Latin Grammy nominee El B (original name Bian Oscar Rodriguez Galá) recently released his sixth solo album, Luz. One half of the famed Cuban rap group Los Aldeanos, the Havana-native has broken barriers with his intoxicating lyrics on life in Cuba. He dedicates Luz to the pueblo of his country.
Luz is not just a rap album and El B is not just a rapper; both are a voice for the people of Cuba. You can feel the longing in El B’s voice for better times where his people are released from government-controlled media, including music. Though he currently lives in Miami, his mind is very much on the future of his home country. From our recent conversation, I learned how much he wants his tierra to be a place where everyone is free to express themselves and are cured from fear. We spoke about the meaning behind his music and hip-hop in Spanish—here is that conversation.
Hip Latina: I am aware that you dedicate this album to the people of Cuba to inspire the next generation to continue looking for the real truth. What is the real truth according to you?
EB: I think the real truth is when an individual knows what is good or bad, what is right and wrong, from his own thoughts and ideas instead of anyone telling him what to believe. That nobody imposes an ideology that their people don’t agree with or a way of living that their people don’t want to accept. I want to see that change in Cuba, but the country needs a lot of time to get there. I have a six-year-old son and I would want him to experience that sense of freedom. I want him to understand that saying how you feel isn’t a crime.
I want the next generation to live free from oppression. I want them to know that saying how you feel isn’t bad. I would like Cubans and people globally to start thinking this—that you are not harming anyone by saying what you think.
HL: Changing the topic a bit, you’ve said in the past that hip-hop in Spanish is the future. Why do you think that?
EB: Latin America has the spirit that I think the hip-hop in the United States has lost.
HL: What do you think are the similarities and differences between hip-hop in Spanish vs. English right now?
EB: The reality of Latin America is that it is a colonized land, an exploited land, a land with a history of being broken, of people disappearing. I think there is no way in Latin America to separate from that reality. There are different forms of art that express this, including music, and especially hip-hop. In the United States it is different. Here there is a market for hip-hop whereas in Latin America there isn’t. There is a large audience and there are many artists in Latin America, but there is no business for it. I think that is what has maintained the cultural essence of hip-hop in Latin America.
HL: What inspires or motivates you everyday to make music?
EB: My principal inspiration is my family. My son, my wife, my people, the way I think and the way I live my life. Everything. Everything can inspire you to make art. My own experiences as well. There is nothing like getting inspired from your own experiences. I want my family to be okay. I want my son to grow up well, to be free and to be a good human being.
El B has been in Miami for two years. His wife is with him and his son is back in Cuba. He has his U.S. residency already but is waiting to get his passport approved to go back to Cuba. We wish him all the best with his music and his cause.
Check out the 17th Annual Latin Grammy’s on Thursday, November 17th on Univision from 8 to 11pm EST.