Listening to homegrown beats and lyrics makes the hip-hop head bob seem that much more honorable. Aside from their approachable and down to earth demeanor, Lookin' for Change's Ruben Medrano and Roy Ray, Jr. a.k.a. Ruben and Ro give hope to all those who fear Boise isn't capable of producing good, homegrown hip-hop. Boise Weekly caught up with Ruben and Ro on a chilly winter night. From the cigar they brought to share between them to their preference for iced coffee, it was clear there was something different about these boys.
Boise Weekly: So, when you rap about the "Bo" you're referring to Boise, right?
Ro: I was freestyling at my friend's house a while back and I was like "Yo, it's Ro from the Bo" and it just stuck.
What was your first exposure to hip hop?
Ruben: When I was 10, I started listening to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Too Short. Pretty much anything I could take from my brother without my parents knowing what I was listening to was good for me. Then, four years ago when I was in the Navy, I hung around a lot of people who made beats and freestyled. I would watch them lay down a track and freestyle over it for hours. At that time, I wasn't writing, but watching them inspired me. About a year ago, I was going through a hard time and I started to write. I called Ro one day, because I knew he made beats, and I rapped a song that I wrote over the phone to him. He said, "I didn't know you rapped!" And I responded, "I don't. Ha ha." Then he told me to come over and pick up some throw-away beats that he wasn't using. So I did. And in short, that's how we got started.
Ro: I have always had a love for music. My mom raised me in the church, and when I was younger, I used to sing in the church choirs. I remember my older sister and I would always watch MTV and listen to the radio. I would call the radio stationed endlessly requesting Salt 'n Pepa's "Push It" so when they finally played it, I would record it onto a blank tape. I couldn't tell my mom I wanted the CD because all she would say is "Get your butt to church!" The first hip-hop I was ever exposed to was Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and Salt 'n Pepa.
Who are some of your biggest influences now?
Ro: E-40, Wu-Tang, Nas, Too Short. Even Oasis. I like Oasis! I'm a fan of Tool and Foo Fighters. I think music, period, is my influence. I've noticed that I am more competitive now. I hear a beat and I say to myself, "I can do better than that!"
Ruben: I'm the same. All music is influential. My biggest influences growing up were Tupac, Biggie [Notorious B.I.G.], Jay-Z, Nas and Pink Floyd. But I like all music now, as long as it's good.
Who would you compare your sound to?
Ro: We have favorite rappers and we are influenced by them, but we don't try to copy their sound.
Ruben: That's part of what Lookin' for Change means. Lookin' for Change isn't about money, although that's the first thing that comes to people's minds when they hear it. Our name is about our style, our situation and our circumstance. We want to be successful and come up just like everyone else. We are looking for change.
What's the difference between hip-hop and rap, if any?
Ro: Some folks want to say that hip-hop is more conscious. The MC's are always rapping with a message and hip hop is generally music that tries to teach and uplift. All I want people to do is dance and shake their booty to my music!When I think of hip hop, I think of Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, De La soul, Common etc., but when it all comes down to it, it's still all rap. How can you say that hip hop is not rap and rap is not hip-hop? Not all of it has the same message but all of it you can shake your booty to.
What do you think is lacking the most in hip-hop right now?
Ruben: Nothing. There are millions of people supporting hip-hop, whether it be rapping, making beats or just listening. How can you say that something that has gotten so huge needs improvement? Everybody feels a different beat. One beat may sound gangster to one person and not to another. You get out of it what you want to get out of it.
Has the Boise hip-hop scene has been supportive?
Ruben: We are hustlers. I cant even count how many nights this summer we spent selling our CDs outside of clubs. Through that, we sold 5,000 CDS. I consider that a good response. I think the newspapers and radio stations could do more, but the people who make up the scene have been so supportive. We just gotta keep on our hustle and keep pushing our music and getting it out. Regardless of 5,000 sold or 50,000 sold, its all on us at the end of the day. If we didn't find a way to network, then that failure is on us.
Ro: We make music because it is our business. We quit our jobs to do this, that's how committed we are. Everything we do depends on how hard we hustle. We can make $400 in CD sales in one night, but we turn that back around and pay our rent with it.
You just put out your new album, Bo, two weeks ago, but do you have more music in the works?
Ro: We make new music on a daily basis. We are literally sitting on hundreds of tracks. They are just piling up because we have so much new material to work with.
Ruben: We record on a daily basis. At least one new track a day, sometimes up to four tracks a day. We are trying to build a library of our music. We could come out with another CD today, probably even two. But right now, we just wanna work on promoting our new album and make sure everything is good on our next one.
Any words to live by?
Ruben and Ro: Support your local rappers!
Lookin' 4 Change's CDs are available at Record Exchange. For more information, check out their myspace.com site at www.myspace.com/lookinforchange.