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Growing Up Latino With Eskeerdo

Get better acquainted with the man whose songs are heard all around the world. 

Even if you couldn't put a face to producer, rapper, and Grammy award-winning songwriter Eskeerdo, you know and love his music. The multi-faceted artist has lent his talents to the likes of Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Ice Cube, Trina and many more. Esteemed résumé aside, Alexander Izquierdo is one proud Latino having grown up in the largest Cuban district in the United States: Hialeah, Florida.

READ: Growing Up Latina With Nina Sky

Albeit his music might not directly reflect the rich latinidad from which his orgullo stems, it took traveling outside of Miami for Eskeerdo to realize that not everyone was brought up on a diet heavy with rice and beans, or that watching Sabado Gigante religiously wasn't the thing to do. As an adult, he expanded his proverbial horizons and experienced a whole new world outside of Little Havana. Yet, in Eskeerdo's case, the old age "you don't know where you're going until you know where you've been" rings far true.

#hispanicheritagemonth seems to be year around for me.. #CubanJesus

A photo posted by Cuban Jesus (@eskeerdo) on

Unforgettable childhood memory:
When I used to get whooped for all my brother’s mistakes, for everything he used to! He’s older than me. No matter what, I would get the ass whooping. I’ve been hit with every object in the book: sandals, flyswatters, wooden spoons, vacuum hoses, everything. My mom speaks English, but whenever she’s trying to whoop my ass, she’ll scream at me in Spanish. So whenever my mom talks in Spanish to me, I run. Even to this day.

Favorite home cooked dish:
I’ve got a few, but two dishes my mom makes [I love] is picadillo, which is ground beef, rice and black beans with fried plantains. My moms got this family recipe that my grandmother passed down to her. I can’t find better picadillo anywhere else. That and her palomilla steak with moro and tostones.

Craziest Hispanic proverb as told by mami or abuela:
My old girl used to tell me “Lo que esta pa ti, nadie no lo quita” or “What’s for you, no one can take away.” That’s the one that I still stand by today.

Che Guevara moment (or greatest moment of rebellion):
Well, me and my brother always used to fight. I’ve got two half-brothers who are four years older than me and we used to fight a lot. I’ve always been the little, big brother. So one day, me and this man were hitting each other with pillows, but he faked me out and swung with the pillow then a right hook came, and laid me out. So the next time I put all the remote controls in the pillowcase and I cracked his shit open. It was funny until all the blood was everywhere and I felt like sh*t. But that was the first, most rebellious thing I did.

READ: Growing Up Latino With Bodega Bamz

Cubanaso #ESKEERDO EP link in bio

A photo posted by Cuban Jesus (@eskeerdo) on

I first saw myself as Latino when…
I’ve never really known anything else. I didn’t know any actual Caucasian people. I’ve always felt connected, even though I’m a first generation Cuban-American. In my household, we always spoke Spanish even though my mom and dad both spoke English. I’m from the largest Cuban community in America. So feeling anything other than Hispanic never happened to me. I didn’t even start eating other food until I started traveling. I thought everybody ate rice and beans and carne asada. Until I started experiencing other cultures, I didn’t know anything else.

Chupacabra or El Cuco?
La Chupacabra. I remember when La Chupacabra was on the news, bro. They said that there was a “chupacabra” incident. Man that was our big foot. My mom would use that against us too. She would be like “I know la chupacabra too. I’ll bring him over here.” And me being little, I was like “what are you talking bout?” crying and all. They used that against me so many times. And I thought it was real.

Poor man’s meal:
Vienna sausages. The salchichas. That was my go-to snack right there. I ate Ramen here and there, but I would literally put Vienna sausages on everything. I’d put them on crackers, in between bread, or dump the water out and eat right out of the can.

Household cure-all/remedy:
Even as a kid when I was sick, I would take a shot of rum, honey, and lemon. Since I could remember, whenever I had a cold, my old girl would make me take a shot of rum, with honey and lemon. Then she would put Vick’s on a spoon and light that shit like it was heroine and put it on my chest. I don’t know where these remedies came from, but the next day everything went away. And if that didn’t work, then a super-hot chicken soup.

Writing songs about you.. #Eskeerdo #CubanJesus #UhHuh #GibsonGuitarsca #mergesongscamp

A photo posted by Cuban Jesus (@eskeerdo) on

Salsa, Bachata or Reggaeton?
Salsa man. I’m Cuban. Salsa is the dance of choice. I mean, I’m not really good at it. I think I let the family down with salsa. I know the first four steps, and then I lose it. I don’t know why. I think the salsa train stopped at my brother and I didn’t get the movement.

