Interview with Aztlan Underground: Razorcake Podcast By Jimmy Alvarado and Todd Taylor
It only takes seconds into an Aztlan Underground tune for listener to know they’ve come across a group unafraid of working outside the usual comfort zones. They take the spirit of open defiance bred in the barrios of East Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, draw fuel from the 1980s hardcore punk and hip hop scenes, and infuse spiritual inspiration from the continent’s native cultures and religions. What results voices the frustrations of peoples marginalized and dehumanized in lands to which they have been physically and spiritually connected for more than 20,000 years. AUG drew from a diverse musical palette over the course of their three albums, each building on its predecessor while pushing in a new direction—from straight hip hop augmented by native instrumentation, to an electrified fusion of punk and rap, to soaring soundscapes that alternate between poetic beauty and a withering brutality reminiscent of early Swans.
For their efforts, they’re considered one of the linchpin bands of the ‘90s “Chicano Groove” scene; have garnered several honors, including four Native American Music Awards nominations in 2010 for their self-titled third album; taken active roles in their communities, both as artists and residents; staged nearly two decades of annual Farce of July concerts featuring like-minded artists, poets, and performers from the worlds of punk, hip hop, rock, and beyond; performed on at least three continents; were personally invited to open for the Southern California stop of Steve Ignorant’s “Last Supper” tour; and had one of their songs listed among the ethnic studies materials identified as objectionable and effectively “banned” by the Tucson Unified School District, alongside other dangerous and subversive materials as Drown by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And that’s only scratching the surface.
I once referred to them as “the real dope” in a review and I stand by that assessment. After two-decades-plus of existence, they remain challenging, subversive, and uncompromising. More importantly, they walk the walk—something increasingly rare today, even in the underground.
While the punters slice, dice, and sub-sub-categorize parts of the underground into irrelevancy, lifers like AUG continue to push beyond terms like “hip hop,” “rock,” and “punk” and offer glimpses of the possibilities that lay beyond for those willing to commit their lives to their art and working toward a better world for all oppressed peoples.
Aztlan Underground Interview MP3
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