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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

J. Patron often wears clothing with the slogan “Puro Oro.” This translates to “Pure Gold”—and that’s exactly what J. Patron is in the local hip-hop scene, as an artist who has opened doors for many others.

J. Patron (Camilo Gomez) came to the United States from Colombia when he was 4 years old and grew up in the Coachella Valley. Local hip-hop artists Provoked and Willdabeast have talked to me in recent months about J. Patron’s hip-hop talents, which developed at an early age during high school during rap battles. In recent years, J. Patron has toured the United States and Latin America, including a SXSW appearance in March.

During a recent interview, Patron explained how he grew up listening to Latin music—and how that went on to meld with his hip hop.

“It was everywhere!” Gomez said. “It was all my parents listened to. There is a cool little Colombian community here in the Coachella Valley, and they would throw parties all the time. I grew up around cumbia, merengue and stuff like that.

“The hip-hop stuff was my influence just being here. Going to school with friends—that’s the stuff we were listening to. As far as the Latin roots go, that’s the stuff I grew up with at home, and I never really had the desire to make that type of music. I was more interested in making hip hop, so it was later on, after a few years of rapping, that I started experimenting and mixing the two, and I realized that people were already doing that. There was a scene already going on in Latin America, so that’s what united me and the cats down there.”

Gomez said he’s always felt attached to his Colombian roots.

“Back in the early ’90s, (the Colombian community) was all over the Coachella Valley. (There were) a few families here and there; everyone would get together and throw stuff,” he said. “Obviously in bigger cities, there are bigger communities. But they would just be really active with the Independence Day festivals and soccer games.

“That’s part of our religion,” he added, laughing.

Gomez said he’s excited about the growing popularity of Latin music in the United States.

“It’s always been there—but for it to be so Americanized, it’s something new,” he said. “They said at the Latin Alternative Music Conference that I used to go to in New York, ‘It’s going to take over, and it’s growing.’ I believed in it, but just this last year, in 2018, it was a crazy year for Latin music, where it’s on English radio stations. It’s opened a lot of doors for me as a Latino making Latin-American Spanglish music in the United States. At first, it was super-hard; nobody wanted that shit anywhere. People were telling me I wouldn’t go anywhere with that. … Now it’s like everyone is accepting of it, and it’s opening doors. It’s truly a blessing to have this wave that it’s having right now, and it feels like it’s only going to get bigger.”

That growing popularity is taking place locally, too.

“It was about three years ago that I stared doing shows at The Hood and the Red Barn,” Gomez said. “Everyone was like, ‘This is predominantly a Caucasian music scene, so you’re going to play rock, some type of country or some other shit like that.’ Everyone (else) was like, ‘Bro! No! Stick to the nation! They are the ones showing you love.’ Even when I was doing shows at The Date Shed, everyone was fucking against each other over it, and I was like, ‘Dude, if these people are opening the doors for me, I’m not going to shut anyone down, and I’m going to take advantage of everything.’ The Hood was like, ‘OK, let’s see what’s up,’ and I did a few shows and brought out a couple of local guys and Giselle Woo, and we threw a sick-ass party. It was like, ‘Boom! There it is!’ We just kept doing it.

“I remember one time we had a salsa night at The Hood, and it was pretty sick,” he said with a laugh. “You should have seen the dance floor; everyone was dancing salsa, and it was insane! At the Red Barn, I was always doing Latin trap, mixing the Latin and the American trap and stuff, and it was a hit; people would jump like a punk-rock show. At first, the venues weren’t what they were now, and since they’ve opened themselves to that, it’s been going really well for all of us.”

However, not all venues have been welcoming.

“I played somewhere north of Los Angeles. I was on tour at that time and … doing my Spanish thing,” he said. “The club owner or whoever it was told me that it wasn’t going to fly there. I said, ‘Well, let me finish my show. I’m still going to get paid, and I just won’t come back here. We’ll both be happy.’ That was a couple of years ago—but now it’s a whole different story. I’m sure if you go back to that place with the same kind of shit now, they’re going to open the doors for people to come in.”

His brand-new EP, My American Dream and Colombian Fantasy, represents a new direction for J. Patron.

“I started working on this EP about a year ago,” he said. “It’s a new genre for me that I’ve always wanted to be a part of, but I never really felt like I was ready: I started working on some reggaeton two years ago, and then officially started to make the EP a year ago; 75 percent of it is reggaeton. There’s one trap song on there. It’s entirely produced by a good friend of mine who goes by Deltatron, from Lima, Peru. I met him at SXSW about two or three years ago, and we’ve been making music together ever since.”