Telenovela guilty pleasure:
There was never anything that we really sat down and watched but my grandfather used to watch Sabado Gigante. Don Francisco was on 24 hours a day at my grandfather’s house. He didn’t watch anything else. I’d only sit down so I could watch the girls.

Historical hero/heroine:
My Mother. My mother has been my rock for like ever. I was raised in a single-parent home. My mom didn’t have it easy neither did my father. We weren’t easy children either, between my brothers being in the streets and my struggles [leaving] the streets. She still held sh*t down and raised two great men. For us to be wild and reckless and for her to still have everything under control and still teaching us morals in between that. She always put us first.

Life mantra:
Realistically, nothing is promised in life and you’ve got to work hard to keep what you have. This is where “Lo que esta pa ti, nadie no lo quita” comes right back around. My life mantra is “If you want it, you’ll get it.” If you really want it, just have the blind faith and go at it. It’s that hustler’s spirit.

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Anuel AA Breaks Free

In 2015, an entourage of close to 30 men drew guns among one another during a traditional Christmas parranda in Puerto Rico. The scene turned into something straight out of a movie when a pair of gangsters clandestinely attempted to kidnap local rapper Anuel AA. After a brief scuffle and flagrant shouting match, however, the man born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago went on to finish the evening’s holiday spree in the boisterous company of his loyal posse.

Months later, after ushering in the new year on a promising note by featuring on one of Latin trap’s first global hits – De La Ghetto’s sex anthem “La Ocasion” with Arcangel and Ozuna – someone delivered Anuel AA a divine premonition of sorts: “If you keep talking about this stuff in your songs, something really ugly is going to happen to you.”

A Puerto Rican music legend, Hector “El Father” of reggaeton-turned-son of God, paid Anuel a visit to share his foreboding message. “He and I did not know each other,” explained Anuel, who prides himself on waxing poetics about the real-life experiences Hector was concerned with, “but God spoke to him and Hector felt he needed to reach out to me. When he warned me, he said it with so much conviction that he even cried.”

Having forged a legacy of his own as one of the key trailblazing reggaeton entertainers of the ‘90s who later signed a deal with JAY-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, Hector – now a devoted Christian – understood life imitated art when it came to Anuel’s lyrics.

“My lyrics talked a lot about God and the devil, so when he told me that,” Anuel continued, “I knew I needed to make some changes. Those themes, good versus evil, they were my mark and what separated me from the rest.”

On April 3, 2016, just two weeks after meeting with Hector, Anuel was arrested and held in Guaynabo’s correctional institution on charges of illegal gun possession. Following his biggest musical break yet, just as he was touching the cusp of international stardom, a court judge sentenced Anuel to 30 months in federal prison without bail.

Raised east of San Juan, in the Puerto Rican city of Carolina, Anuel AA has a lot in common with many of my favorite MCs: he’s charming, resolute, and lyrically gifted, yet marred by a criminal past, complicit misogyny and the constant struggle between right and wrong. “I had no choice but to carry those weapons with me, because of the issues I had on the street,” the rapper said to VIBE Viva over the phone, while quarantined in Miami. “I thought to myself I’d rather be locked up than found dead.”

Indeed, Anuel had evaded his probable demise when he was nearly abducted and landed right behind bars months later, fulfilling a prophecy that cost him both his freedom and a flourishing start at the tipping point of trap music en Español. “I was being forced to reckon with all the bad things I had done for money in the past,” Anuel expressed, regretfully. “I started reading the Bible for the first time and realized that my talent and blessings came from God, not anywhere else.”

Anuel had begun to take music seriously around the same time his father, José Gazmey, was laid off from his coveted A&R position at Sony Music. With his back against the wall, a scrappy Anuel left home at 15 and began to engage in felonious activity to help provide for his family and finance his music endeavors.

Like many rappers on the island, Anuel was influenced by popular culture and trends on the mainland, most discernibly by contemporary trap. Anuel understood the genre’s synonymy with street life and the drug enterprise and immediately took to Messiah El Artista, a Dominican-American rapper VIBE profiled for championing Spanish-language trap music all over New York.

“I figured if Latin trap was doing well in New York, it was for sure going to pop in Puerto Rico,” said Anuel, who had signed with the Latino division of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group the year prior to his arrest. “I spent about a month in New York before I returned to Puerto Rico. Then I started to release all the songs I had, one by one, and they began to gain popularity.”

While artists like J. Balvin helped breathe new life into the reggaeton genre in Colombia, Anuel wanted to spearhead a movement in Puerto Rico with a sound all their own. “I recorded the ‘Esclava’ remix with Bryant Myers and it might not have taken off worldwide, but it became a huge trap song in Puerto Rico.”

