I think that in my subconscious, I felt something more than professional interest when I visited them. Something like personally knowing the two rappers whose music and political positions greatly influenced my decision to confront, with the written word, the lies that embitter my beloved country.
I still remember with pleasure my “punisher” using that article (Revolution in the Village) where I spoke of them as two daring youth and as the best of my generation, as tangible proof of my unacceptable rebelliousness.
Los Aldeanos (The Villagers) have become a secret code. In a subversive way they assimilate reality. I remember an amusing incident: A friend introduced me to his girlfriend. As I walked toward them, I had headphones on my ears. After a conversation in which we exchanged some words about my job, and about my particular thoughts, she said, in a way of summarizing: Well, you look like you listen to Los Aldeanos.
I couldn’t avoid a good laugh. I, faithful follower of heavy metal, was indeed listening to Los Aldeanos.
In the seven years that they have performed together, this young duo has starred in a story as beautiful as it is unique in the Cuba of the twenty-first century.
Due to the sincerity in their lyrics, many sleepless nights over what occurs in our country, they have climbed to reach an admirable position in the conscience of a society that, although some deny it, listens to them with the respect inspired by those with (to say in blunt Cuban speech) well-placed balls.
What I am now transcribing is just a small fragment of the interview with Aldo Rodríguez Baquero, El Aldeano (The Villager) who has given over his alias to name the duo. A 27-year-old native of Havana, with a 9th-grade level of schooling and an incredible talent for the polemic and brilliant universe that is Cuban Hip-Hop.
-Aldo, what are the aspects of Cuban reality that you would most like to be able to change?
I can only mention one to you, that I think would make me very happy if I achieved it. And it is that Cubans go back to being human beings. That we go back to being good people. That Cubans go back to smiling without having a dirty mind.
And when I speak to you of going back to being human beings this means that the whole world here would feel the desire to love, to not rat on each other, to not resent someone because they bought a refrigerator, to not be involved in other people’s’ lives. When I say “the whole world” I am including, as one and the same, the President, the bus driver, and the trash collector.
Because to tell you that it’s necessary to improve transportation or the nutrition of Cubans, this is evident, but I think that all of this can be solved with a little more love, and less mistreatment of each other.
-Are you conscious of what you currently represent for the Cuban youth? Up to what point does the music of Los Aldeanos have the intention of becoming the symbol of a generation?
Look, we never planned anything specific for ourselves. But yes, many people come up to me in the street and thank me because they have changed their lives, and they have encountered a little courage or happiness in some song of ours.
Whether we are a symbol or not, until now I wouldn’t have dared to tell you. Now, I know that many people support us because we support the people, you know? Because we talk about the problems of the people. It is like a marriage that we have with the people.
In fact I have to take a course to be an artist because I don’t have a car nor a palace, I don’t have a way to hide myself from anyone. And also sometimes I can’t go to see someone singing because I don’t have money and I have to eat like everyone else. Imagine what a strange kind of artist I am…
-In many of your songs I have listened to, referring to yourself in relation to other rappers, you say things like “we are those who show our faces,” “we say what you don’t dare to say.” For Los Aldeanos, is it an inherent function of rap to be critics as you are with respect to politics?
Here each has their own distinct point of view, but for me this is what rap is. It is social denunciation, an abundance of style, it is to say things in the most clever way possible. It is floating. But I can’t stop seeing the rapper as the mambí of today. It is above the bullets.
And for this I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble and my mom has to go through it all with me. But for me there’s no other way to look at it. For me, rap should always bring its courage, we have to remember that those of us who have this music are here and they can’t shut us up.
Also, man, how can such a strong rhythm in a such a fucked up society talk about other things?
- What’s it like for you day by day carrying the little sign on your backs that says “counterrevolutionary”?
It’s not easy, you know… State Security does not call me. They don’t talk to me. But they call my friends. And they suffocate them, threaten then in a thousand ways.
And yet, so you can see the hypocrisy, when we are in the street with our friends, quiet, sharing a bottle of rum, the police come and arrest us for reasons they invent, they take us to the station and there other cops ask for our autographs. And to top it off, it’s the same State Security that gets us out of there, as if they’re saying, “Leave these boys alone.”
A little while ago we gave a concert in Holguin and when we went through Camaguey we were arrested. Because we embody a (police) goal, we argue and we end up in jail. And we always know that, at bottom, it’s about the music we make.
Other time we gave a concert in Pinar del Rio, and at the end a guy came and said to us, “You are counterrevolutionaries,” and again, we were in jail. That time we had a huge argument with them at the station, because they made us strip and all because they filmed us and we wanted to get the tape from them…
Some time ago the Sector Chief came with seven cops and took the computers in my house, on the pretext that I was selling movies. They’d already taken them and I had to call Silvito’s dad (Silvio Rodriguez) and say he had given them to me, and then they returned them to me, although I had to go get them, they didn’t bring them back to the house. The two computers, mine and my sister’s.
That time they argued a lot with me, you know. Because it’s not easy for me to come to your house and take your cap… your cap, that I didn’t buy you, and it cost you enough sacrifice. And without a warrant or anything: “I’m taking this,” and that’s it.
And still, as you can see, there are many people out there who say nothing happens to us because we are State Security… I don’t pick fights with them. I’m trying to get them to fight for themselves, and they respond to us like that. I can’t think about it because I get more depressed.
- After hearing songs like They Crushed Us, which is so upsetting for young people, one has to ask: Do Los Aldeanos have a pessimistic vision of our generation?
Chico, it’s that life gives back to people what they live, and makes them think that way.
When you’ve had friends, and those friends have betrayed you and abandoned you at your most difficult times, when they’ve exchanged ten years of friendship for two hundred pesos, when you feel people all around you but at the same time feel alone, it’s hard not to have a pessimistic vision.
And I wouldn’t even call it pessimism… I would call it realism. It’s what I see so much around me.
Right now you go out on the streets and find a whole bunch of thugs who want to stab you just because you stepped on them, but they change their tune when they see an officer.
Guys who don’t have the capacity to confront the authorities and tell them they don’t feel good about the way they are treated. So how can I not take a pessimistic view of my surroundings?
For me, today Cuba is a paradise of injustice, because for so many parts of the world it’s seen as a “happy face,” but here, inside, there are thousands of fakeries and lies and sad things. And I think the greatest part of the fault for that is our own because we allow it.
Then a young man takes out his frustration in the street, with violence. He acts all tough with me, sticks a knife in me… Hey dude! I eat the same eggs as you, ride the same bus as you, your mama cries when the power goes out just like mine does.
I can’t understand that this is happening with our youth. And that a girl has to give it up for foreigners, old farts. I could understand if she did it to feed her child, but not to dress better, not to have a cell phone in her pocket.
I believe that as long as these things are happening in Cuba without anyone stepping on the brake, while I see so many ugly things every day, I will continue to have a pessimistic vision of what I see around me. And I will continue rapping.