“Even Goldenvoice is throwing more Latin-infused parties up in Los Angeles and now down here, too,” he said. “It’s exciting, and it’s very beneficial to someone like me who is an independent artist to be able to bring home the bacon.”

For more information, visit jpatronmusic.com.

Willdabeast is one of the best-known hip-hop artists in the Coachella Valley—even though he has not released any music or done any interviews.

However, thanks to a nudge from friend and collaborator Provoked, Willdabeast (William Randal) is now working to put himself out there more—including an upcoming music release, and a chat with me.

Willdabeast’s home in Sky Valley is off a dirt road, with a large dog standing guard over the property. After greeting me, he explained that he liked the location because it was quiet and beautiful. He said his love for hip hop began to develop when he was in the eighth-grade.

“I asked my mom to get me turntables for Christmas,” Willdabeast said. “… On Christmas morning, there was this big ol’ box, and I was like, ‘I got turntables!’ When I opened it up, it was a huge keyboard. I was like, ‘What?’ She opened it up with me, and there were these two buttons on it that made the turntable sounds. I was like, ‘Ugh! This isn’t it!’ But the cool thing about that keyboard is it had a multi-track recorder. I was in band in school and playing the trumpet, and I was able to record music.

“Going into high school, I started freestyling, and my friends noticed I had a knack for making beats. That was it—and I never stopped.”

I noticed a few musical instruments hanging on the wall of his living room; I’ve been told Willdabeast is a fantastic instrumentalist.

“My first instrument was the trumpet when I was in sixth-grade, and I played that for about two years,” he said. “Then I got into percussion, and by the end of high school, I was making beats and playing guitar. Out of high school, I was already doing gigs. I can read and write music, and I can transpose music, because trumpet is B-flat and all the other instruments were in C.”

He told me about This Is the Life, a 2008 documentary about the underground hip-hop movement in Los Angeles that came out of the Good Life Cafe.

“I was trippin’ out when I saw it on Netflix, because the people in it are so underground,” he said. “These guys deserve praise in every sense of the word for hip-hop. When shit started going super industry, they represented in the underground with conscious thought.”

When I talked to fellow local hip-hop artist Provoked a couple of months ago, Provoked told me about the battle-rap scene from about 20 years ago that also included J. Patron and Willdabeast. Willdabeast laughed when I brought it up.

“When we were young, it was super aggressive. If we heard you were rapping, we’d show up at your school and shit, being like, ‘Oh, so you’re rapping, huh?’ with one of those old school Pioneer boomboxes,” Willdabeast said. “We’d put the beats on and start going at it. If you didn’t respond back, you fucking lost. That’s how simple it was back then—but that was the battle scene. There was no rehearsing. You didn’t have time to write, and you had to do it freestyle where we’d talk about your girlfriend or some shit to hurt your feelings.

“I grew out of that shit real fast, though. I always wanted to make music, because I was a musician. The battle-rap scene was cool, but I didn’t want to waste my time on some negative shit. I had people showing up at my school to call me out, ‘WHO IS WILLDABEAST?’ I ran with a crew called Organics Crew that Mikey Reyes was also part of. This other crew made a diss track about us, and we reached out to them asking why they made it, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s you guys?’ Our friends made a diss track on us without even knowing who we were!”

I asked J. Patron about the rap battles, and he confirmed the madness of those days.

“Provoked and I would battle, then we became good friends and battled the varsity football team at lunch in front of the whole school through a PA system; it was epic,” J. Patron said. “After that, kids from other schools would come over and get served. I remember Will started around that time, and he was—and still is—a fucking beast! He’s just so nice with the words.”

Willdabeast reiterated that those days are long gone, and that he now has different goals in mind for his music.

“I’m just all about making music. I want to do something that’s all about a message and not falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I’m not about telling women to shake their ass or do this type of drug, I want to make some conscious shit that will move you.”

While Willdabeast has released no music as of yet, he said that will change in the near future; one recording he plans on releasing is a collaboration he recently did with Provoked. He said he has recorded music going back to 2005, and explained why he has heretofore not released any of it yet.

“It’s all been practice to me,” he said. “Everything I make is practice. … It could just be bullshit or however I’m thinking about it. The way my brain works, when I’m doing this stuff, I’m focused on it, and I’m not thinking about anything else. It’s therapeutic. It always pushes me to keep learning.

“I’m developing a sound, and I think I kind of have it now.”

