As we continue to shelter in place in an attempt to defeat COVID-19, this year’s 39th Encuentro del Canto Popular will be celebrated virtually on Dec. 27. The opening act for this year’s Encuentro will feature the San Francisco-based urban conscious hip-hop group, TRUpeople. El Tecolote sat down for a virtual interview with TRUpeople’s three lyricists—KE The Spirit, SoulyNes and RAF—and the group’s producer, Merk.
How did you all meet and tell us about the name TRUpeople?
KE The Spirit: Basically, I’ve known RAF and Mauricio (Merk) since elementary school. I actually found out that RAF rapped and that Mauricio made the beat. So I started rapping with RAF. This was over 10 years ago. We were just making music to play around and see what it sounded like. Me and Merk kept rapping and years later we got in touch again and started making music with RAF. RAF kinda fell out and did his own thing. And me and Merk continued to make music together and then Nes came through. And he spit fire. It was easy to get him on and we sounded so good together, we just kept it going.
SoulyNes: As far as the name, we wanted something that we could get the handle of on Instagram, something that was available. We went through so many names. And I think I came up with the name out the blue.
RAF: It was also a name that reflected on us too, you know. We didn’t want to think of something random either. It was cool that the domain was available. But it just sounded us, who we are. It’s what we’re about. It’s pretty much what we preached about in our music. It made sense for that name to be us.
SoulyNes: And the thing about the name, it’s not only us. It’s also people who really like our music and who really identify with our music. They’re TRUpeople as well too. We’re putting this out but we’re receiving energy too.
You will be opening for this year’s virtual 39th Annual Encuentro del Canto Popular. What I love about your music is that you tell your own stories through hip-hop. Tell us about that?
Merk: A lot of the music I make is sample-based. I don’t know how to play the keyboard, I’ve never been trained in music. But a lot like hip-hop and the origins of hip-hop, it comes out of sampling music. Sampling R&B, soul, is what I started out with. And I think using different drum kits, all of that makes a sound that is different. I’ll leave the lyrics to the lyricists, but I always agree with what they’re rapping about in terms of the content. I couldn’t agree more with everyone’s contribution when they rap on a TRUpeople beat. A lot of the things that they say, I resonate with. Kamani (KE The Spirit) will say a lot of things in a short amount of time. And you have to really listen to it. And like many songs, we can hear them again and again and then sometimes things hit you differently. And that repetition, that positive message it’s relaying hits me and resonates with me differently than if I’m listening to unconscious rap that’s talking about women, money and clothes. That’s not really the type of music we’re doing. And that’s special.
Can you share what songs you’ll perform at the Encuentro?
KE The Spirit: They will be definitely songs that are out. We’re picking a lineup that will mesh well. And just something that we want to present as ourselves. But then again that the message is clear when you hear it.
SoulyNes: The one song that will be on there is “Peruvian Gods.”
Tell us about that track?
Merk: The beat had been made years ago. I have a bunch of beats that don’t get used. The sample was actually from a nueva conciencia group from Chile. Their type of music comes from the Andes. Because you might be thinking, ‘Why Peruvian Gods?’ And I just thought the use of the flute, and the strings…there are these Andean types of sounds in it, that are really authentic to South America. And so I named it Peruvian Gods, just because the Incas are all over South America, but I thought Peru held a certain special spot for the Incas.