The Rap Corner – Control Machete

[Editor’s note: Molotov are actually from Mexico City, sorry for any misdirections. It’s Jacobo’s fault]

The rap corner is the new column, hosted by our own MC (and webmaster), Orestes ‘Maddafacow’ Xistos.

We agree it was time he could rant here. This time he/she/it will talk about Control Machete.

1996 was a good time for music in Mexico. It was the time when the so-called ‘Oleada de Monterrey’ (Monterrey wave? Monterrey Spearhead? Monterrey movement?) came and took the rest of the country by storm, including us, chilangos apestosos. We got loads of bands with loads of genres. We got rock and rap (Molotov*), pop rock (Jumbo), porno rap pop (Plastilina Mosh), nu metal (Resoooooooooooooooooooooooorte, Flor de Lingo) and a lot more, with various degrees of acceptance and sucess (Quehaceres de Mama sadly never lifted off).

From all those aforementioned bands, the first one that made put an ear to the Mexican scene was Control Machete. I was cruisin’ down from school with friends on dad’s car and in comes this song. It was called ‘Comprendes, Mendes?’ and it first I thought it was Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas, some kickass mofos from Argentina.

But no, it was hecho en México and it was called Control Machete. The seedy side of Mexico was presented. From the barrios of Cerro de la Silla, to the cheap housings in San Nicolás de los Garza to the rich townies living in San Agustín, the entity that was Monterrey in the 90s was fully bottled in a cocktail of rhymes, delivered by a fucking good combination of two voices: Fermín IV, who sounded like he drank paint thinner before rapping and Pato, the chunky hero with a great flow and awesome taste on baseball shirts. 

Helping these two hepcats was even heppier cat Toy, alias el chingón de los mil samples. Armed with a healthy collection of ranchera, salsa and Dios knows what else, their sound was akin to Cypress Hill, but more relatable to the Mexican zeitgeist. Now you didn’t have to imagine yourself telling the po-po to go have sex with themselves or saying that you were straight outta some ‘burb in California, now you had issues about Mexico. Something tangible in your plato de pozole.

The whole thing about the USA and the still ongoing problem about immigration? Yeah, Control Machete talked about it in ‘Humanos Mexicanos’ (video is muy cagado). The ins and outs, ups and downs (“nave va pa’rriba”) of life in Monterrey is the central theme of songs like ‘¿Comprendes Mendes?’ (gang violence), ‘Andamos armados’ (partying!), ‘Así son mis días’ (day in and out struggle) and just general drunken behavior, with that lovable anthem called ‘Cheve’ being a ditty I tattooed on my belly. Hey, even the typical and boring ardidez Mexicana (being spiteful about being dumped by a significant other) is perfectly  represented in hot tracks like ‘Lupita’. And there was even some sort of political statement in ‘Marioneta’, the poignant album closer.

On that Cypress Hill influence, well, the band does profess some love for that greeny loco weed in songs like ‘El Son Divo’ and ‘Grin-gosano’. Tune in, light up and cop out for the Mexican connoisseur?

This first album was called Mucho barato, the title sort of meaning “very cheap”, but making fun of how most English speaking people would use “mucho” when they should be using “muy”. I won’t get into grammar because I’m a cow and my grammar is teh badz.

The three singles (‘¿Comprendes Mendes?’, ‘Andamos Armados’ and ‘Humanos Mexicanos’) were ubiquituous. The band started opening for major acts, like David Bowie, U2 and a lot of Mexican acts you probably haven’t heard of, but they were thrown into the limelight at the speed of a bong hit.

It wasn’t only the novelty of having a Mexican rap group finally getting some attention, it was about how they were also helping out other bands and their frantic tours together. There was this tour, named Molochete where Control Machete and Molotov rocked out. 

Funny thing, first time I saw Control Machete was in a smelly damp watering hole in Tampico in Easter ’96… how things change.

There’s something you need to know… there seems to exist a strange curse in Mexican music and it’s akin to the sophomore slump: whereas the first album make the band darlings of every Tom, Dick and Harry (¿Toño, Juan y José?), the second album is a very tough act. If you give your Mexican audience something similar to the first one, you’ll get derided for playing it safe, dormirte en tus laureles (in your comfort zone). If you change too much, you get chastised for betraying your audience, with the usual cantaleta of “ya no es como eran antes” (i.e. the “I liked your first album better” curse that seems to be the bread and butter of many a modern fan).

So, almost 4 years later, Artillería Pesada Presenta … drops. Artwork was magnificent, with a few pages in albanene paper, old school maps (including an attack plan on Monterrey from the revolutionary work) and the music sounded, well, mature. I liked it.

Hearsay, chinese whispers, “me dijo el amigo del amigo“…Rumours everywhere. Some said that Fermin IV’s conversion into Christianity did change the whole dynamic of the band, others said that the band couldn’t stand the pressure of their label to do another album equally as good as Mucho Barato

My take? It was weird not to have them curse up a storm but I still liked them. ‘Esperanza’ was an amazing song, so heartfelt, so full of introspection. ‘Presente’ has Toy‘s best choice of samples, the song is so fucking good I’m streaming it for this rant. More changes were had in song delivery (I love the snap and crackle in ‘Ileso’). The sound is much better, the skits are now integrated into the songs, making songs less disposable and adding an extra flow to the album. You might not find a lot of fans for Artillería Pesada Presente… but there has to be quite a few. I count at least 2 more people in this humble website.

Every journey ends and eventually, these three friends went into different ventures. Fermín released a Christian album (called Boomerang) and decided to dedicate himself to spread the gospel of God. He seems to be quite happy (from what I gather from his blog). Pato went and recorded the best fucking album by Resorte I will ever hear (Rebota (f =kx) , check the song ‘Nativa’). Toy went and stuck his fingers in producing and DJ duties for a brickload of artists and now tours the world with his remixes and intense live shows (good for dancing), like Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction.

There was a third Control Machete album (Uno, dos bandera) but frankly it was missing something, mainly Fermin‘s voice. Although ‘De’, ‘Bien bien’, ‘En el camino’ and ‘El apostador’ are all good songs, it was more of a swansong than a return to form. Fret not, like I said before, each one found a new path and they all seem to be doing well. Thanks for the albums, you Trio de Mexicanos, you left a mark on us and your current ventures find you in places where you seem to be exercising your creative muscles.

Anyways, if you want to find more about Control Machete, check your local library, no, wait, here’s some links:

Spotify. Myspace.

My fave video:

Words: Orestes Xistos.

Research : Pistachón Zig Zag.

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