Willdabeast said he’s encouraged with the current hip-hop climate locally.

“I have to be excited with the direction of where everything is going right now,” he said. “There have been a lot of people coming together to collaborate and work together, and that’s exactly what we needed. That’s what the fuck needed to happen—and how we’ll grow this scene.”

Willdabeast will perform at Mikey Reyes’ Wordplay Wednesday/Desert Rhythm Project Album Release Campout on Saturday, March 30, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $45 at desertrhythmproject.com. For more information on Willdabeast, visit www.facebook.com/willdabeastmusic.

Published in Previews

When I met with Daniel Sullivan, who goes by the stage name of Provoked, he brought a portfolio that chronicles his history in the local music scene.

A couple of nights before, he’d performed at The Date Shed, celebrating the release of his new album, One Life.

The portfolio included write-ups from publications including The Desert Sun and Desert Entertainer, information on his history with local television and radio, and news about music releases from more than a decade ago.

I asked him about the gap in his history. He sighed and then spoke publicly for the first time about what happened—a felony assault charge.

“I made a mistake that I’m remorseful for,” Sullivan said. “I went to prison. I was gone for five years. I had a lot of time to think—spiritually, mentally, physically and all of that. I feel that it was really the best thing to have ever happened to me. It (led to) the discipline that I needed, and it put everything into perspective.

“I’m back now, and I’m really thankful to be back. I feel blessed that I’ve been getting the response that I have. I want people to know that I’m remorseful for what I did, and I’m thankful for that experience. This might sound crazy; the happiest times of my life were in there, because I knew it was the adversity that would produce the refinement in life that I needed.”

He showed me an employee performance review that was stellar, as well as past and present letters of support from people including County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez; Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia; and Oralia Ortiz, co-founder of Culturas Music-Arts, who wrote in 2012 that she was surprised to hear about his situation due to his community work—including mentoring kids to stay in school.

“I would say that the discipline is really what upped my drive to the fullest and to write as much as I fully could,” Sullivan said. “I have a whole new attitude and gratitude that makes me want to write things that are uplifting. I grew up as a battle rapper, although most of my music was positive. But I was used to saying negative things when I was rapping about other people and clowning around. I want to spread a message of love, consciousness and the things that really matter right now, especially in this crazy time we’re living in.”

One of the tracks on One Life, “17 Years,” features local hip-hop artist J. Patron, whom Sullivan has known since they went to school together. Patron performed at the show at The Date Shed, as did another classmate of theirs, Willdabeast.

“We all went to La Quinta High School together. I met them in 2000,” Sullivan said. “When I met J. Patron, we met battling each other. I was trying to find anyone who was rapping. We had just started going to school there. They told me J. Patron was the guy, so we battled, and then we became friends shortly after. He’s been making music since the late ’90s. Willdabeast has also been rapping since around 1999, too—so we’ve all been rapping for about 20 years or more.

“It’s a trip that everything is coming full circle right now. For me, J. Patron has definitely done a lot out here, and I respect him for that. There’s a lot of history. From 2005 to 2010, we had a really strong five-year run of shows out there. There was so much local hip-hop that was really good. It was so cool. J. Patron said it was like our golden era. It was something really strong that we had at the time.

“But I feel like right now, it’s about to be stronger than ever.”

Sullivan said he sees a lot of positive things going on locally.

“I was happy to see so many artists really doing it. It isn’t even just the hip-hop, but the art and music scene in general and the growth I’ve seen,” Sullivan said. “We’re finally getting to the point where we’re almost giving people out of town no choice but to recognize what we have going on in this desert. This is ushering in a local time for us where local music and local art will get the exposure it deserves. It’s really unique, and we have a really good vibe out here.”

He wasn’t originally planning to make a new album.

“It’s kind of crazy how it all came together,” Sullivan said. “My friends Kancun and Sourcefirst were a big help to me. Originally when I got out, I was doing as many videos as I could, because I felt that was the formula that was really going to work for me. I was focusing on videos, and I never really planned on doing another album.

“I was close to a dozen videos I had done with my friends, and I was like, ‘I have an album.’ I just started organizing it, and it just came together. I was really excited. I felt like the videos were the important thing at the time, but I forgot about the importance of an album and giving people content they can listen to. I have seen how important it is … based on the reception I’ve gotten from this album. I feel like it’s such a full product that was produced in the Coachella Valley, down to the engineering and the graphics.”

Sullivan has returned to helping local youth.