Akin to the heydays of reggaeton, an Afro-Caribbean genre-fusing hip-hop and reggae that originated in Puerto Rico, trap music was considered lowbrow and was heavily criticized for its vulgarity, violence, and explicit lyrics. Puerto Rican critics and artists alike had very little faith in the music’s potential and therefore denounced it. “DJ Luian, who is like a brother to me, couldn’t understand why I wanted to put all my energy into music that none of our artists wanted to sing.”

“Reggaeton went dormant for years,” he continued. “It was necessary to make trap music, because it felt like reggaeton was stuck in another era.” A self-described student of the late and oft-controversial Tupac Shakur, Anuel thought reggaeton had reached its pinnacle and believed Latin trap would be its successor.

Songs like “Nunca Sapo,” where Anuel channels Rick Ross’ Teflon Don ethos and spits a grimy slow-tempo flow over a sinister 808-laden instrumental, helped put a face to Anuel’s little-known name in the US. On cuts like Farruko’s “Liberace,” Anuel speeds up his delivery for fun and plays on the “Versace” rhythm popularized by Migos, who all hail from Atlanta—the widely credited birthplace of trap music.

For Anuel, whose life mantra “real hasta la muerte” is now a famous hashtag, music aspirations had little to do with radio play. Anuel, 27, was largely concerned with dominating the digital space, especially while incarcerated. Despite his arrest, he continued to release music from behind prison walls while his team fed his massive following up-to-date content.

Hear This Music CEO, DJ Luian heeded what Anuel was trying to accomplish and began to work with Bad Bunny, the Latin Grammy-winning artist and star voice of the current Latin trap movement. “When I was locked up, Luian helped develop Bad Bunny and he basically became in charge of keeping trap alive while I was away,” said Anuel, who ironically came under fire recently and was accused of throwing shade at Bad Bunny for the video treatment of “Yo Perreo Sola,” in which the rapper-singer dresses in drag as a stance against toxic masculinity.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was going viral,” Anuel interrupted anxiously before I could expound on a question concerning their relationship. “It looked like it was something that was edited or put together to make my Instagram posts read that way. I immediately texted Bad Bunny about it and he was like, ‘Don’t worry, people are always going to be talking sh*t.’”

Anuel considers Bad Bunny a genius at what he does and maintains that despite not knowing each other very well, he and his fellow compatriot are friendly collaborators with a working rapport: “When he and I do a new song together, what will people say then?”

Today, the collective jury will reach a verdict upon listening to Anuel’s newly-released sophomore studio album Emmanuel, where fans will find a track titled “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” a sultry, mid-tempo reggaeton number. Fans can expect to hear a star-studded project riddled with guest features, including Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Karol G, to name a few.

Discussing life during a global pandemic, Anuel spoke fondly of his partner-in-rhyme, Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G. “She’s the love of my life. She’s been there with me through the good and bad. People who really love you are the ones who stand firm by you when things are bleak. In my toughest moments, Karol was there. She’s shown me how to be a better man,” he gushed.

“Karol comes off as super feminine—which she is, but Karol also has a really tough masculine side,” Anuel laughed heartily on the other end of the line. “She rides motorcycles and likes taking them up these crazy hills. She rides jet skis too! She’s like a dude, haha. We work well together and we give each other advice all the time.”

The pair are making the most of quarantine life in South Florida, releasing a self-directed and self-shot music video for their joint single “Follow,” a reference to flirting over social media in the era of social-distancing, the idea that shooting one’s proverbial shot can lead to a budding romance.

On July 17, 2018, Anuel dropped his debut studio album, Real Hasta La Muerte, hours before he was released from jail. By September, the RIAA certified his introduction to the game platinum, garnering the attention of Roc Nation artist Meek Mill. When the Philly wordsmith released his fourth studio LP in November of the same year, followers were geeked to learn Anuel had earned himself a place on Meek’s highly anticipated Championships album with “Uptown Vibes.”

I always wanted you and anuel aa to make a track together bc i feel like he’s the meek mill of spanish trap , how was it working with him ?

— Nagga (@naggareports) December 17, 2018

“Recording with Meek Mill for me was like when Allen Iverson played with Michael Jordan for the first time,” Anuel said, singing praises about their first-ever partnership. “I’m a huge fan of Meek; when his music took off I was still in the streets, so I related and identified with a lot of the things he was saying.”

