In hip-hop culture, Emcee means “Masters of Ceremony.” These talented musicians have the gift of commanding and exciting crowds through their ability to arrange words into a powerful message. EPHNIKO, a Colombian Emcee residing in Miami, has that gift and makes use of it to create Latin hip-hop with a global appeal.
Being a native to Barranquilla “la Bella,” he conserves some of the idiosyncrasy and tumbao of ‘el caribe Colombiano,’ but well blended with the street hip idioms of east coast slang. Ephniko’s music can be described as impacting, intelligent, and original, but the artist himself denominates his sound with the name “Latin Boom Bap,” which he describes as “the musical translation of his Latino world view through the eyes of the microphone.”
He tours successfully when he has the chance, to festivals and concerts around Latin America, and has a well-established name in the Latin hip-hop community.
Music producer and blogger Carlito Sway did this interview to move beyond myspace blurbs and bloggery, to get to know the lyrist that has created this new genre he calls “Latin Boom Bap.”
I want to get straight to it and ask you specifically why do you continue to be a Spanish-speaking Colombian MC in the US when you could easily turn to American hip hop with your talent and probably make even more money?
Ephniko: It is an unfortunate fact in today’s assembly line-driven society that cash rules everything around us. However hip-hop to me is an addiction; it is a passionate pursuit. Since Spanish “es mi primera lengua” when I write in Spanish it comes from a more genuine place within my creative machinery, whereas in English I find my inner technician is more heavily awakened than my more sincere means onto a surface of expression. Plus I speak as a cultural bridge.
When was the first time you realized you had the gift of gab?
It’s been with me my whole life. I wrote little kid raps, then I started to record on the dual tape with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Rza instrumentals located on the b-side of my favorite boom bap classics. But it was in the late 90’s when cats would rhyme at parties, drum circles, DJ’s bedrooms, and garage band sessions that I would start to freestyle and flip a few bars off the top of my mind and get a response. That’s when I shook hands with the microphone device and I knew we had established a connection.
I know you like to get political in your music. Fans may like or dislike it but the point is that it is not a favorable topic in music. Why do you continue to do it?
Well, I leave what you call “favorable topics” to those whose self-importance leads their so-called “art,” and put means to fame and fortune as the main reason to do what they do. My inspiration arises as much from the abstract bohemian that loves rhythm and booze as much as it does from unjust laws and racism. My artistic struggle is as much a need to progress as it is a means of resistance to economic injustice, racism, intolerance, ignorance and greed.
How has your brand of Colombian Hip-hop been received in other Latin American countries?
It’s been dope man. I feel that the Latin American movement is one big entity and it should be looked in a unified way. Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and all the places I have been all have more cultural similarities to the Colombian way of being than they do differences. I think we have basically the same historical struggles, the same black music heritage from African culture, shared heritage from wiped-out native civilizations, we share corruption, stolen land, language, la comida, and now we share the elements and characteristics of hip hop culture, and the factors that make it distinctly Latin. I will keep repping’ for Colombia as much as I will rep for Latino unity, human understanding, Ephniko tolerance, and Latino hip-hop all day everyday.