Spanish Harlem’s Nathaniel De la Rosa, a.k.a Bodega Bamz, never thought he would become a staple in the new generation of Latino rappers. The Puerto Rican and Dominican MC grew up loving carne guisada and, like many Caribbean folk, was reared by a God-fearing family. Although he wasn’t always confident in expressing his orgullo, Bamz would soon learn to embrace his Latinidad, which manifested in his salsa-infused raps about running the streets of New York City.
“I wasn’t comfortable telling my friends I listen to salsa,” Bamz admitted. “When I became 21, 22-years old and started taking rap seriously, I started fusing that sound with my music.”
After releasing his breakthrough single “Don Francisco,” Bodega Bamz began to make a name for himself in the Latino community and beyond. Bamz continued to rep his culture, most uniquely, under the guise of Tan Boys, a group he co-created with his brother Ohla. VIBE Viva connected with Bamz to get a deeper understanding of what it was like for him to grow up in a Latino household and what inspired him to live up to his own life mantra, “100 Keep it.”
Unforgettable childhood memory:
Getting whooped by my pops man, with the belt. Everytime I would get in trouble man. My father used to whoop my a** every time I cursed. He used to put picante, which is hot sauce, on a plate and made me lick that sh*t. I’ll never forget that sh*t but not in a bad way. I don’t hold a grudge about it. That’s just the Latino household.”
Favorite home cooked dish:
My mom is Puerto Rican. She makes carne guisada, which is like a beef stew. She makes it with rice. It’s a popular dish for Latinos. That was my favorite sh*t. Carne Guisada with the papas and the rice. Other than that, my mom would also make steak and fries, but the Latino way.
Craziest Hispanic proverb as told by mami or abuela:
The craziest would be Revelations, the last book of the Bible. When you’re a kid growing up, like 12, 13-years old, man n*ggas start reading Revelations to you in the Bible and you won’t be able to sleep at night. Revelations is the end. They’re going to tell you everything that’s going on and about the devil. So that used to scare the sh*t out of me.
Che Guevara moment (greatest moment of rebellion):
Getting an earring. Getting a tattoo. I grew up in a Christian household so that stuff we weren’t accustomed to. So when I became of age, I wanted a tattoo, so I got one. I had to hide it from my pops for some time.
I first saw myself as Latino when…
When I started rapping. I remember growing up back in the hood, and I wanted to be black. I didn’t want to be me. I wasn’t comfortable being me. I wasn’t comfortable telling my friends I listen to salsa. When I became 21, 22-years old and started taking rap seriously, I started fusing that sound with my music. At that time I was listening to Hector Lavoe and Willy Colon and thought ‘wow these people are powerful.’ The same way they got Ray Charles, the same way they got Elvis, we got Hector Lavoe and all those people. It took me until I became an adult to be proud to be a motherf*cking Latino. That’s why me and Ohla (my older brother) made Tan Boys because we wanted to speak to those teenagers who were like me that didn’t know where to place themselves. They’re afraid to embrace that they’re Latino and the Hispanic culture. And I know how it feels.
Chupacabra or El Cuco:
El Chupacabra man. That sh*t was the wave. El Cuco was like the dude in the closet. Chupacabra was like big foot. They had pictures.
Favorite Poor man’s meal:
It’s rice and eggs. Even mangu. It’s plantanos mashed up like mashed potatoes. That sh*t is like a poor man’s plate too. Put some cebollas in there or even go poorer: spam.
My mom is from this country and my father was born in DR. So only time I remember those kind of remedies was when I went to my grandma’s house. She’s from Puerto Rico. I would say instead of taking Theraflu, she would heat up Sunny D. Also when you get the rashes or burns, you put toothpaste on them. But heating up Sunny D will taste like Theruflu.
Salsa, Bachata or Reggaeton?
Salsa. Right now, Marc Anthony is the king. He’s the only one really holding it down. But you gotta go with the godfathers of this sh*t like Hector Lavoe, Ruben Bladés, Celia, and Tito Puente on the congas. I was having a conversation with my man the other day. There are a few genres that will never go away, and salsa is one of them.
Telenovela guilty pleasure:
Maria la Del Barrio, Luz Clarita, Laura. But I remember being a young kid and Maria La del Barrio come on, I could vividly remember standing in front of the TV screen at five-years old just looking at her body and thinking it was fire!
Don Francisco just because of the fact that he’s been on TV for 50 years for our people. That’s why I did the song to raise awareness because I know a lot of motherf*ckers they knew of him, but they didn’t want to talk about him. People like Pitbull and Marc Anthony are inspiring because they’re killing it in their field and they’re keeping it Latino, whether it be Pitbull always wearing suits or Marc Anthony doing what he do. I draw inspiration from everything man, and not just musicians but actors as well.
100 Keep it. It’s a phrase we use amongst each other and it sums up everything. It sums up loyalty. It sums up being real. It sums up being one with self. It sums up being honorable. It’s always keeping it 100. There’s nothing over that. 100 being the best. 100 being A plus. Always be 100 wit yourself, your people, your women, and your business.