By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
In 2005, they dropped the mixtape City of Gods, a title inspired by the Brazilian film but more accurately used to describe the turbulent streets of the City of Angels in recent years. “The time is now, Latinos stand up! The trail of blood, sweat and tears begins now let’s march/as we walk through the city of Angels and Gods/We ain’t stoppin’ till we all reach City Hall/Until the world hears our message of equal rights/education, health insurance and the license to drive.” Cruz actually wrote those lyrics — from the prophetic “Step N 2 the Sun Pt. 2 (Libertad!)” — a year before L.A.’s historic immigrant-rights marches. Like Ice Cube predicting the riots, Cruz had his ear to the streets.
Back at Cartoon’s studio, big ol’ O.G. Lepke, a Mexican Soul Assassin soldier — with “og” inked on one side of his neck and “Skid Rows Finest” on the other — is fresh out of jail, literally, and comes into the shop to tell Cruz that everyone on the inside is showing him love and listening to his jams.
“We haven’t been in a position of power to take care of our own destiny,” Cruz says. “We’ve always depended on someone else to tell us what we’re supposed to be. This is our movement now, and we’re doing our part.”
Cruz recently connected with the No. 1 street DJ in the West, DJ Skee (who works with the Game) and dropped the mixtape The Cruzifixion — 14 bomb beats and .50-caliber lyrics that garnered him the highest rating (“Hood”) in Scratch magazine. It’s his first release through the Interscope/Geffen deal, and despite the “mixtape” tag, it’s really a full album. Cruz’s debut album drops in early 2007 and will feature producers ROME, Javie Lopez, Cool and Dre, Julian Bunetta and Hi Tek. Hip-hop singer Akon and the Aftermath camp will also sit in. “I already talked to Dr. Dre, and he gave me some great advice,” says Cruz. But more than anything, the new album, like all his past work, will feature true sentiments of the L.A. streets.
“On this album, I’m doing a lot of soul-searching. I think what’s missing in hip-hop right now is those life stories. Where’s the soul?”