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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

J. Patron often wears clothing with the slogan “Puro Oro.” This translates to “Pure Gold”—and that’s exactly what J. Patron is in the local hip-hop scene, as an artist who has opened doors for many others.

J. Patron (Camilo Gomez) came to the United States from Colombia when he was 4 years old and grew up in the Coachella Valley. Local hip-hop artists Provoked and Willdabeast have talked to me in recent months about J. Patron’s hip-hop talents, which developed at an early age during high school during rap battles. In recent years, J. Patron has toured the United States and Latin America, including a SXSW appearance in March.

During a recent interview, Patron explained how he grew up listening to Latin music—and how that went on to meld with his hip hop.

“It was everywhere!” Gomez said. “It was all my parents listened to. There is a cool little Colombian community here in the Coachella Valley, and they would throw parties all the time. I grew up around cumbia, merengue and stuff like that.

“The hip-hop stuff was my influence just being here. Going to school with friends—that’s the stuff we were listening to. As far as the Latin roots go, that’s the stuff I grew up with at home, and I never really had the desire to make that type of music. I was more interested in making hip hop, so it was later on, after a few years of rapping, that I started experimenting and mixing the two, and I realized that people were already doing that. There was a scene already going on in Latin America, so that’s what united me and the cats down there.”

Gomez said he’s always felt attached to his Colombian roots.

“Back in the early ’90s, (the Colombian community) was all over the Coachella Valley. (There were) a few families here and there; everyone would get together and throw stuff,” he said. “Obviously in bigger cities, there are bigger communities. But they would just be really active with the Independence Day festivals and soccer games.

“That’s part of our religion,” he added, laughing.

Gomez said he’s excited about the growing popularity of Latin music in the United States.

“It’s always been there—but for it to be so Americanized, it’s something new,” he said. “They said at the Latin Alternative Music Conference that I used to go to in New York, ‘It’s going to take over, and it’s growing.’ I believed in it, but just this last year, in 2018, it was a crazy year for Latin music, where it’s on English radio stations. It’s opened a lot of doors for me as a Latino making Latin-American Spanglish music in the United States. At first, it was super-hard; nobody wanted that shit anywhere. People were telling me I wouldn’t go anywhere with that. … Now it’s like everyone is accepting of it, and it’s opening doors. It’s truly a blessing to have this wave that it’s having right now, and it feels like it’s only going to get bigger.”

That growing popularity is taking place locally, too.

“It was about three years ago that I stared doing shows at The Hood and the Red Barn,” Gomez said. “Everyone was like, ‘This is predominantly a Caucasian music scene, so you’re going to play rock, some type of country or some other shit like that.’ Everyone (else) was like, ‘Bro! No! Stick to the nation! They are the ones showing you love.’ Even when I was doing shows at The Date Shed, everyone was fucking against each other over it, and I was like, ‘Dude, if these people are opening the doors for me, I’m not going to shut anyone down, and I’m going to take advantage of everything.’ The Hood was like, ‘OK, let’s see what’s up,’ and I did a few shows and brought out a couple of local guys and Giselle Woo, and we threw a sick-ass party. It was like, ‘Boom! There it is!’ We just kept doing it.

“I remember one time we had a salsa night at The Hood, and it was pretty sick,” he said with a laugh. “You should have seen the dance floor; everyone was dancing salsa, and it was insane! At the Red Barn, I was always doing Latin trap, mixing the Latin and the American trap and stuff, and it was a hit; people would jump like a punk-rock show. At first, the venues weren’t what they were now, and since they’ve opened themselves to that, it’s been going really well for all of us.”

However, not all venues have been welcoming.

“I played somewhere north of Los Angeles. I was on tour at that time and … doing my Spanish thing,” he said. “The club owner or whoever it was told me that it wasn’t going to fly there. I said, ‘Well, let me finish my show. I’m still going to get paid, and I just won’t come back here. We’ll both be happy.’ That was a couple of years ago—but now it’s a whole different story. I’m sure if you go back to that place with the same kind of shit now, they’re going to open the doors for people to come in.”

His brand-new EP, My American Dream and Colombian Fantasy, represents a new direction for J. Patron.

“I started working on this EP about a year ago,” he said. “It’s a new genre for me that I’ve always wanted to be a part of, but I never really felt like I was ready: I started working on some reggaeton two years ago, and then officially started to make the EP a year ago; 75 percent of it is reggaeton. There’s one trap song on there. It’s entirely produced by a good friend of mine who goes by Deltatron, from Lima, Peru. I met him at SXSW about two or three years ago, and we’ve been making music together ever since.”

“Even Goldenvoice is throwing more Latin-infused parties up in Los Angeles and now down here, too,” he said. “It’s exciting, and it’s very beneficial to someone like me who is an independent artist to be able to bring home the bacon.”