“Meek doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish,” he mused in jest, “but he’s always with a bunch of Latinos. When I speak to him he says, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying, but my Spanish [speaking] ni**as tell me you be talking that sh*t!’”

Anuel leveraged his knack for storytelling and released “3 de Abril” earlier this year, an emotional freestyle about the day he was arrested and a graphic snapshot of his trials and tribulations.

“I did things without caring about the consequences. I thought I was a man because I was street smart. Now I know what it’s like to lose everything, so I wanted to talk more about my life and the experiences of me and my family,” Anuel described the inspiration behind the song.

Following the release of “3 de Abril,” Anuel again turned hip-hop heads when he and Lil Pump shared a fiery audiovisual for their collaborative effort “Illuminati,” stamping Pump's first new song since summer 2019. This year, Anuel also has songs with Colombian pop empress Shakira (“Me Gusta”) and with the late Juice WRLD (“No Me Ames”).

Albeit Anuel and Juice WRLD never got to meet in person, Anuel learned about the Chicago rapper from listening to his singles on the radio in jail. “The same year I won Billboard Latin’s Artist of The Year award, Juice WRLD won New Artist at the American Billboard Awards. We ended up recording the song after that but held off on releasing it for a bit because he and I had respective singles coming out at the same time,” Anuel explained.

“By the time we were finally ready to premiere it, Juice WRLD had passed away. We were never able to record together in person, but at least we got to feature him on the video. I know the tribute gave his fans and family some needed strength.”

Less than 30 minutes have gone by and already I am forced to wrap my conversation with Boricua’s burgeoning superstar:

Anuel, explain “real hasta la muerte” for me. Why exactly is this mantra of yours so important? 

“I can’t betray anyone. I don’t know what it’s like to really betray someone. I’m very loyal to my circle, my family, and those I hold close to me. Being real is what keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I accomplish. What’s critical is staying real to myself and keeping my feet on the ground. That’s what helps keep me going.”

This interview was translated from Spanish to English and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Planes belonging to Delta Air Lines sit idle at Kansas City International Airport on April 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. carriers reported an enormous drop in bookings amid the spread of the coronavirus and are waiting for a government bailout to fight the impact. Delta lost almost $2 billion in March and parked half of its fleet in order to save money.
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Puerto Rico Calls For Ban On Flights From Coronavirus Hot Spots

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, Gov. Wanda Vázquez has inquired a possible ban on flights from popular cities in the United States due to the high number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Associated Press reports Gov. Vázquez launched the petition to the Federal Aviation Administration this week after officials accused tourists of taking medication to reduce their fevers and failing to adhere to the self-isolation rules. The incidents were later confirmed by GNPR general aide, General José Reyes.

The FAA reportedly granted a request for all flights to arrive at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM), so that Puerto Rico National Guard (GNPR) could screen passengers arriving at the island.

“Now we want people from the areas most affected by Covid-19 not to arrive," Vázquez said. "This as part of the necessary measures to prevent this virus from spreading and affecting the health of the people of Puerto Rico."

As part of the proposal, Vázquez has listed flights from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois as "hot spots" of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, cases in Puerto Rico have sadly risen. The island has reported at least 24 deaths and 620 confirmed cases. Much like in cites like New York, a curfew was imposed on March 15 that closed non-essential businesses and ordered people to stay in their homes with the exception of grocery shopping or picking up medication.

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Cardi B attends "The Road to F9" Global Fan Extravaganza at Maurice A. Ferre Park on January 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Cardi B Assures Fans She Doesn't Have Coronavirus After Hospitalization

Cardi B has clarified her recent hospitalization had nothing to do with the current coronavirus outbreak.

The rapper took to Instagram Live to clear up the rumors after she shared a photo of her with an identity band from a hospital. “I’ve been very f***ing sick these past five days–not corona,” she said Thursday (April 2). “I have really bad stomach issues. I started throwing up; I took a pregnancy test cuz a b***h never f***ing knows.”

As she tried to find out what was wrong, fans went into a frenzy with claims of coronavirus. “I threw up seven times," she said. "I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I went to the hospital. I was sick and [press] ran with it, then my publicist hit me up and it ain’t nothing coronavirus-related, thank God!”

The possible stomachache may be connected to the singer's first world problems of finding a perfect chef. “I don’t have nobody to cook for me. I hired a chef two times and they were nasty and expensive,” she said.

In lighter news, the rapper confirmed proceeds of her viral "Coronavirus" track will benefit those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Yes! That's what [we're] going to do!" Cardi B tweeted last week. "Keep in mind you don’t get your money right away...but even months from now there would be families with financial issues for getting laid off due to the virus. We will donate!"

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