a stupid way to look at it. He’s just giving you his perspective.”

Cultural expectations and how we project these expectations on people was a big theme in our conversation. Alex doesn’t just point out that others do this; he is self-aware and holds the mirror to himself. He became aware of his own bias and cultural projections when he first met Tommy Massarotti.

After Alex saw a shirt with “SexDrive” sprawled on the front at the Last Bookstore in DTLA, he decided to reach out to the designers—and now collaborators—Massarotti and Armando Jose Reyes, who run Bedlam Affinity Clothing. Alex says he expected Massarotti to be a typical white hipster, but on the day they met outside a Top Know vintage store in Eagle Rock for the first time, the rapper discovered the Bedlam collaborator was Latino from Boyle Heights with a flair for the bodacious, wearing a rose print wine-colored shirt.

“I feel like some people shit on us because they have this presumption of how Latinos are supposed to look,” says Alex, on why he created his album release party flier in the style of an old school glamour shot, with him dressed in old school cholo attire. He says he plays on his Mexican identity with some irony, but beneath the veneer of attitude, there is a vulnerability, a desire to just be himself.

Luckily, he’s always had people who encouraged him to explore his identity. Corazon would never have come to fruition if it hadn’t been for his manager Kat playing his music at the Zumiez store he worked at. An acquaintance of hers who worked with South Central rapper Airplane James and the independent label Diamond Lane, a label owned by the rapper Problem, liked Alex’s music enough to take him the studio.

While there, he learned a lot by watching and emulating. Problem would just let him create whatever music he wanted. Eventually, he began to see what they would say yes to, so he started to tailor beats to their tastes. The biggest thing that inspired him was their worth ethic. They would create music constantly. When one person was laying down a verse, someone else would be in the mixing room creating the next beat.

Working behind the scenes gave Alex the ability to figure out who he is. Although he’s spent a lot of his youth trying to escape his identity through things like anime, bleaching his hair and typical teenage rebelling, in the end, he went back to his roots with the realization that he is proud of where he comes from.

“I’m not trying to hide identity. I don’t care. All I grew up with was black kids, Mexican kids. That was my whole neighborhood. I don’t want to shy away from who I am. I mean, I feel like why? Why would you do that?”

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I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.

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