For more information, visit jpatronmusic.com.

Willdabeast is one of the best-known hip-hop artists in the Coachella Valley—even though he has not released any music or done any interviews.

However, thanks to a nudge from friend and collaborator Provoked, Willdabeast (William Randal) is now working to put himself out there more—including an upcoming music release, and a chat with me.

Willdabeast’s home in Sky Valley is off a dirt road, with a large dog standing guard over the property. After greeting me, he explained that he liked the location because it was quiet and beautiful. He said his love for hip hop began to develop when he was in the eighth-grade.

“I asked my mom to get me turntables for Christmas,” Willdabeast said. “… On Christmas morning, there was this big ol’ box, and I was like, ‘I got turntables!’ When I opened it up, it was a huge keyboard. I was like, ‘What?’ She opened it up with me, and there were these two buttons on it that made the turntable sounds. I was like, ‘Ugh! This isn’t it!’ But the cool thing about that keyboard is it had a multi-track recorder. I was in band in school and playing the trumpet, and I was able to record music.

“Going into high school, I started freestyling, and my friends noticed I had a knack for making beats. That was it—and I never stopped.”

I noticed a few musical instruments hanging on the wall of his living room; I’ve been told Willdabeast is a fantastic instrumentalist.

“My first instrument was the trumpet when I was in sixth-grade, and I played that for about two years,” he said. “Then I got into percussion, and by the end of high school, I was making beats and playing guitar. Out of high school, I was already doing gigs. I can read and write music, and I can transpose music, because trumpet is B-flat and all the other instruments were in C.”

He told me about This Is the Life, a 2008 documentary about the underground hip-hop movement in Los Angeles that came out of the Good Life Cafe.

“I was trippin’ out when I saw it on Netflix, because the people in it are so underground,” he said. “These guys deserve praise in every sense of the word for hip-hop. When shit started going super industry, they represented in the underground with conscious thought.”

When I talked to fellow local hip-hop artist Provoked a couple of months ago, Provoked told me about the battle-rap scene from about 20 years ago that also included J. Patron and Willdabeast. Willdabeast laughed when I brought it up.

“When we were young, it was super aggressive. If we heard you were rapping, we’d show up at your school and shit, being like, ‘Oh, so you’re rapping, huh?’ with one of those old school Pioneer boomboxes,” Willdabeast said. “We’d put the beats on and start going at it. If you didn’t respond back, you fucking lost. That’s how simple it was back then—but that was the battle scene. There was no rehearsing. You didn’t have time to write, and you had to do it freestyle where we’d talk about your girlfriend or some shit to hurt your feelings.

“I grew out of that shit real fast, though. I always wanted to make music, because I was a musician. The battle-rap scene was cool, but I didn’t want to waste my time on some negative shit. I had people showing up at my school to call me out, ‘WHO IS WILLDABEAST?’ I ran with a crew called Organics Crew that Mikey Reyes was also part of. This other crew made a diss track about us, and we reached out to them asking why they made it, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s you guys?’ Our friends made a diss track on us without even knowing who we were!”

I asked J. Patron about the rap battles, and he confirmed the madness of those days.

“Provoked and I would battle, then we became good friends and battled the varsity football team at lunch in front of the whole school through a PA system; it was epic,” J. Patron said. “After that, kids from other schools would come over and get served. I remember Will started around that time, and he was—and still is—a fucking beast! He’s just so nice with the words.”

Willdabeast reiterated that those days are long gone, and that he now has different goals in mind for his music.

“I’m just all about making music. I want to do something that’s all about a message and not falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I’m not about telling women to shake their ass or do this type of drug, I want to make some conscious shit that will move you.”

While Willdabeast has released no music as of yet, he said that will change in the near future; one recording he plans on releasing is a collaboration he recently did with Provoked. He said he has recorded music going back to 2005, and explained why he has heretofore not released any of it yet.

“It’s all been practice to me,” he said. “Everything I make is practice. … It could just be bullshit or however I’m thinking about it. The way my brain works, when I’m doing this stuff, I’m focused on it, and I’m not thinking about anything else. It’s therapeutic. It always pushes me to keep learning.

“I’m developing a sound, and I think I kind of have it now.”

Willdabeast said he’s encouraged with the current hip-hop climate locally.

“I have to be excited with the direction of where everything is going right now,” he said. “There have been a lot of people coming together to collaborate and work together, and that’s exactly what we needed. That’s what the fuck needed to happen—and how we’ll grow this scene.”

Willdabeast will perform at Mikey Reyes’ Wordplay Wednesday/Desert Rhythm Project Album Release Campout on Saturday, March 30, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $45 at desertrhythmproject.com. For more information on Willdabeast, visit www.facebook.com/willdabeastmusic.

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