"Oye," como va? Local MC takes pride in his roots
While Milwaukee hip-hop artist Karl "Oye" Iglesias preps the Milwaukee performance of his one-man show, he also celebrates the release of his "In My Mind" EP. At the same time, Iglesias has signed a deal with Chicago's InkRed Clothing.
"In My Mind," released under the moniker Oye, is a five-track introduction to Milwaukee's Latin hip-hop scene. Mostly in English, but with forays into Spanglish, Iglesias delivers poetic rhymes drawn from his own experience with production delivered by Klassik.
Later this year, Iglesias plans to perform his one-man show, "If a Tree Falls," here in Milwaukee. He's performed it in New York City, and he says it is an excerpt of a longer work that explores machismo and misogyny in Puerto Rican culture and features all female characters.
Iglesias is a busy man but he made some time to tell OnMilwaukee.com what's up.
OnMilwaukee.com: This is your recorded debut, but obviously you've been doing this for a while. Tell us how you got started and how you got to where you are at this point in your career?
Karl Iglesias: Well, I started off writing poetry and still have a big passion for the craft. I began working with Dasha Kelly and the Still Waters Collective in the spoken word scene around Milwaukee.
After my graduation from (Rufus) King High (School), I was then presented with the opportunity to apply to the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin. They help pay my tuition, give me incredible training, resources, and have become a family to me on campus. I started writing rhymes as soon as I got to the university and never looked back.
I began preparing and conceptualizing the EP with the help of Milwaukee producer Klassik, who composed all the musical arrangements on the project. He's a very incredible and talented musician. The collaboration felt almost effortless, and I feel like that relationship shows in the record.
OMC: Is there a big and vibrant Puerto Rican hip-hop scene in Milwaukee these days?
KI: There's not a big Latin@ (both Latino and Latina) hip-hop scene in the nation and I feel like that reflects on Milwaukee, as well. I've always had a strong pride in my city as well as my culture and as I artistically mature, I realize that I have a responsibility to represent them both; I just want to do it well. Latin@'s have always had a huge part in the birth and pride of hip-hop culture; I'm just a voice trying to remind and perpetuate that.
Milwaukee, as a city, is pretty segregated, and so is its music scene. The thought of breaking down those walls is daunting and defining as well. But where I'm at right now, I just want to tell my story and continue representing my culture -- hip-hop, Puerto Rican, Milwaukee -- to the best of my abilities.
OMC: Let's talk a bit about the EP. Where do you get your lyrical ideas? Are your rhymes autobiographical?
KI: The lyrical ideas come from various influences in music. You'll notice I like to use Spanglish in my rhymes because that's a big part of who I am as well. The EP takes you literally "In My Mind" briefly and gives you a quick depiction of a young musician dreaming of doing his craft as a career, how that effects the relationships that he's in, the birth of an ego, retaliation towards the nonbelievers and ending with a taste of where I am now.
I feel like anything I write -- plays, poems, music -- represents me and is autobiographical in various ways. I wanted to make sure that my audience gets a feel for who I am without being overwhelmed.
OMC: Where did you record the EP?
KI: Well, a lot of the early stages were recorded in a closet in my mother's one-bedroom in Milwaukee. It's been a crazy road to this point. My mother and I have been bouncing from place to place for a while, and neither of us could provide the money to really begin the recording process.
However, we were able to get some equipment during the winter break and the process began. After coming back to campus, WSUM Radio gave me a home to mix and finish recording the project, which was nothing less than a blessing.
OMC: You said you've collaborated with Rafael Casal in his hip-hop theater program at UW-Madison, tell me a bit about that relationship.
KI: Rafael Casal is a big mentor of mine outside of the First Wave program and has had a huge role in guiding me through the recording and the mixing of the EP. He has a well-trained ear and is artistically beyond his years. Within the program, he's my creative director, but in my music career and in life he's more like a big brother and I owe a lot of my success to his teachings and patience.
OMC: You've also got a nice hookup with Chicago's InkRed clothing. How did that come about and how is it helping you advance your music?
KI: InkRed Clothing is owned by another UW undergrad, so the collaboration was quite natural. The owner approached me about a sponsorship and the rest was history. I feel like the clothing brand was a good fit and we've created a healthy business and artistic relationship.
As part of this relationship, the head designer created the cover art, as well. I'm InkRed's first artist and can't wait to continue to build with them.
OMC: In two weeks you're doing a one-man show at Latino Arts, too, right? You're a busy guy.
KI: "If a Tree Falls" is an excerpt ... merely a taste, vision and sound of a longer production due to release in the near future. The piece is an interpretation of machismo/misogyny in the Puerto Rican culture. I use poetry, theater and dance as the main elements to tell the story. The piece was featured at the New York Hip-Hop Theater Festival in New York City as the "Young, Gifted, and Hyped" series.
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