“My friend Roland Gomez at MAEX Academy has been doing stuff with kids out here for a long time. What we’re doing is youth mentoring through music and art,” Sullivan said. “My approach is more toward the at-risk kids. I’ve been through what I’ve been through, so I’m trying to tell them there are a lot more resources for them now when it comes to the music and art. There are centers for them, and we’re working on creating a center for them as well. … If kids can actually meet some of these more established artists and artists that are really big right now, as well as local artists out here, it’s something that can really inspire them. … There are so many different aspects for them to get involved in. I feel like career-wise, aside from music, that’s what I’m really interested in.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ProvokedPoetry or provokedmusic.com.

February is the month for love—and there’s plenty of love to go around at fantastic events throughout the month.

The McCallum Theatre has numerous events you’ll love in February. At 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 19, classical organist Cameron Carpenter and his electric International Touring Organ will take the stage. I interviewed Cameron two years ago, and not only is he a brilliant organist (with a rather unorthodox appearance compared to many other organists, starting with a Mohawk); the story of his electric organ is pretty remarkable. Tickets are $27 to $77. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23, Broadway singing sensation Linda Eder will be performing. If Eder’s name doesn’t ring a bell, check out her impressive performances from the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde on the interwebs. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, you’ll get to see one of the talented women shown in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom: Lisa Fischer. She has toured with Nine Inch Nails, Chris Botti, The Rolling Stones and many others. Tickets are $37 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a busy February; here are just a few events from the awesome schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 3, R&B and hip-hop star Nelly will perform. Nelly has accomplished a lot in his career, with diamond and multi-platinum albums, big awards, successful acting gigs and a stint as a judge on CW’s The Next. Tickets are $39 to $79. Continuing on with R&B in the month of love, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, Charlie Wilson will perform. He’s had 10 No. 1 singles, and 11 Grammy Award nominations … without a win. Consider surprising your sweetheart with this show as an early Valentine’s Day gift. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, crooner Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will appear. Just a warning: Frankie Valli shows often sell out! Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some fun shows on the calendar. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, soft-rock duo Air Supply will be performing. It’s close to Valentine’s Day, so you could take your sweetheart to the show if you love him or her … or maybe if you don’t. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco will be performing. Maniscalco has a lot of funny jokes about his family life, as well as every-day idiots you encounter in life; one of his more amusing bits is about how he had to start shaving at a very early age. Tickets are $65 to $95. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is set for a fantastic February. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, the folk-rock duo America will be performing. Chances are you’ve heard “A Horse With No Name” in a film, television show, commercial or video game. America is highly influential to many artists, while Fountains of Wayne; James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle; and Ryan Adams (just to name a few) have recorded with America. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, former Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera will sing. A great documentary called Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago recently appeared on Netflix. Not surprisingly, Peter Cetera’s contentious departure from the band is widely discussed, although he did not participate in the making of the film. Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is rocking in February. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, country-rock band Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight (below) will be performing. Back in November, I hosted Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight at The Hood Bar and Pizza—and it was fantastic. Mick has a great repertoire of country-rock originals that are fun, funny and sometimes sad. The band has a new record coming, and you’ll want to see this show. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, Los Angeles rock band Valley Queen will take the stage. This is a band on the rise. NPR and the rock zine Stereogum have given this band a lot of props for an original sound with influences such as Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith and others. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb., 22, Southern California country-rock band Calico the Band will be performing. When I think of Pappy’s, I think of Calico the Band: The group’s sound is perfect for the high-desert roadhouse scene. Admission is free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed is back! After going dark last summer and mostly through the season, the venue is again holding events, even if the venue’s website doesn’t show any. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, it’ll be a night of local rap music when J. Patron (above right), Thr3 Strykes, Provoked and Thoughts Contained will be performing. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Eventbrite. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has some top-notch entertainment in February that’s perfect for a romantic date night out. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, Crissy Collins, known for her roles in Tyler Perry’s films, will be appearing. She’ll be performing an evening full of love songs! Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, dance-music star Debby Holiday will sing. Who can ever forget her 2004 smash hit “Half a Mile Away”? Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Copa Room has a couple of notable events in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, comedy-and-music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. The Copa regulars have appeared on America’s Got Talent and have shared the stage with Kathy Griffin, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bea Arthur and many others. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17, jazz vocalist Spencer Day will be performing. You might remember Spencer Day from Star Search back in 2002-2003. Since then, he’s released five albums; his most recent, Angel City, was crowd-funded through Indiegogo. Tickets are $35 to $55. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Published in Previews