The video that usually crowns our Latino hip-hop blog is going to come at the end of our story today, because without explaining how the American Dream has evolved, the music video won't be given the meaning it deserves.
First, you need to know that the American Dream takes on many forms. The American Dream is not only what corporate commercials sell us. It's not only a two-story home with a white picket fence and a two-car garage. It can actually embody a person. It can embody a six-year-old illegal alien named Cesar Lozano.
We know. Your politics or your stance on immigration might disagree with that statement, but what if we told you that the six-year-old grew up to become a law-abiding American citizen, that he went to college, that he's more articulate than most Americans, that he taught himself how to make music thousands of people want to listen to, that he opened up his own business that sells his music, that he expanded and created multiple revenue streams for his entrepreneurial venture, that he's humble and loves this country for the opportunity it's provided him, whether he chose it for himself or not?
What if we told you his mom worked her way up from a maid to working at a hospital, and his father went from dishwasher to chef at the Sheraton hotel? After all of that, could the concept of the American Dream now merit being Cesar Lozano?
We wish we could tell you that what we just described to you is unique, but it's not. It's actually very common, but these stories don't make headlines. What makes Cesar's story unique is not so much his journey as it is how hip-hop paved his path.
Today, Cesar Lozano is Big Cease, head of Hata Proof Records, a record label/7-day-a-week thriving retail business that manages rap artists, produces and sells their music independently, puts out the popular Screwed Video Mix
DVD series, manufactures its own clothing line and is also a video-production company that makes music videos for rappers throughout Texas. It's all housed out of 3500 Little York in North Houston.
"I'm a mojado
," Big Cease tells Rocks Off. ("Mojado" is Spanish slang for "wetback.") "My family came illegally to the United States. I grew up in West Dallas and Oak Cliff at a time when break-dancing and crack was at its peak. It influenced my life but I chose to take a different path."
The path started with Ritchie Valens, the rock and roll pioneer and forefather of the Chicano rock movement. Rather, we should say it started with the 1987 movie about Valens' life, which was really the only positive cinematic image that Mexican-Americans could trophy in the '80s.
"When I was eight, I saw that movie La Bamba
," says Cease. "My dad taught me how to play every song on that movie. He taught me how to play guitar. It all started from there. I was really fascinated by the movie."